How to evict a tenant from hell

Step-by-step guidance on tenant evictions from a lawyer

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(Getty Images / Peter Dazeley)

(Getty Images / Peter Dazeley)

Last year I had a steep learning curve. I spent hours in Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant courtrooms—at times with a newborn—as I desperately tried to hold my dead-beat tenants accountable. It took me months. Cost me hundreds of dollars in court fees, and in the end I learned the hard way how to evict a tenant from hell.

It all started a few weeks before I was due to give birth to my second child. I rushed to find a tenant and, as a result, I made one of the biggest mistakes a landlord can make: I didn’t do my due diligence. Instead of calling all references and verifying all financial information, I glossed over the references, accepted spotty work histories and let the couple move in to the apartment in our west-end raised bungalow.

The result? Almost $10,000 worth of damage, a pile of mail that literally stood three-feet high and two feet wide, feces smeared on the walls and floor, and the pleasure of paying cleaners hundreds of dollars just to get the apartment ready to show. It was a nightmare.

What made it worse? A systemic lack of guidance and the massive wall of bureaucracy (due, in part, to a bias towards landlords but more on that sentiment at another time).

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely, believe the number of ‘tenants-from-hell’ are strongly out-numbered by the amount of amazing people that live in rental units across Canada’s cities. Truth be told: my husband and I have been blessed by some amazing tenants—not just for their respectful natures (and their prompt payments certainly help!), but also by their amazing attitudes and a desire to keep us updated on each milestone in their life. We’ve gotten calls about wedding proposals (accepted), as well as honeymoon ideas, post-secondary school acceptance, along with successful first-home purchases. Actually, I truly believe this is one of the intangible benefits of being a landlord—a chance to celebrate another person’s success.

But what if you do end up with a tenant from hell? Where can you go for some guidance? Like me, you could call Ontario’s Landlord’s Self-Help Centre (or your provincial equivalent)—but this ad hoc approach to help is just not detailed enough. Of course, my husband and I could’ve paid a lawyer—that is, in fact, the most appropriate step—but we are small-time landlords and adding legal fees (that can quickly spiral into thousands of dollars!) was just not in the budget.

That’s when I came across this great ‘how-to’ blog by Matthew J. Wilson, at Lerners. The post is authored by a lawyer, but written in plain language, so it’s a great step-by-step introduction into the process of evicting a tenant.

The blog post won’t prevent the hassle, aggravation, or headaches that come from evicting a tenant from hell, but it’s a good first step to deciding what action to take.

Read more from Romana King at Home Owner on Facebook »

6 comments on “How to evict a tenant from hell

  1. As a praticing investor and landlord tenant attorney I can say that proper legal guidance is imperative and that it must be specific to the area. There are major differences between nyc and the next county over where I practice. Of course doing proper due diligence to avoid bad tenants would be best step.

    Reply

  2. I recently purchased a reo property from the bank.I assumed occupancy meaning is my responsibility to deal with the residence at address .before closing I offered to help find a place and assist with money to help me.now it’s closing Romans no action should. I continue. Towel with her or stop contact and file for unlawful detainer?

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  3. I too have been a victim of bad tenants and laws going unenforced. it is obvious that getting the right tenants in your property the first time is the key, and many times you can get a feeling as to what your up against but some times desperation wins out as you need someone besides you to pay the mortgage. I do understand both sides of this argument, and have found that if one does find themselves in a situation like this, some times it works out to give some money to the renter with the condition they move out by a particular date and time. Other inclusions can also be included, such as the condition of the property, a good tenant recommendation, etc. This is an issue that is not going away anytime soon and will creep back into your life at the most inopportune times.

    Reply

  4. Hi, I am in the process of writing a book about this subject and would love to interview you and include your comments….please contact me and I can set it up by skype….andrettapsellshomes@yahoo.com

    Reply

    • Please contact me… we have a tenant from hell!

      Reply

  5. The problem with you independent landlords is that you are flat broke cheapskates and your position and attitude is reflected back at you by your tenants. Why would you not do proper screening? Answer: because you knew you couldn’t go without rent for even one month. Meaning you are flat broke. So when something needs fixing in the unit, you’ll scoff. And you won’t upkeep the unit properly, and you will charge the absolute limit the market will take. So, no sympathy here – save your money and do landlording right.

    Reply

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