Q: I have a commercial property in Georgia. The tenant has not paid rent for 45 days, and is giving me all kinds of excuses.
He failed to pay taxes for the last year and I have tried to work with him in paying those taxes in installments but he has not paid a single payment and now has stopped paying rent as well.
What are my options? Can I change the locks and recover my losses from his belongings? Is it legal to do? Or will cause additional problems? How can I evict him and how long is the eviction process? Can I do it myself?
A: You have a tenant that may be in financial trouble. Your only recourse may be to evict the tenant. In some states, evictions can be rather quick, taking two or three months to complete. In other states it might be longer. In some states, landlords can do it all and the process isn’t too burdensome for a non attorney.
However, in many states there are attorneys that work only on evictions. They charge a flat rate, sometimes only a couple hundred dollars. You may decide to talk to one of these attorneys and let him or her handle the case.
In many states, self help remedies you suggest – such as changing the locks and the like – are illegal and can result in you becoming liable to the tenant for damages. I wouldn’t suggest you go down that path without knowing your state laws.
Your better bet is to hire an attorney and evict the tenant as quickly as possible and get another tenant on the property that will honor the terms of the rental agreement. You’ll also want to make sure that your real estate property taxes are paid in full, so you don’t risk losing your property in a tax sale.
April 10, 2008.