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How do I evict a commercial tenant?

The process for evicting a commercial tenant varies from state to state. Regardless of location, however, the Commercial Lease Agreement between the tenant and landlord is critical. If the tenant violates the terms of the agreement, often through failure to pay rent in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to evict.

This process can be complicated and must follow state and local rules and regulations. Landlords may have to have a valid cause for eviction and prove their cause is valid by providing supporting documentation and the written Commercial Lease Agreement. In general, this is how the process works, although document names, time frames, and service requirements may differ based on the property's location:

Give notice to the tenant.

This may be in the form of an Eviction Notice. The notice provides the tenant with information about what they need to do to avoid eviction and a timeframe within which they need to act. "Serve" or give the notice to the tenant according to the laws and rules that apply. This may include handing the notice to the tenant in person or sending it by certified mail to get confirmation that the notice was received. Other options may be available in your location.

Let the tenant respond.

The Eviction Notice may provide a time frame within which the tenant must respond to your request. If they respond within the time frame given by the notice, they will either have complied with the demands made in the notice, such as pay overdue rent, or may have an opportunity to negotiate a settlement with you.

File a lawsuit to evict.

If there is no settlement, file a petition with the court to evict the tenant. This may be called an unlawful detainer or a forcible entry and detainer action, depending on the state.

Serve the tenant with the complaint.

Have someone deliver notice of the lawsuit and any other necessary forms to the tenant as a formal service of process. This might be accomplished through your local law enforcement office, but local rules may not allow for that. Professional process servers may be hired to serve the tenant with the eviction papers. Check with the court handling the eviction lawsuit for information about who may legally serve the paperwork.

Schedule a court hearing.

If the court does not get a response from the tenant within the specified deadline, you might be able to start the eviction process right away, provided the court issues a supporting order.

Go to court.

If the tenant responds to the complaint, you will need to go to court and both sides will present their arguments. The judge may side with the landlord if all procedures were followed correctly. You may also consider asking the judge to order the tenant to pay your court fees in addition to any unpaid rent. If the judge sides with you and issues an eviction order, you may proceed with the eviction.

Start the eviction.

If the tenant does not leave your property, you may have the right to file an Order of Eviction. Check your local laws to see what you need to do for storing and disposing of any property the tenant left behind.

There are many variables in this process, so it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure you are following all of the steps and rules required to successfully evict a tenant. Small technical errors can land you back in square one, having to start the process all over again.

How long will it take to evict a commercial tenant?

The time frame for the eviction process varies based on the location of your property. However, on average, it takes between 40 and 90 days. Check with a local landlord attorney to see how long the process will take.

Several factors can increase the time frame. For instance, law enforcement professionals may not act quickly to serve your tenant the proper forms and paperwork. If your tenant responds to the eviction notification and tries to make amends, but fails to do so sufficiently, that can also delay the process. Eviction is not quick, so the sooner you start, the faster you may reclaim your property.

Can I evict a commercial tenant without a lease?

A Commercial Lease Agreement protects your interests as a landlord. There are a number of commercial leases you can choose from for your rental property. For instance, you can make a Triple Net Lease, so your tenant is responsible for rent, property taxes, and repair costs.

Even without a lease, the landlord may evict the tenant. Typically, the landlord needs to provide written notice within a set time based on state law. As long as the landlord follows this process, they may demand the tenant to vacate the property even without a lease. A lease makes it easier, however, to follow the eviction process and comply with state laws.

What rights do commercial tenants have?

Even though landlords may evict tenants that do not pay their bills, tenants have some rights as well.

First, the terms of the Commercial Lease Agreement provide protection for the tenant as well as the landlord. The federal Landlord and Tenants Act of 1954 also provides some protection against unfair treatment from the landlord. State regulations require notice at specific intervals before starting the eviction process, and many states give the tenant the right to make their account current and stay on the property after receiving notice.

One of the rights a tenant has is the right to avoid being evicted for no reason or cause. Commercial landlords must demonstrate a valid cause for the eviction, such as nonpayment of rent or perhaps other violations of the lease. Without cause, the landlord cannot evict the tenant through the courts.

Tenants also have the right to expect notice and a full legal proceeding before being forced out of the property. This buys them time to come to terms with the landlord. Working with an attorney may help tenants understand their rights and protections, even after eviction proceedings begin.

If you have additional questions about how to proceed with a commercial eviction, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney to get expert advice at affordable rates.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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