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By Heather Wagner
So you have a deadbeat tenant: Here’s how you get rid of ’em.

The bum is months behind on rent, he’s turned the property into a scrap metal yard, and he believes that the Black Eyed Peas are best when shared. You may be tempted to shut off the water and electricity, change the locks, and call in Dog the Bounty Hunter. Don’t do this.

To get rid of a tenant legally, you’ll need to follow the proper protocol. Keep in mind that while horrible taste in music feels like a crime, nonpay­-ment of rent is the most solid basis for eviction, and it is pretty much the only instance where the courts reliably come down pro-landlord. The eviction process varies from state to state but typically involves the posting of a notice to "pay or quit" (pay the rent owed or leave the property). This is an official letter both mailed and nailed to the front door.

If no payment is received by the end of the notice period, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer action in court, which is delivered to the tenant by a process server. The tenant then has five days to file a written response. (This might take longer, as rascally tenants often hide from process servers.) If the court decides in favor of the landlord, it will issue a Notice to Vacate, which orders the local sheriff to enter the rental and physically remove the tenant. This is when your life starts to resemble truTV.

Evictions are a time-consuming hassle and can be expensive when you consider legal expenses, loss of rent, court costs, and paying for storage of the tenant’s possessions after it all goes down (sometimes for up to 60 days). In some cases it might be better to wait it out until the lease is up, or bite the bullet and meet with Mr. Deadbeat, offering an incentive for immediate departure.

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