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Dear Monty column: How to evict a relative from a rental property

Richard Montgomery
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Typically, local law enforcement will serve an eviction notice and follow up to ensure the move-out takes place.

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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Reader Question: My father doesn't know how to evict a relative from a rental property. It was to be temporary, but it has been four years now. I know that they didn't sign a lease, and they don't have anything that says how long they can stay. He asked me what he should say to give them notice. What can we do to get them out?

?Monty's Answer: Until he asks his relative to move, what he has to do is unclear. When he asks them, they may move. The eviction law on a rental property is different from state to state. The path to take is relatively simple if they are not paying the rent. Not paying the rent on time, not taking care of the property, disturbing the neighbors or circumstances of that nature are also solid reasons to evict. Your father gives them a written notice to vacate by a specific date.

It was to be temporary. Is the relative still there because of low rent? Raise the rent 10% above the market, and they may move out on their own.

Delivering the notice

Setting the stage for the written notice depends on the relationship between them. If your dad and his relative are friendly toward each other, it may be best for your father to meet personally with him/her. Then, confirm the conversation with written communication.

If they are not on speaking terms or your dad does not feel safe around the relative, then another tactic should be considered. Your father can write the letter and send it registered mail, or he can engage an attorney to write the letter for him. Many states require a 30-day written notice. My home state requires the notice to be 30 days from the rent due date.

The message matters

While your father is not required to give a reason, the truth is often the best reason. On the other hand, sometimes people do not want to hear the truth. The truth could start substantial family turmoil. If your father does not want to share the real reason, there are many valid reasons. For example:

• I am going to sell the house to get liquid, and I have to fix it up first.

• I have a chance to invest in a larger building and need the equity.

Relative refuses to vacate

If he gives notice and his relation refuses to vacate, he has a completely different situation. One needs a court order to evict a relative from a rental property when they refuse to move. Typically, the local law enforcement serves the eviction notice and follows up to ensure the move-out takes place. If this becomes the case, consider seeking legal counsel that will know the law in your state and give you all the alternatives. Many attorneys will offer a no-cost evaluation. Here is a helpful link on how to find a good attorney.

Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Find him at DearMonty.com.