At some point in their career, many landlords may find themselves asking, "How much does it cost to evict someone?" These costs vary widely depending on where you live and the unique circumstances of your landlord-tenant situation. Read on to get a general sense of the costs involved in eviction and to figure out how much it might cost you, on average.
Breaking down eviction costs
Before getting into how much it costs to evict someone in total, you have to understand where these costs come from. Here's a breakdown of the different costs you can expect when trying to evict a tenant so you'll have a foundational understanding of what goes into the total cost of eviction.
After you send your pay-or-quit notice and your tenant does not respond, the next step is to file a complaint with your local landlord-tenant court. Typically, this action simply involves filling out paperwork, but the process also comes with a small filing fee. How much you can expect to pay for your filing fee will vary depending on where you live, but generally it will be between $50 and $200.
After the paperwork has been filed with the court, both you and your tenant will receive notice of the complaint. Some states will deliver this notice by mail, but others require the tenant to be served notice by the sheriff. If that's the case where you live, you can expect to pay an additional sheriff's office fee, which can be another $50 to $100.
Next, It's up to you whether you want to hire an attorney. Many states offer mediation services, which can be much cheaper than hiring your own personal attorney. However, if you think it might be a difficult case, bringing in an attorney might be worth the cost.
Again, specific costs will vary here. Some attorneys will charge a flat-fee rate for making one court appearance and filing any necessary paperwork on your behalf. Others will charge an hourly rate, which can add up fast.
Ultimately, the total cost will also depend on the type of trial you experience. In most cases, eviction cases are decided by a single hearing in front of a judge, but some states allow tenants the option to choose a trial by jury. If your tenant chooses this option, the trial will likely take much longer to complete, and you can expect to pay much more in legal fees.
Lost rent can be one of the most expensive parts of eviction for landlords. After all, evictions take a long time to complete, during which unpaid rent continues to accrue. While every state has its own timeline for this process, you should plan for an eviction case to take at least three months, from the time the first notice is given until the court renders its decision and your tenant moves out.
Remember that until the eviction case has been settled, you must continue to follow the status quo. Since it's possible the court might find in favor of the tenant and you'd have to allow them to live out the remainder of their lease, don't start marketing the unit or screening other tenants during this time.
Unit turnover costs
Once your tenant has been evicted, you have to go through the process of turning over the unit and finding another tenant to rent the unit. Typically, turning over the unit wouldn't cost more than a few gallons of paint and maybe some new carpet. However, when dealing with an eviction case, plan for your costs to be slightly higher than usual.
For one, you may be responsible for removing a significant portion of the tenant's belongings from the rental unit. For another, depending on how angry the tenant was about getting evicted, there may be more significant damage to the unit than you might find otherwise. Then, there are also vacancy and advertising costs to consider.
The one bright spot here: You may be able to use the tenant's security deposit to cover some of these costs. Depending on the specific terms in your rental agreement, a lease violation, which would be the case in an eviction, may be enough cause for you to keep the tenant's security deposit after they have moved out.
In a tenant eviction, some costs cannot be reduced down to a monetary value. For example, a tenant may decide to retaliate for being evicted by leaving you bad reviews and harming your reputation online. Alternatively, they may bring you unwanted publicity in the form of a tenants' rights case.
When you're deciding whether to bring eviction proceedings against the tenant, you'll need to weigh the financial cost of eviction as well as the potential cost of incalculable possibilities. In some cases, you may find that it makes more sense to explore alternative venues to eviction.
How to get reimbursed for these costs
While it may not be ideal, the main way to be reimbursed for your eviction costs is to take your former tenant to small claims court once you've successfully evicted them. In small claims court, you can sue them for any unpaid rent as well as additional damages.
However, simply taking them to court is not a guarantee you'll receive the payment you're owed. On one hand, the judge could rule in favor of the tenant. On the other, even if the judge issues a court order for repayment on your end, you may never receive the money. The tenant may be unable to pay you back, choosing to have a default judgment against them rather than part with the money they do have.
Finally, going to small claims court will also rack up more legal fees.
Are eviction costs tax-deductible?
In general, fees associated with eviction, such as any court filing fees or repair fees, are tax-deductible. However, whether you can deduct unpaid rent depends on the accounting method you use for your business.
If you do your accounting on a cash basis, as most people do, unpaid rent will not be considered tax-deductible. However, if you use an accrual accounting method and accrued rent is included in your income but not collected, you can write it off as a bad debt on your Schedule C.
The bottom line
Eviction can get costly pretty quickly, so it makes sense to try to avoid it whenever you can. However, once you have a better idea of what costs associated with evicting a tenant you can expect, you should be better prepared to deal with the fallout.