When you’re dealing with a tenant that is always paying late or blatantly breaking the rules of your lease agreement, you may get to the point when you decide that it is time to file for eviction.
That will be the end of that, right?
Well, yes and no. While filing for eviction may finally get you into a better situation when it comes to the long-term management of your property, it may also bring your into some unexpected costs if you aren’t prepared for them. While it costs you money to keep a bad tenant on your property, it also costs you money to evict them!
Just how much are eviction fee charges, and who is responsible for them? Why are there fees at all?
Understanding how the court costs for eviction work will help you be more financially and mentally prepared to handle them when that day comes around.
A Table of Contents for eviction Court Costs
- Note: Local Differences
- What An Eviction Costs You
- The Total Cost of Eviction
- Avoiding The Cost of Eviction
Note: Local Differences
Before we get into the details of the court costs to evict a tenant, it’s important that you know that the following information is based on averages and common costs across a wide range of areas.
In reality, your local jurisdiction where you have to file for your eviction case will have a specific amount that they charge, just as the lawyers in your area will have specific rates. These rates may be higher or lower than those we mention in this article.
To know exactly what amount of money you could be in for, make sure to do some basic research with your local jurisdiction.
What An Eviction Costs You
There are a few different ways that evictions will cost you in money, and you need to be aware of these in advance.
Serving & Filing Fees
During the eviction process, you have to serve an eviction notice to the tenant. While you can do this yourself, many landlords prefer to have a Sheriff or other public officer serve the notice so that there is an official record of its delivery. This is called civil processing.
This, of course, costs money as well. The fee for notices being served can be anywhere from $30 to $150 dollars, depending on your locale.
Once the notice is served, you will also need to file paperwork to move forward with the eviction. Every court office will charge some type of filing fee for the paperwork processing. This could be as little as $15 or as much as $150.
On average, the fees for filing and serving added together will run between $50 and $200 per tenant.
Eviction Court Costs
When you evict someone, it is required that you issue an eviction notice, go to court, and file all of the necessary paperwork. Each of these steps is going to cost some amount of money. Even if you are fully prepared and file quickly, you will still need to pay some legal fees for the court to review your case.
Once complete, court fees for eviction usually range between $300 and $800 dollars depending on what state and jurisdiction you are doing business in.
If you are required to get a lawyer for your case due to its complexity or you simply want to have one, you can expect to be paying them a large sum of money as well. This could cost up around $5,000 (or more!) if the case makes it to a full, contested hearing.
If you need to hire a lawyer or want assistance in preparing the paperwork for an eviction, your best bet is usually to look for a lawyer that specializes in eviction and has a flat-rate package. These packages typically include the necessary documents and up to two court appearances. Often, these cost between $200 and $500 dollars.
If you choose to book a lawyer without a package, pay attention to their billable hourly rate and consider whether or not you can afford it.
Final Legal Fees
If you win the case, your tenant might be responsible for paying your legal fees depending on the conditions of your lease and the decision of the court. If the tenant wins, however, you could then be held responsible for their fees if that is in your agreement or the state has a bilateral contract agreement.
A bilateral agreement ensures that you as a landlord are held responsible for any fees that the tenant could be held responsible for. So, if you hold the tenant responsible for your legal fees if you win, they can hold you responsible for their fees if they win.
Make sure that you are aware of what your local laws are about legal fees in eviction cases, and ensure that you have an eviction fee section in your lease agreements going forward. If the case is a high-scale one with lots of money at stake, be sure to bring up the fees as a point that needs to be settled with the judge in court.
Evicting The Tenant
Depending on local laws, you may need to pay a fee to the Sheriff’s office that will actually enforce the eviction. This could cost anywhere from $50 to $400 depending on where you are located.
Cleaning Up & Storing Items
Even after the tenant has finally left the property, there will be a few more costs that you need to handle.
If they leave behind a mess or lots of property, you will need to pay to have the place cleaned up and to keep the items stored. By law, you are not allowed to simply throw away items that an evicted tenant leaves behind. Instead, you must give them a certain amount of time to reclaim the items.
While you can legally hold them responsible for this storage cost, you will have to be the one to cover it at first.
The Total Cost of Eviction
As you can see, there are many different fees that will come into effect when you are determining how much it is going to cost you to evict someone.
How much is an eviction fee altogether?
It is safe to say that eviction will usually cost you a minimum of $1,000.
Once you add in the cost of repairs and the lost rent that you will go through while dealing with the eviction itself, you can be sure that an eviction could run you up and over $3,000 or more.
If anyone has ever tried to tell you that eviction is a cheap way to solve your tenant problem, you can be sure that they are wrong. While there are, of course, always going to be cases when eviction is the answer, finding a solution with your tenants should always be the number one priority you have as a landlord.
As mentioned, it is usually possible to recover at least some part of the legal fees from the tenant during your eviction case proceedings. For the easiest answer about whether or not you can recoup some of your losses, bring it up to the judge when the decision is being made so that you can have an official answer.
In some states, such as North Carolina, there are laws that allow you to recover the court costs of eviction. The amount of money recovered cannot exceed 15% of the back rent owed by the tenant.
Avoiding The Cost of Eviction
As you can see, there’s no way to avoid the fact that eviction costs money without avoiding eviction altogether. While most landlords should be prepared to deal with an eviction situation at least once during their career, it is possible to make some changes to your management style to prevent this situation as much as possible.
In particular, the best way to avoid court costs for eviction processing is to find better tenants. It’s clear to many landlords that tenants with a history of eviction or difficult money management issues are more likely to cause those same issues again.
So, you can, at times, avoid eviction by finding tenants that aren’t prone to these issues. The best way to revamp the way that you select tenants is to improve your tenant screening process either by hiring a third-party management company or simply investing in thorough tenant screening.
If you have dealt with more than one eviction case in the past year, you need to change how you screen your tenants ASAP!
To Evict or Not To Evict?
After reading about the court costs for eviction, you might start to second guess if you should ever evict a tenant. While it is possible to avoid ever getting to an eviction situation by ensuring that you screen your tenants properly, eviction is worth it despite the cost.
The longer that you keep a non paying or rule-breaking tenant on a property, the more money you will lose.
For that reason, you should always act swiftly when it comes to eviction. Don’t give your tenants months of leniency with unpaid rent or you will just end up digging yourself into a deeper hole. Instead, be prepared for these potential eviction costs to begin with so that you can regain control of your property quickly and efficiently when the time comes.