How Much Does it Cost to Evict Someone?

Last Updated on May 16, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

When tenants violate lease agreements through chronic nonpayment, unauthorized occupants, property damage, or other breaches, eviction often becomes the last resort for landlords to legally remove the tenant and regain possession of their property. But what exactly are the typical costs involved in seeing the formal eviction process through to completion?

How Much Does it Cost to Evict Someone?

On average, total eviction costs can range substantially from around $500 on the very low end for rapid straightforward cases, up to $10,000 or more on the high end for prolonged legal disputes or cases involving extensive property damage.

The main expenses stem from local court filing fees, attorney representation, lost rental income throughout proceedings, property damage assessments, and turnover costs to make the unit rent-ready again after vacancy.

Court Fees and Filing Costs

  • Average $50 to $200 but ranges up to $300+ depending on the county and local ordinances.
  • Covers filing the eviction complaint paperwork, scheduling court dates, and various procedural processes involved legally removing the tenant. Significant cost outliers above average occur in some major metro areas with high demand for limited court docket time.

Attorney Fees for Legal Counsel and Representation

  • Hourly fees averaging $200 to $400 per hour, with total hours depending heavily on the case complexity.
  • Basic open-and-shut eviction cases often require attorney involvement of 2-10 hours for proper documentation and court appearance.
  • More complex evictions with counterclaims filed by tenants and court disputes over property conditions, retaliatory eviction allegations, lease ambiguities etc. can necessitate 20+ attorney hours easily, with fees swelling to $5,000+.
  • Many attorneys offer fixed flat fee eviction representation between $500 to $5,000+ based on perceived complexity. This shifts fee risk to the lawyer but provides landlord cost certainty.

Lost Rental Income During the Eviction Period

  • If the tenant stops paying rent once violation notices are received, the landlord loses this income throughout the 1-6+ month eviction process in most states until the unit is vacated and re-rented.
  • Stakes are highest for landlords relying on rental income as their sole means of mortgage payment and financial livelihood. Even a few months of lost rents creates major hardship.

The BiggerPockets blog provides a breakdown of eviction costs, stating that the actual cost of evicting a tenant can range between $4,000 and $10,000. The article emphasizes that the cost can vary depending on factors such as location, legal fees, and lost rent during the eviction process.

Azibo’s blog post offers a more detailed analysis of eviction costs in the US. It states that the average cost of evicting a tenant can range from $500 to $10,000, depending on various factors.

The article goes into the intricacies of each expense, including legal fees, court filing fees, enforcement costs (sheriff and locksmith fees), and property turnover expenses. For example, attorney fees can vary from $500 to $2,000, depending on the lawyer’s experience, location, and case complexity. Court costs also contribute to the overall cost, with examples provided for different regions.

RentRedi’s article discusses the true cost of evicting a tenant. It states that depending on the rental property’s location and the stage of the eviction process, the range could be a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The article emphasizes the importance of working with a team and legal experts to ensure the eviction proceedings are carried out correctly and avoiding legal trouble.

This Realtor.com article provides insights into evicting a family member without a lease. It mentions that eviction can cost $1,000 to $10,000 in legal fees, and sometimes more if the case goes before a jury. The article stresses the importance of consulting a local attorney specializing in landlord-tenant law, as evictions are heavily regulated by state and local laws.

Eviction Process Overview

Evictions proceed through several phases:

  • Providing documented notice to vacate of lease violations
  • Filing court paperwork like an unlawful detainer lawsuit and summons
  • Attending court hearings for a judge to determine if eviction is warranted
  • Scheduling the legal physical removal of the tenant by sheriff’s department

Some common triggers prompting landlords to initiate eviction include:

  • Chronic late or nonpayment of rent
  • Lease agreement violations – unauthorized occupants, pets, etc.
  • Significant property damage due to abuse, negligence, or unauthorized alterations
  • Engaging in criminal activities on the premises

Removing a tenant unwilling to cure violations or vacate voluntarily carries major financial consequences for landlords.

Less Common Eviction Costs

Serving Notice to Vacate

  • Using a private process server to legally deliver physical eviction notices typically costs $50 to $100, but guarantees court-admissible proof of documentation delivery to the tenant. Well worth the expense to avoid procedural delays fighting invalid notice claims.

Storing or Disposing of Tenant’s Abandoned Possessions

  • If the tenant leaves behind substantial damaged items or personal property once vacated, disposal or storage unit fees apply for the legally required holding period. Typically $50+ per month, which adds up over months of required retention before authorized disposal.
  • Tenants rarely reclaim possessions regardless of value, leaving landlords absorbing costs.

Cleaning, Repair, and Re-rental Costs After Regaining Property Vacancy

  • Preparing the property for the market again after a destructive tenant takes extensive work, including cleaning, painting, debris removal, plumbing/electrical repairs, pest control, and HVAC maintenance. Budget $500+ for mild cases, and up to $5000+ for extensive unit rehabilitation if severe damage occurred. Smart landlords budget reserve funds for this purpose.
  • Re-advertising, showing vacant units, screening applicants, and securing a replacement tenant also takes time and money. Figure $200+ in costs, plus another month or more of unit vacancy prior to securing a new lease.

The collective financial impact extends far beyond just upfront legal and court fees – factor in all costs. Now let’s examine proactive cost reduction strategies.

Minimize Eviction Expenses

Implement Stringent Tenant Screening Practices

  • Thoroughly vet all applicants, including income verification, employment checks, and background screening for prior evictions. Identify any red flags or risks before offering a lease agreement. An ounce of prevention provides major savings down the road.

Send Notices for Lease Violations Early

  • Don’t allow smaller violations to escalate needlessly. Send documented notices promptly outlining the issue and providing a window for tenant correction prior to pursuing formal unlawful detainer filings. Extend good faith, but document everything.

You might also like our articles about the cost of building a house, hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer, or suing an apartment complex.

Maintain Properties Proactively

  • Tenants tend to damage properties in worse overall condition. Proactive maintenance and upgrades prevent deterioration and keep tenants respectful of the space – and the landlord-tenant relationship stronger.

Pursue Payment Agreements Prior to Eviction Filings When Possible

  • If a tenant breaches their lease due to financial hardship but communicates openly, landlords are often better off working out a payment plan rather than pursuing immediate eviction. This protects income and the tenant relationship – a win-win if achievable. Just document the modified agreement thoroughly.

Offer “Cash for Keys” Buyouts to Problem Tenants Willing to Vacate Promptly

  • Paying tenants a few thousand dollars to willingly move out and return keys quickly avoids months of court battles and missed rent checks. Even $5000 upfront saves substantially over a complex eviction. Both parties gain closure.

Proactive tenant relations and prompt communication prevents massive headaches. Now let’s examine hypothetical cost scenarios.

Eviction Cost Case Studies

Simple Nonpayment and Lease Violation Case:

  • Court Fees: $200
  • Attorney Representation: $750
  • Two Months of Lost Rent: $2000
  • Property Turnover Costs: $500
  • Total Cost: $3450

Eviction NoticeThe tight legal timeline kept overall costs contained. The attorney achieved a default judgment given the tenant’s lack of appearance.

Extensive Property Damage and Protracted Legal Dispute:

  • Court Fees: $400
  • Attorney Fees: $5000+
  • Six Months of Lost Rent and Damages: $15,000
  • Turnover and Repairs: $3000
  • Total Costs: $23,400+

Tenant fought the eviction energetically through appeals but eventually was removed after six months.

Pre-Eviction Cash for Keys Agreement:

  • Move-Out Incentive Payment: $2000
  • Property Turnover Costs: $1000
  • New Tenant Screening: $200
  • Total Costs: $3200

Avoiding a drawn-out court battle saved tens of thousands in legal fees and lost rent. Compromise brought a quicker business resolution.

Final Words

While certainly unpleasant, understanding the major financial obligations and liabilities associated with removing problem tenants through the court eviction process allows landlords to budget wisely, follow proper legal protocol to control costs, restore order swiftly for other tenants, and protect the income stability crucial for properly maintaining the property long-term.

Except for extreme cases, upfront prevention through solid tenant screening and proactively addressing issues before they escalate generally keeps costs low while preserving tenant relations and trust built. Pursue eviction only as an absolute last resort, not first reaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if a tenant refuses to move out?

Landlords have no authority to forcibly remove or engage in any form of illegal self-help eviction methods like locking out tenants without following court orders. Only an authorized sheriff’s deputy acting on behalf of the local court jurisdiction can legally carry out the physical removal or lockout after exhausting all the proper judicial steps. Landlords attempting unauthorized forced removal face major penalties.

Who pays for eviction costs?

While the final eviction judgment does typically order the tenant to cover any court costs, attorney fees, and landlord losses as ruled on, in practice the amount actually paid or recovered from a tenant already struggling financially rarely covers actual costs, or requires extensive enforcement efforts beyond the scope of original proceedings. Unless the tenant has sufficient assets, landlords rarely recoup full losses, hence the need for proactive budgeting.

How long does it take to evict a tenant?

The full eviction timeline usually spans 1-3 months in most states from serving initial notice to final court ruling to scheduling the removal with sheriff’s department. Standard notices provide tenants 30 days to comply or vacate, filing the lawsuit adds another 1-2 weeks, and court scheduling extends hearings out weeks due to backlogs. Protracted legal disputes easily push the total duration to 6 months or more in some jurisdictions – hence why prompt action remains key.

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