What to do when a tenant won’t move out

By Greg Bell

Whether you own a commercial or residential property that you lease to someone else, you may occasionally run into a problem when you want that tenant to move out, but they won't do it. Whether it's for non-payment of rent or other reasons, there are certain rules you absolutely need to follow to cover your bases from a legal perspective.

While the rules in each state vary slightly for how you need to deal with a pesky tenant who won't leave, the overarching thing to keep in mind is that you certainly have to issue notices to them about your plans to evict, according to Your Investment Property. Put another way, you simply cannot decide one day — even after months of bad behaviour — that enough is enough and that person or business has to go as soon as possible.

What to know about cause

The primary thing you have to remember in all this is that you need a good reason to legally evict someone. These can include failure to pay rent (or consistently late rent payments), causing damage to the property itself, using it for illegal ends, persistently bothering neighbours or just breaching some aspect of your initial lease agreement. Your tenant may have the option to appeal your decision to terminate the lease early in some situations, but again, it all starts with you issuing written notice that the lease will be terminated.

In these situations, you may want to get legal advice to know everything that's required of you to go through the proper channels. These requirements tend to vary, at least somewhat, from one state to the next. Often, the tenants will have a set period of time during which they can pack their belongings and vacate, after which other legal steps can be taken.

What if they don't leave?

The mere prospect of starting legal proceedings against a problem tenant is often enough to spur them to leave, but it doesn't always work. Property Me notes that, here too, each state has its own requirements for how to proceed, depending on where the property is located.

For instance, in Queensland, some types of termination notices can be followed up within a week, while others require a month's notice. Once that time period is up, a termination order request may be filed with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and that will not require the tenant's involvement at all.

What comes next?

Once you have the court order that the tenant must leave, you can start taking other action, including changing the locks, Your Mortgage advises. In most cases, if you or the locksmith (or both) arrive at the property and find the tenant isn't there, you may have a legal requirement to put their belongings into storage so that they can be retrieved later. If they are there, it may be necessary to have a sheriff perform an eviction before you proceed with your plans.

When the tenant is gone — one way or the other — and you have the opportunity to access the property freely, you should thoroughly examine it to determine what damage you need to address, and whether that will be covered by your insurance.

While owning a commercial property of any type can be complicated, buying one does not have to be. At Ray White Surfers Paradise, we can help guide you through the buying process and make sure you have everything you need to enter your ownership period with confidence. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

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