It’s every landlord’s nightmare: You have a tenant that’s troublesome and breaks the rules or just won’t pay — or you purchased a foreclosure property at auction that’s still occupied — so you go through all of the appropriate steps for an eviction. The proper notices are served, and you wait. And… the occupant refuses to leave.

Some homeowners who have lost their houses in foreclosure seem to think that a passive-aggressive response to an eviction will allow them an indefinite rent-free stay where they are. Tenants in rental properties can be just as difficult. When an eviction fails to get a response, you have to take the next step: requesting a judgment of forcible entry and detainer. This essentially means that the occupant is illegally on the property and gives you the legal right to (eventually) remove them.

If there’s no valid objection, the judge will give the occupant of your property a set number of business days to vacate. If the occupant still refuses to leave (which does sometimes happen), you’ll have to involve the county sheriff, which may gain the occupant a few more days.

Ultimately, however, you may be forced to remove the occupant and his or her possessions directly. This type of action has to be handled carefully and may involve the assistance of the sheriff, the police, a locksmith and other parties. You will also be required to decide what to do with any animals on the property — which may involve turning them over to a shelter or otherwise providing for their care for up to 14 days.

Similarly, you’ll also be required to remove the occupant’s nonperishable property from the home and put the items in storage for 14 days. How the tenant may recover that property is also subject to numerous rules and restrictions that can be difficult to understand.

Because of the complex steps involved in forcible entry and detainer actions and your potential legal liability if you make a mistake, you can save a lot of frustration, time and money by seeking legal assistance as soon as you know you likely have a problem. Please contact our office to discuss your situation.