As multifamily operators resume evictions post-moratorium, they’re seeking a streamlined process that returns operations to normal as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’re still hampered by the pre-pandemic way of doing things.
While eviction filing can be an intricate process, these three basic procedural mistakes cause the most delays:
- Lack of consistent filing practices
Most operators have clearly defined policies that state when notices to quit should be sent and delinquent residents should be sent to eviction. How closely those policies are followed is a different story.
While best practices suggest serving a three-day notice as early into delinquency as possible, typically on the 15th day of the month. Yet, on average, the most consistent operators don’t file until the third or fourth week of the month, with many waiting a full month or more to initiate the process.
Some companies impose arbitrary grace periods in the hopes that a resident will come with the missing funds. Residents will often claim that they only need a few more days to make full rent payment. But a few extra days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. And when delinquency gets to two or three months, it becomes an incentive not to pay. At that point, residents may opt to save their money and move elsewhere.
Without strict adherence to filing timelines, operators risk unnecessary delays in the eviction process, not to mention unrecoverable debt.
- Errors in the eviction notice
Even when operators do file eviction notices in a timely manner, relatively few execute the filing without error. Missing documentation, unlisted residents and other filing mistakes can create a time-consuming back-and-forth process with legal counsel. When required paperwork is incomplete or filled out incorrectly, the eviction process is stalled before it ever gets started.
Poor filing execution and procedural error can also expose operators to potential legal challenges by the resident, requiring additional court hearings which extend the eviction timeline or forcing the eviction process to start over.
Another common restart trigger involves the acceptance of a partial payment from the resident, without a written payment plan. If any payment is received by the operator, it could require an amended complaint. Worse yet, it could cause the case to be dismissed, requiring a new notice to be served, which sends the eviction process back to square one.
- Valuing occupancy over revenue
Under perfect conditions, multifamily occupancy rates and revenue would go hand-in-hand. The mistake operators routinely make is assuming that their best option to generate that revenue is already in the building. The practice of extending delinquent residents to give them more time to pay is a false dichotomy. More often than not, operators’ efforts to retain delinquent residents until they have caught up on payment work against them. The percentage of residents who come through with full payment when given an extension is negligible, and their continued occupancy can serve to prolong a home’s inability to generate revenue.
When operators over-prioritize occupancy and resident retention, they postpone the eviction process and revenue takes a back seat. It’s imperative that operators recognize that backfilling non-paying residents with better credit residents drives revenue, and that eviction delays are actually more costly than resident turnover.
Now that the industry is wading back into eviction waters, timely, consistent and accurate filing practices can expedite the process. Prioritizing streamlined eviction procedures can help to recover more revenue, establish a more reliable resident population and reduce eviction rates in the long run.