A Step-By-Step Guide to Evicting a Tenant

So the honeymoon is over.  You never thought it would get to this, but it’s time to evict the tenants.  Despite all your best efforts to properly screen for good tenants, you fell on bad ones.  You’ve tried reasoning with them, but you just can’t get them to pay rent on time (or pay at all) or stop damaging the property.

You may have heard stories of how hard or complicated the eviction process is.  You may even of heard that it’s impossible! In reality, the eviction process in Canada is pretty straightforward and clearly defined in each province.

In this article, we’ll go over this process in a step-by-step way and point out a few pitfalls to avoid.

1. How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant?

This depends in which province your rental property is located.  For example, in Ontario, a standard eviction for non-payment can take as little as 75 days (the legal minimum) and upwards of 110 days (a more realistic timeline).  In Alberta, an eviction can take 24 hours (if the tenant threatens the landlord) but is usually done in 14-28 days.

2. Evicting a Tenant Isn’t Personal

Before starting the process, remind yourself that initiating an eviction doesn’t mean you’re a heartless landlord.  Yes, you may be evicting a family, but you’re also not running a charity or a shelter. You’re a landlord because you want the passive income of real estate investing, not to lose money and live through stress.

Remember that when tenants sign a lease, they are signing a legal document that clearly defines their responsibilities (as well as yours).  If they can’t step up to their obligations, they’re breaking the terms of that contract.

Maintain Your Professionalism During the Eviction Process

Once you’ll use the word “eviction” with your tenants, emotions may run high.  You may even get insulted or threatened.

As a landlord, you have maintain your professionalism just like you would at your 9-5 job.  If you let yourself get carried away, it could negatively impact the eviction process when you get to the legal proceedings (if it gets to that).

3. What to Do Before Initiating the Eviction Process

As we’ll examine later on, the eviction process is a methodical step-by-step process.  However, there’s a few points that need to be covered before you initiate an eviction.

Document Everything and Keep Records of Conversations

Eviction is a legal process.  And what do legal professionals like more than suits and leather-bound books?  Documentation… Of everything.

Sounds pretty basic right?  Not really.

In fact, this is where most landlords stumble and see their eviction delayed or rejected.

Documentation starts before you seriously consider the eviction.  If you’re attempting to correct a situation with the tenant, keep a record of your communications on the subject.  Whether they are texts, emails, social media exchanges, registered mail or even a letter you slipped under the door, keep a record of all those exchanges.

In instances where you spoke to the tenant by phone or in person, recap the conversation in writing and send it to them.  Here’s an example:

“Dear tenant, As discussed verbally on [date] regarding [issue + how it relates to the lease or law broken], you agreed to take the following [corrective actions].  Please correct the situation by [recap corrective actions] by [reasonable date]”.

Documenting creates a clear record that you attempted to resolve the situation but that the tenant kept failing on his or her end.  If the behavior is persistent over time, it also shows that there is a pattern involved and that the landlord is being negatively affected by it.

In the case of eviction due to property damage, take pictures of before and after the repairs.  Also keep a record of any expenses you incurred fixing those damages.

Inspect the Unit Before You Start the Process

Find a suitable and legal pretext to enter the unit and take pictures of the property.  In rare instances, tenants purposefully damage units when forced out by law if the eviction appeal is lost.  If you have pictures of before/after the eviction process, it’ll be easier to make your case to a court to have the tenant repay you for damages.

If You Want the Eviction to Work, Don’t Do the Following

Evictions make people emotional, including the most experienced landlords.  Whatever you do, don’t do the following:

  • Block access to the property in any way (don’t change the locks);
  • Threaten the tenant (physically, legally or in any other way);
  • Remove any of the tenant’s objects from the property;
  • Cut power or heating to the tenant’s unit;
  • Fail to uphold your obligations as a landlord to the tenant;
  • Enter the unit illegally or without reasonable cause.

Taking any of the above-mentioned actions can either null your eviction request, delay the proceedings or land you in legal trouble.

4. Starting the Eviction

Now that you’ve got documentation, it’s time to start the eviction process.  Although the specific names of each step vary by province, the overall process follows the same pattern.

Step 1: Read Your Local Eviction Laws Thoroughly

Landlord-tenant laws vary by province.  You’ll need to familiarize yourself with these laws because they will provide you with a clear understand of the responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

Here are links to the landlord-tenant laws by province:

   British Columbia    Manitoba    New Brunswick    Newfoundland and Labrador
   Alberta    Ontario    Nova Scotia
   Saskatchewan    Quebec    PEI

 

Keep Upholding Your Landlord Duties During the Process

Remember that even though you’re attempting to have the tenant removed from your property, there’s still a valid lease in effect.  That means that you have a legal obligation to fulfill your landlord duties until the lease is terminated or the eviction process is successful.

Not upholding your responsibilities can have negative effects in the later stages of the eviction, for example when the case goes to a hearing.  Don’t give your tenant’s case to void the eviction any ammunition.

Step 2: Document and Clearly Define the Reason for the Eviction

Remember when we recommended that you document absolutely everything?  This is where it comes in handy.

At this stage, you’re putting together your case as to why the eviction is necessary.  You’re establishing a pattern of behavior by your tenant showing that the conditions in the lease weren’t respected.

Step 3: Give a Written Notice of Eviction to the Tenant

Prior to submitting any request for a hearing for eviction, you need to give the tenant one last fair chance.  This comes in the form of a Written Notice of Eviction. In most provinces, it’s a specific form for each eviction reason.  In Ontario for example, there’s specific forms for not paying rent, illegal activities, interfering with others, etc.

Here are links to eviction forms by province:

   British Columbia    Manitoba    New Brunswick    Newfoundland and Labrador
   Alberta    Ontario    Nova Scotia
   Saskatchewan    Quebec    PEI

 

Step 4: File an Application for Eviction with Your Provincial Landlord Agency

Now that you’ve handed the tenant a Written Notice of Eviction, your tenant has the chance to remedy the situation within the prescribed time frame.  This is usually clearly indicated on the form and of course, varies by province.

If the tenant resolves the situation (example, pays the owed rent), the eviction process ends.

However, if the tenant fails to comply, this is where you file for your case to be heard with the provincial landlord agency (see links in section 1).  Note that there’s always a fee associated with filing for an eviction.

Once you’ve officially sent your application for eviction, you’ll need to inform your tenant via the prescribed legal methods.

Step 5: Inform the Tenant of the Application and Hearing

After you’ve filed for eviction, the board or agency will take the time to review your case.  They’re making sure all your paperwork is in order and that the law is being followed. This can take anywhere from 24 hours to 28 days depending on your governing body.

When your case gets accepted, you’ll receive a notice of hearing.  It’s your obligation to inform your tenant of the hearing date and time.  You also have to provide them with the notice which contains the following information:

  • Purpose of the hearing (eviction);
  • Recap of the application;
  • When, where and how the hearing will take place.

Step 6: Attend the Hearing and Make Your Case

The big day is up.  You’re almost there and if your documentation is in order the following step is going to be easy.

You’ll be attending the eviction hearing.  This isn’t like on TV where you have to eloquently make your case before a judge.  Rather, the agency or board will ask to see the following documentation:

  • Unpaid rent: your financial ledgers, efforts made to collect the rent and agreements of payments in the lease.
  • Damages:  proof of the damages (photos), costs associated with the repairs, your efforts to reason with the tenants.  If you have patterns of behavior over time, have it on hand.
  • Illegal activities: proof of the illegal activity, your efforts to reason with the tenants, any police reports.

Step 7: Obtain the Eviction Order and Implement It

Assuming all went well during the hearing, the agency or board will provide you with an order for the tenant to vacate.

Tenants usually vacate the property on their own at this point.  However, some tenants require more convincing which means you’ll have to go your sheriff (they’re not the same as in the US), fill out more forms and pay the sheriff’s fee.  With the eviction order, the sheriff will post a notice on the property indicating the timeframe in which the tenant must vacate.

In cases of unpaid rent, this is the tenant’s final chance.  If he or she pays up, the process ends and the tenant gets to keep living in the property.  Otherwise, the tenant must move out within the indicated time frame.

Step 8: Enter the Unit and Document Any Damages

After the tenant moves out, go in an inspect the property.  Are there any damages left by the disgruntled tenant? In those rare instances, document the damages via pictures.  If you can have a witness that’s even better.

Remember those pictures you took before starting the eviction process?  This is how you’ll easily prove that the tenant damaged the property on purpose.  Depending on the severity of the damages (if any at all), you have the option of seeking reparations from the tenant via the agency or board.

Landlords shouldn’t lose sleep over damages.  The majority of the time, tenants move out without any issues.

Step 9: Find a New Tenant

You can now tap yourself on the shoulder for a job well done.  It’s the end of the process! All that’s left to do is finding a new tenant.

Take the time to identify any blind spots in your screening process.  However, don’t over analyze either. Even the most thorough landlords end up with a bad tenant once in a while.

5. Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens to a Tenant’s Property After Eviction?

In most provinces, tenants have 48 hours to move their belongings out.  After that time period, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to remove them from the property.  At that point, the landlord can dispose of the belongings. As a courtesy to the tenant, landlords should safely store the following items:

  • Prescription drugs (keep them under lock and key).  If the tenant never claims them, bring them to a pharmacy for safe disposal.  In the case of narcotics, bring them to a police station;
  • Medical devices (ex: braces, wheelchairs, canes, orthopedics, CPAP machine);
  • Legal and business documents;
  • Prescription glasses;
  • Identity documents (ex: passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, health card);
  • Unopened mail (do not open the mail yourself).

If you find illegal items (ex: drugs) or firearms, contact your local police department.

Check your province’s specific rules as an improper disposal could land you in legal trouble.

Do Tenants Have Eviction Protection Rights Even If They Only Rent a Room?

It depends on the specifics of each lease.  If the tenant rents a room and shares common elements like the kitchen and bathroom with the landlord’s family, it’s usually possible to evict the tenant with little challenge.  The specifics vary by province, but in most cases these kinds of tenants have less legal protections.

Can a Tenant Be Evicted for Smoking Marijuana?

No, smoking or consuming marijuana within your unit won’t be a justifiable cause for eviction after legalization.  That said, if you have clearly indicated that smoking of any kind isn’t allowed in the unit, your tenant wouldn’t be respecting the conditions of the lease agreement.  There’s a few solutions for landlords with tenants that smoke marijuana that don’t involve eviction.

Can a Tenant Be Evicted for Renovations?

Yes, major construction and renovations are accepted causes for eviction.  Check your local laws for specifics. These types of evictions follow the same general steps outlined above.  However, the most common cause for landlords unsuccessful evictions of this type is not following prescribed time frames or providing enough notice.

If I Decide to Move Back into My Rental, Can I Evict the Tenant?

Yes, personal use of a property is generally an accepted cause for eviction.  Similar to evicting a tenant for renovations, there are specific time frames and notices that must be respected. Check your local laws for specifics.

How to Evict a Tenant for Renovations, Drug Use, Unpaid Rent, Property Damage or Noise?

In most provinces, each one of those causes for eviction has specific thresholds that must be met for a landlord to have a just cause to apply for an eviction.  The eviction process follows the same pattern no matter the cause: warn the tenant, document, give a written notice of eviction, file for eviction and attend the eviction hearing.  Depending on your province, the notice of eviction form will be different for each cause of eviction.

Glenn Carter

Glenn is a real estate writer and investor. Getting his start in single-family home and condo investing, Glenn has since moved on to multi-family investing in the Ottawa area. As a side hustle to his real estate investing, Glenn loves writing about his experience as a landlord overseeing his rental properties and has been featured on VentureBeat, BiggerPockets, Get Paid For Your Pad, and Breakthrough Real Estate Podcast.