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Being a Beacon Hill apartment landlord in 2020 has proven to be difficult, especially when it comes to the enforcement of an apartment lease. I have preached the word “empathy” a lot in recent months, but there are certain situations in which “empathy” as a landlord doesn’t make up for not receiving rent from your tenant. And you’re left with only a have few options.

Obstacles to Apartment Evictions

In downtown Boston, when using the legal system, there are many hurdles to overcome while evicting a Beacon Hill apartment tenant. There will be eviction obstacles to overcome no matter what, here are some common hurdles that you may encounter in some variation.

Delivering Real Estate Legal Notice

To ensure you have the best chance of winning your case, you are required to make sure you hand-deliver the five-day notice. Beacon Hill apartment tenants are knowledgeable as to their rights, and we find that when they are aware that they are being given notice, they may not open the door. You can wait for the tenant to finally leave the home or you can hire a process server for $75-$100. The process server will trace their whereabouts to hand-deliver the notice to them when it is appropriate.

Filing Costs

The U.S. average for court filing of eviction is around $50. 

Serving the Suit

Once filed, the tenant must be served with the lawsuit. In downtown Boston, the sheriff must take the first pass at serving the lawsuit. If the sheriff is unsuccessful, the judge at the first court date, upon request, will allow the Beacon Hill apartment landlord to hire a process server again for another $75-$100.

This process can take up to an additional two weeks of time. We find the sheriff has about a 40% chance of successfully serving the tenant, which is due mainly to local agencies being understaffed and overworked as well as tenants successfully avoiding the local sheriff.

Trial Extensions

Even when you get to court with the tenant after they have been properly served, the tenant can ask for a continuance or request a jury trial. If they don’t show up to court, the tenant has seven days to file a request for an extension, bringing the case back to court in another two to three weeks. The options available to the tenant can add weeks, if not months, onto the process.

Beacon Hill Apartment Landlord Possession

If the process does go smoothly and the judge grants possession to the landlord, there is more time added here. Once the process is past all the hurdles thus far, the judge will see the tenant is not following the lease and grant the landlord possession at some point in the next 14-30 days.

Apartment Tenant Removal

Following the 14-30 days, the likelihood that the tenant will leave is slim. This forces the landlord to file paperwork, for an additional fee of $60.50, with the sheriff to request that the sheriff come out to remove the tenant from the home. The act of filing the fee is not the hurdle but the undefined timeframe for the sheriff to actually come out is where the hurdle really comes in. The sheriff can take anywhere from 60 days to four months to come and evict the tenant.

Day-Before Call

Once you’ve waited two to four months for the sheriff to come out, you will receive a phone call from the sheriff the day before. It will be on you, as the landlord, to make sure this final step is completed. On the day of the actual eviction, there are many things that can go wrong, causing you to have to start back over with the sheriff.

Best-Case Scenario

When you add up all that time, this is what your best-case scenario may look like.

  • 30 days before you file for eviction for a non-paying tenant
  • 14 days to get into court
  • 14 days to get possession
  • 60 days to get the sheriff out

That’s a total of 118 days to get a tenant out from the time they stop paying.

Writing the Check

With that being said, this article was written to help you solve the issues with these problem tenants as quickly and efficiently as possible. Cash for keys is a way for a landlord to convince a tenant to vacate a property in exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money.

In the worst-case scenario above, the hard cost will exceed $5,000 and the stress endured can take a toll on other things in your life. It may be in your best interest to strike a deal with the tenant at the 30-45-day mark to leave the following week in exchange for $1,000 or $2,000.

A lot of people, in general, have an issue with this out of sheer principle. People think it is ridiculous to pay a tenant to leave when the tenant already owes them money. The reality is that you will never see that past-due rent. You will end up spending a lot more than you are about to give if you do not follow something like a cash-for-keys process.

Benefits of Cash for Keys

We are humans who like to solve problems or just make them go away now. Some people like to solve complex problems and others just don’t want to deal with the stress. My favorite line to investors I just met with tenant collection problems is, “Do you realize that for a couple of grand you can make all of your problems go away in the next two weeks?”

Control Your Outcome

My favorite part of the cash for keys is that I can control the outcome. I know when the tenant will leave, I can somewhat control the condition they turn the place back over to me, and I can control the timeline. A non-paying tenant can leave any day with anything they want in the Beacon Hill apartment

May Benefit the Tenant

In many cases, the cash you give to your tenant may provide them with a fresh start. For the tenants down on their luck, these funds can help them with a new start where they can avoid getting their name dragged through the mud in a long, drawn-out legal case. This is where you can still have the “empathy” piece I mentioned in the first paragraph to create a win/win situation for both parties.

Boston real estate and the bottom line

When you became a Beacon Hill apartment investor, you also became a business owner. As a business owner, you have to make decisions that can help your business grow, which often more times than not means checking your ego or leaving the emotion at the door.

The new norm is not yet certain in this post-COVID-19 era we are investing in, so you have to be able to pivot. There are many great tenants out there that want to rent your property, so get rid of the ones that are not respectful of your business so you can get someone that is.

Cash for keys is not new to me, but it is a new concept to a lot of investors that may have invested in landlord-friendly states. Now is the best time to pivot and make the best business decisions you can for your apartment rental portfolio.

Lastly, be sure to check with your attorney regarding the proper documentation

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