The Emotions of Eviction

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2000 and 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

Evictions are ugly. The tenant is getting booted out of his or her home, albeit rightfully so. And the landlord is in for untold emotional, financial, and legal hassles.

A landlord’s eviction-induced emotional headaches fall into three categories: guilt, shame, and anger. Evictions rank up there with other high-stress events—marriage, moving, and IRS audits.

Intellectually you know the tenant had it coming, but you still can’t help feeling guilty about the eviction. Should you feel guilty?

Maybe you should feel guilty. Your tenant may have lost his or her job because of the pandemic and hasn’t been able to find another or get enough government assistance to pay the rent. You have to feel bad for your tenant. But your mortgage payment is due and you don’t have enough in the rental account to cover that much less keep up with the maintenance required to maintain your property, your investment, in tip-top shape. Meanwhile, having someone living in the property adds wear and tear that requires additional upkeep that you don’t have the money to do.

Maybe you shouldn’t feel guilty. The tenant is stealing from you. Even though he or she has a job and sufficient income, he or she just decided not to pay the rent and counts on avoiding eviction because of the eviction moratorium. That tenant has stolen your property, possibly stolen your utilities, and definitely stolen your hard-earned investment. That tenant is a thief.

If you want to give your rental unit away rent-free, shouldn’t that be your decision and not the tenant’s? Finally, ask yourself: what if I didn’t evict this tenant? What would be the result?

Shame and guilt arise from the suspicion that you somehow failed with this tenant. The nagging feeling lurks in the back of your head that if you had done better selecting a tenant or helping your tenant work through a difficult situation, you wouldn’t be going through this mess now.

Evicting the tenant is akin to the shame of admitting that you made a mistake. Maybe it was bad applicant screening to start with, but aren’t you better off looking at the eviction as a lesson learned, cutting your losses, and getting on with business?

Maybe you didn’t select your tenant badly, but the tenant changed. A good friend of mine, also a landlord, evicted a tenant a few years ago who for the first year, had been a model tenant, but almost overnight she metamorphosed into someone with an eviction wish. Wild parties, not paying the rent, and refusing to speak to her landlord, other than rudely, led my friend to the conclusion that she was doing drugs. Without shame or guilt, he evicted her.Anger is the emotion of “they took advantage of me,” and “I’ll show them!” “Showing them” is a splendid idea.

Just make sure that when you “show them” you don’t make a mess of the eviction. Too often anger results in landlords making one of the 14 mistakes that lose an eviction, the ones I explain in my book Evictions: How to Win (or Lose) Them.

Very common is writing something extra on the notices demanding payment of rent such as “Pay Up, Deadbeat!!!” and “I don’t care if you pay or not; you’re out!” Extra comments on forms and letters, even possibly innocuous ones, will ensure that the judge lets your tenant stay, often rent-free, for a few months.

Another anger-induced reaction and way to lose an eviction are harassing the tenant. That’s when you call or text—daily, twice daily, hourly—to say that you want him or her out, or you repeatedly visit the property to “see if he’s moved yet.” Hold your temper or hire an eviction specialist to deal with the situation. The emotional and financial cost is infinitely lower than the trauma of a lost eviction.

Evictions are an unfortunate fact of business life for landlords. You don’t need to feel guilt or shame because good business practice demands that you keep your anger under control and you protect your investment.

Evictions: How to Win (or Lose) Them

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