How to Conduct an Effective Eviction Meeting
If you ever have to evict a resident, you need to keep in mind that the resident has certain rights. Among them is the right to meet with you to discuss your rationale for the eviction. Essentially, during this meeting, the resident has the right to present his or her case to convince you not to proceed with eviction.
HUD says generally that the resident must request the meeting within 10 days of receiving your notice to terminate his lease. But HUD does not provide details about what should happen during such a meeting. Housing experts agree that the “10-day meeting” can be productive and even protective if handled well. The meeting can provide the stage for you to present a solid case of how the resident violated provisions of the lease. The resident, in turn, could be dissuaded from fighting you in court.
“The keys to making your case are to be well prepared, to present yourself confidently, and to state your position persuasively,” says Dan Bancroft, partner with the law firm of Broderick, Bancroft and Goldberg.
Top 10 Tips for an Effective Eviction Meeting
To help you conduct an effective eviction meeting with the resident, Bancroft offers the following 10 tips:
1. Make sure the resident knows his rights. You must advise the resident of the right to ask for the meeting in the termination notice you send, according to HUD. For example, your notice could state, “You have the right to discuss the termination of your tenancy with your Landlord within ten (10) days of the date of receipt of this notice. If you request such a meeting, the Landlord agrees to discuss the proposed termination with you.”
In addition, Bancroft recommends that the following language be included in all notices (in addition to existing reasonable accommodation language): “If you are considered disabled under applicable state or federal law, you have the right to request a reasonable accommodation to participate in the hearing (meeting) process.”
If the resident requests the meeting, promptly set a time for it. If you fail to hold the meeting, the resident could win a court's favor and your case could crumble.
2. Avoid making it personal. It's important not to let personal feelings about the resident interfere, whether favorable or not. Bancroft says the meeting must be “meaningful.” Your decision about the eviction should not be a foregone conclusion.
“It should be more than just a rubber stamp of an earlier decision to evict,” he cautions. “Courts want to be certain there was no bias in the decision to evict.”
Housing experts are mixed on whether 10-day meetings should be conducted by the site manager. Because they have day-to-day contact with residents, site managers may not be able to remain neutral. In larger property management organizations, a regional manager could take charge, with the site manager present to address questions or issues as needed. At smaller sites that have fewer management or administrative staff members, it may be impossible to find an impartial individual to conduct the meeting. In these cases, the owner could serve in that role.
3. Review the details. Preparation is key to the effectiveness of the meeting. You should review the resident's file thoroughly, Bancroft says, and make note of everything you want to discuss. List the specific lease agreement issues and the corresponding violations.
4. Meet on your own ground. Whether or not attorneys are involved, always meet in your management office, Bancroft says, or a private space in the building such as a community room, so long as it can be made private.
“If the resident requests to meet in his or her apartment as an accommodation related to a disability, you must consider this request,” adds Bancroft.
5. Stay focused on the violations. The more specific you can be, the better, says Bancroft. That helps to avoid misunderstandings and leaves little room for the resident to claim ignorance of what the lease says.
“The meeting is an opportunity for the tenant to discuss the proposed termination,” Bancroft explains. “I do not view it as a time when the landlord is required to prove or demonstrate anything, even though the discussion will ordinarily include a recitation of the facts that the landlord has already set forth in the notice. It is the resident's opportunity to demonstrate compelling reasons for the landlord to agree not to proceed.”
6. Offer the opportunity for explanation. You should expect the resident to try to explain away acts or behaviors that violated lease provisions. While you can permit the resident to respond to the violations and provide evidence to counter your claims, don't let the discussion digress.
“Steer the discussion by citing the facts given in the termination notice and the evidence you have on hand,” Bancroft says.
7. Keep control of the meeting. Be prepared for denial, anger, or even threats from the resident. If such behavior takes place, do your best to defuse it. Suggest taking a break or rescheduling the meeting. Alert another staff member for assistance and be prepared to contact the police, if necessary.
8. Be wary of promises. The resident may attempt to sway your final decision by promising to change his ways or do better if you let her stay. Make your decision solely on whether the resident's violations justify eviction. That's the purpose of the meeting.
9. Document the meeting. “What if you go to court and the resident claims no meeting was ever held,” says Bancroft. “You'll need proof that you met and discussed the grounds for eviction with the resident.”
Bancroft recommends writing a brief summary of the meeting and asking the resident to sign it. If he refuses, note the refusal on your summary.
10. Follow up with a factual response. If your final decision is to move ahead with eviction, inform the resident in writing. Be sure to confirm the lease termination date. Be factual and not accusatory in your correspondence, says Bancroft.
Dan Bancroft, Esq.: Partner, Broderick Bancroft and Goldberg, 313 Washington St., Ste. 207, Newton, MA 02458; (617) 641-9900; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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