Undoubtedly, the eviction process of a tenant is one of the hardest situations that a landlord must face. The most important aspect is not letting emotions get the better of you and to follow the law very closely.
The eviction process begins when a rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant has ended but the tenant refuses to move out.
The agreement can end in three ways: the expiry of the contract (in case of a fixed-term contract), extraordinary termination (with good reason, such as debt) or ordinary cancellation (three months of advance notice). The application for terminating a rental agreement must be prepared in writing pursuant to the law and its delivery and receipt must be proven.
The landlord has made arrangements with the tenant to meet and transfer the dwelling on the date of the termination of the contract.
Lia Siht, the Head of Legal and Compliance of Rendin, urges home owners that an owner must not implement forceful measures, such as changing locks independently, if a tenant does not transfer the dwelling. "Instead, the owner should recourse to the Rental Committee or a court. In such instances, expedited procedure is not implemented. The owner should write a statement of claim and submit all evidence proving that the lease contract has been terminated in a lawful manner."
The court shall accept the application, thereby launching a proceeding that lasts at least six months (in the Rental Committee, starting from two months; the organisation only operates in Tallinn). The courts have relatively long deadlines for processing cases. Both parties are given time to reply and contest.
Once the court procedure comes to an end, you must wait for the judgement to take effect. Usually, this happens in about 1-1,5 months. The other party is entitled to contest the judgement. The usual deadline for submitting an appeal is 20–30 days.
"Once the judgement comes into effect, the owner can select a suitable bailiff based on the region. The owner of the dwelling must submit an application prepared in a free format to the bailiff (in writing with a signature through e-mail or in person at the bailiff’s office) who will handle the eviction. First, the lessee shall be given a deadline for vacating the dwelling," explains the expert.
On the day of the eviction, the bailiff shall personally go to the premises with a presumption that the tenant will open the door voluntarily. If the tenant is not present or does not open the door, then the police is allowed to help enter the dwelling, following which locks are changed. If the tenant has left personal belongings behind in the dwelling, then these are destroyed or sold.
Lia Siht adds that if the tenant has a child or children, social services should be included as needed. The objective here is to guarantee safety and a specific place to live. If the tenant has a place for the children (e.g. with a member of the family or a close relative), then involving the social services is not necessary.
In most cases, these people have simply fallen on hard times and are not acting out of malicious intent. Something unexpected has happened in their lives – a situation which they cannot solve because they lack or have insufficient financial means. In this situation, it is possible to come to a mutual agreement. The main objective should be communication and avoiding conflict. For example, it is possible to find a temporary dwelling and a place for storing personal belongings. There are very few individuals who do not have a single family member or friend who could help them for a short period.
"Reaching an agreement might happen quite quickly. For example, when I compare my professional experience before taking up my position in Rendin, where a proceeding with a certain profile would last four months, then a similar situation in Rendin could be solved within a few weeks without involving bailiffs," says Siht.
"During my entire career, I have not observed one specific profile that would describe all lessees, in whose case eviction is considered," believes Siht. "The only common denominator is knowing the law, knowing how to delay solutions, making it possible for them to gain an upper hand when the opposing party, i.e. the owner of the dwelling, does not comply with the law (rental relations are regulated by the Law of Obligations Act) or makes hasty decisions."
Unfortunately, we can see that the number of cases involving eviction is growing over time. People are more aware of their rights, including the inviolability of homes. This principle is considered to trump the ones concerning assets.
The primary goal of a landlord should always be finding a compromise because this is the key to success. Mutual communication could lead to a solution that satisfies both the landlord and the tenant, making court involvement unnecessary.
The landlords could educate themselves a bit more about the relevant legislation, preparing documents, and the correct steps for the eviction process. For example, the police cannot be included at a random point in time at the owner's discretion. If the landlord does not have thorough information about the issue, then it would be wise to ask for professional help instead of acting independently.
An application for terminating the agreement must be prepared correctly!
A debt-claim and a claim for possession are different things. The first priority should be to evict the tenant from the dwelling. Submitting a debt-claim is a secondary task.