We recently had to do one of the most uncomfortable things I feel like a person has to do as a landlord. It’s called a sit-out.
If you don’t know what that is, a sit-out is the culmination of the dispossessory proceedings. It’s where the landlord has to go in and physically remove all of someone’s personal possessions from the interior of their property and sit them out on the street. Hence the term sit-out.
Prior to this one, we’ve only had to do one sit-out in almost a decade of being landlords. That’s because we’ve had to file very few evictions. (I feel that is due to our tenant screening process.) And of those filed, we’ve been able to work things out so that the tenants leave on their own.
The only reason we did that first sit-out was because the tenant had left so much personal property in the home. Normally, the vacating tenants sign an agreement stating that anything they leave on the property after a certain date is considered abandoned and that we can dispose of it.
Those tenants had already moved from the property but hadn’t signed such an agreement.
And since they left so much stuff behind, we needed to go through the correct proceedings in order to remove it. That meant we had to file an eviction, get a writ of procession and then meet a constable at the property to do a sit-out.
This time, however, the tenants hadn’t vacated the property and they had made it clear they didn’t have plans to do so.
For us, this was a very uncomfortable situation but a good learning lesson. Today, I want to share with you some of the things we learned.
First, we went to magistrate’s office to talk to the constable prior to the sit-out. The reason for this was that we wanted to find out what his expectations were and how we might work best with him. He told us to be there at 9:30 a.m., and he said he would only be available for about an hour so we should bring ample help.
You see, the constable’s job is to keep the peace during the sit-out process. So, when dealing with someone who doesn’t want to leave, it’s best if we do all we need to do while the constable is available to be on site.
Next, we learned we needed to have a game plan for all that had to be done once we got to the sit-out. We brought lots of husky trash bags and work gloves, along with two large, flat trailers and a total of five hands (thanks to Michael Hicks) to remove the possessions from the property.
The first thing we did when we got there was survey the scene and get a game plan. Once we did, we worked methodically, room by room, to clear the house. One thing we neglected to do was take into consideration a waterbed that was on site. We had to drain it, which took forever. We should have started with it first.
Next, we took any firearms we found to the constable. We learned that he would make sure they were completely unloaded and then hold onto them until the sit-out was complete. After that time, he would return them to the tenant, who, by the way, was present the entire time.
That was something I was not mentally prepared for. Since we had never done an occupied sit-out, I thought the constable would remove the tenant when we got there and then we would go to work. That was not the case. The tenant sat in his recliner, beside one of the exit doors, the entire time we were working. That means we were walking past him constantly. And as the day progressed, he became more and more cantankerous.
We also learned to keep working and be professional. The tenant was muttering — and sometimes not muttering — obscenities at us. But we wore thick skin and stayed professional.
This situation was uncomfortable. But the constable hovered close to the tenant to make sure we were protected, and he kept the peace.
Finally, we learned that clearing a house during a sit-out takes longer than you think. The constable advised us to plan for an hour. We were there for three-and-a-half hours with five workers in 95-degree heat. I brought drinks but I didn’t think to bring any food. Needless to say, our energy was gone by the time we finished.