Eviction can be a nightmare for landlords and tenants alike. No matter which side of the deal you are on, you need to understand that eviction is a formal legal process with rules. Each state has its own laws governing the eviction process. It is not a landlord’s right to “just decide” to kick a tenant out, set deadlines as they see fit, or throw a tenant’s belongings outside. Likewise, eviction does not necessarily terminate a tenant’s responsibility to pay back rent or for damage to the property. And, a tenant who moves out based only on a verbal notice may be held liable for breaking the lease.
The Eviction Process
Each state has very specific laws regarding the timing and reasons for eviction. These are the basic steps:
- Eviction or termination notice. The notice must be in writing and must state the reason for eviction, if any, what the tenant must do to correct the problem and the time limit for doing so if there is a problem to be corrected. Typically, the eviction notice gives the tenant three to five days or 30 to 60 days to correct the problem. Late rent or violation of the terms of the lease are examples of correctable problems. In some circumstances a landlord does not have to have a reason for evicting a tenant.
- Lawsuit for unlawful detainer. The next step is a lawsuit for unlawful detainer. This is where tenants have the opportunity to fight the eviction in court. There are many valid defenses to eviction, including retaliatory eviction in which a landlord attempts to evict a tenant for exercising legitimate rights such as demanding repairs.
- Eviction order. If the landlord wins the lawsuit, a court order will be issued requiring the tenant to vacate by a certain date. It could be immediately or in a certain number of days, such as 30 days.
- Enforcing the order. A landlord cannot just go in and physically force a tenant to leave or throw the tenant’s belongings out in the street when the deadline for vacating expires. Only a law enforcement officer can physically remove a tenant.
To learn more about evictions and your rights, please search this directory for a landlord-tenant attorney in your area.