What you should know about eviction – Rules and Procedures
As a tenant, you have certain rights. You cannot be immediately evicted – the landlord cannot just walk in and throw you out along with your belongings. The exact procedure for eviction is governed by state law. Procedure may also vary from county to county. However in all states, the landlord must file a lawsuit against the tenant seeking an order for eviction. This lawsuit is referred to as unlawful detainer lawsuit in many jurisdictions. The beginning of a lawsuit for eviction for nonpayment of rent is similar to that of the debtor—creditor action, in that it begins with a summons and complaint. The relief sought by the landlord is that the tenant pay back rent and vacate the premises. Of course, court costs are tacked on.
The law requires that before the tenant can be evicted, the landlord must give sufficient notice to the tenant. The notice must generally be in writing and must inform you the reasons why the landlord wants you to vacate the premises. You have three options: leave the premises as demanded by the landlord, fix the defect that the landlord is complaining about in the notice such as late payment of rent or keeping pets without permission or you can just ignore the notice and continue living in the property and wait for the landlord to make the next move. If you do not move, the landlord will file an unlawful detainer lawsuit against you. If the landlord prevails in this lawsuit, the court will pass an order for eviction.
Types of Eviction Notices
Depending on the reason why your landlord wants you to vacate, there are different types of notices. These include:
- Pay rent or quit: You will receive this notice if you haven’t paid your past rent. The landlord will generally demand that you pay your past due rent within a few days or vacate the premise.
- Cure or quit: You will receive this notice if the landlord wants you to vacate because you have violated certain terms of the lease but the violation can be fixed. In such cases, the landlord will require you to cure the violation within a certain number of days or vacate the premises.
- Unconditional Quit: Through this notice the landlord wants the tenant to vacate at any cost. The tenant cannot rectify the violation or do something to continue with the lease. Due to the harsh nature of this kind of notice, state laws often impose severe restrictions on this type of notice. Generally a landlord can send this type of notice only in certain situations such as the tenant being consistently late in making the rent payments, multiple violations of the lease terms and failure to correct or cease the violations, engaging in illegal activities on the property or causing serious damages to the property.
- Without Cause: Sometimes the landlord can demand that you vacate the property although you are regular with your rent payments and you haven’t violated any terms of the lease. The landlord has the legal right to ask you to vacate without a cause but the law affords you additional protection in such cases. Such notices require that you be given a longer time to vacate. Generally notice to vacate without cause will give you 30 to 60 days to vacate.
If you stay in a jurisdiction with rent control laws, the landlord will generally be prohibited from asking you to vacate without cause. The landlord can only evict you for a legally recognized reason.
If you do not vacate despite having received the notice and the notice period has expired, the landlord must file a lawsuit seeking an eviction order against you. You will receive a notice from the court informing you about the lawful. You can appear and fight the lawsuit.
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have defenses available to fight the lawsuit filed by your landlord. If you have been asked to vacate because you violated a lease term, you can demonstrate that you have already corrected the violation. If your landlord has not followed the eviction procedure as require by the state law or failed to issue the eviction notice as required by law, you can move a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
A landlord who prevails in an eviction lawsuit can approach the Sheriff to physically evict the tenant from the property. Generally, the Sheriff will give notice to the tenant informing him or her that the Sheriff will be coming to take the property on a specific date at a particular time. If the tenant does not hand over possession to the Sheriff, the Sheriff will evict the tenant with the use of force if necessary.