How Evictions Work – What Every Renter Needs To Know
Landlord-Tenant laws may vary slightly from state to state, but generally your landlord can not evict you without terminating the tenancy first.
Each state’s laws have very detailed requirements for landlords who want to end a tenancy. Each state has its own procedures as to how termination notices and eviction papers must be written and delivered (“served”) to you. Landlords must follow state rules and procedures exactly.
This usually means the landlord must give you adequate written notice, in a specified way and form. If you don’t move (or reform your ways — for example, by paying the rent or finding a new home for the dog) after proper notice, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict you. In order to win an eviction, the landlord must prove that you did something wrong that justifies ending the tenancy.
Notice of Termination for Cause – Although terminology varies somewhat from state to state, there are basically three types of termination notices that you might receive if you have violated the rental agreement or lease in some way:
- Pay Rent or Quit Notices – are typically given to you when you have not paid the rent. These notices give you a few days (three to five in most states) to pay the rent or move out (“quit”).
- Cure or Quit Notices – are typically given to you if you violate a term or condition of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets clause or the promise to refrain from making excessive noise. Usually, you have a set amount of time in which to correct, or “cure,” the violation.
- Unconditional Quit Notices – are the harshest of all. They order you to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or correct a lease or rental agreement violation. In most states, unconditional quit notices are allowed only if you have:
- repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause,
- been late with the rent on more than one occasion,
- seriously damaged the premises, or
- engaged in serious illegal activity, such as drug dealing on the premises.
Notice of Termination Without Cause – Even if you have not violated the rental agreement and have not been late paying rent, a landlord can usually ask you to move out at any time (assuming you don’t have a fixed term lease) as long as the landlord gives you a longer notice period. Say, 30 days or 60 days. Some areas have “just cause eviction protections” and “rent control exceptions.” Following receipt of a termination notice, if you haven’t moved out or fixed the lease or rental agreement violation within the allotted time, the landlord must properly serve you with a summons and complaint for eviction in order to proceed with the eviction.
If you do get hauled into court, you may be able to diminish the landlord’s chances of victory. Perhaps you can point to improper paperwork in the preparation of the eviction lawsuit. Illegal landlord behavior, such as not maintaining the rental property in habitable condition, will serve as a good defense, as would a claim that the eviction lawsuit is in retaliation for your insistence on needed, major repairs.
Even if the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit, the landlord can’t just move you and your belongings out onto the sidewalk. Landlords must give the court judgment to a local law enforcement office, along with a prescribed fee. A sheriff or marshal gives you a notice that the officer will be back within a few days to escort you off the property. At that point, it’s best to acknowledge defeat and leave on your own steam. Count on losing any deposit. You are responsible for the landlord’s cost of the eviction, and any property cleanup. Any uncollected losses can be reported on your credit report.