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What Renters Need to Know About the Eviction Process

A landlord cannot evict a tenant without giving at least one form of notice and filing a lawsuit. If the tenant has a lease then the landlord must have just cause for eviction.

Each state has different laws governing when and how a landlord can evict a tenant. The general process includes a notice and a demand for you to leave. If you don't leave then a landlord will file a lawsuit to evict and regain possession. If your landlord wins the case then you will be forcibly removed if you don’t leave on your own.

In most jurisdictions, landlords cannot evict tenants as a form of retaliation and are required to give at least some notice before filing a lawsuit. If a landlord locks you out, turns off the utilities or kicks you out using force instead of following the legal process then you can, in many jurisdictions, have them arrested and sue them for damages.

Types of eviction

Most states have laws that lay out the specific reasons for eviction that are legal. These reasons are referred to as "just cause." Some states also have specific guidelines for evicting a tenant who stays past the end date of their lease, known as holdover proceedings.

In contrast, if you're a periodic or month-to-month tenant, your landlord can usually terminate your lease agreement for any reason. Most states require them to give you a certain amount of advance notice—usually 30 days, although it can be more or less. This is not an eviction, although you still have to move out by the date on the termination notice.

Common notices

There are three common notices that have to be sent to you chronologically:

  • Cure or quit: A notice to cure or quit tells the tenant they need to stop violating their lease agreement or leave within a certain time frame
  • Rent demand: A rent demand notice works like a notice to cure or quit, but specifically asks the tenant to pay owed rent or else leave. Usually, they will be given no more than a few days to pay the owed rent
  • Notice to quit: A notice to quit orders the tenant to vacate without giving them the chance to fix the situation. In the less tenant-friendly states a landlord can start with the notice to quit without giving the tenant any time to right the wrong. If you get a notice to quit that doesn’t list a reason for evicting you then your landlord is probably required to give you at least thirty days to vacate.

Eviction lawsuit

If you don't leave after getting a notice to quit then your landlord will send you a summons to show up in court. Their goal is to get a document from the court called a writ of possession that lets them ask a member of law enforcement to show up at the premises and force you to leave.

When you receive a court summons then you have the right to defend yourself either by showing up on the court date or sending an answer to the court to make your argument. Your counterargument might be that the landlord didn’t go through the proper steps for the eviction process exactly as it’s described in state law. You can also argue that the rental unit was uninhabitable or that the landlord is evicting you as a form of retaliation.

If a landlord wins the case then you can ask for a stay of execution to postpone the actual eviction. You might also ask the court for a right to redemption, which would give you he option to fix the issue so that you can stay.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.