Eviction is the legal process when a landlord removes a tenant from a rental unit, such as an apartment or a house. There are many grounds for eviction, some of which are governed by the terms of the lease or rental agreement and some of which exist under state law.
Landlords and property managers must follow strict rules for evicting a tenant, or they could violate landlord-tenant laws. Landlord-tenant laws can vary by state, county, and even different cities. If you have questions about eviction procedures for your city, talk to a local landlord-tenant attorney for legal advice.
Tenants can be evicted for cause. Most written rental agreements provide for eviction in the case of non-payment of rent. A tenant can also be evicted for violating a lease agreement in other ways, such as having a pet when not allowed, making too much noise, or causing damage to the rental unit.
In some states, a tenant can also be evicted without cause. In most cases, a landlord can evict a tenant without cause at the end of the lease term. For a month-to-month tenancy, the rental agreement is only for one month at a time. A landlord could evict this type of tenant with one month’s notice.
However, in states and cities with rent control laws, landlords may be more restricted on when they can evict a tenant. In rent control properties, a landlord may be prohibited from evicting a tenant without cause, even at the end of the lease. If you are in a rent-controlled area, talk to a landlord-tenant lawyer about the eviction process.
A landlord starts eviction proceedings by giving written notice to the tenant that they need to remedy the problem or move out. If the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord may put up a pay rent or quit notice, to give the tenant a certain number of days to pay the rent due or vacate the property.
If the tenant is violating the terms of the lease, a cure or quit notice gives them a chance to correct the violation or move out. In other words, if the tenant is keeping a cat in violation of a no-pet policy, the tenant could cure the violation by finding someone else to take the cat and keep the property pet-free. Landlords may not always have to give the tenant a chance to fix any lease violations. In some cases, a landlord can give the tenant an unconditional termination notice.
The amount of time a landlord is required to give a tenant before evicting them can vary from three days up to a thirty-day notice or more, depending on the rental agreement, state law, and the grounds for the eviction.
If the tenant doesn’t move out or remedy the problem within the period specified in the eviction notice, then the landlord must file an eviction action in court to legally evict the tenant and recover any monetary losses, or damages, from the tenant. State and local laws specify the procedures and requirements for giving the tenant proper notice of the eviction.
The law typically provides landlords with a way to dispose of personal property that a former tenant has left behind in the rental unit. However, a landlord should only get rid of the property once the tenant has clearly left the rental unit without intending to return.
The court process allows the landlord to recover money owed by the tenant for past-due rent or damages. State law and/or the rental agreement may also determine to what extent a landlord can apply security deposit funds to pay for past-due rent or damages to the rental unit. These laws also usually outline how a tenant can get their security deposit back after moving out and how quickly a landlord must return all or part of the security deposit to the tenant.
A landlord cannot simply lock a tenant out of the rental unit (lockout), remove the tenant’s belongings from the rental unit, or turn off the utilities (freeze out) to evict the tenant. A landlord must go through a court hearing to evict a tenant. Even after the landlord has gone through the eviction case and has a court order, the sheriff’s office or law enforcement are generally the only ones who can physically remove the tenant from the rental unit.
“Self-help,” or directly removing a tenant by the landlord, is not allowed. A landlord could be liable for trespass, assault, battery, or wrongful eviction for forcing a tenant out of the rental property without going through the eviction hearing and proper procedures.
If you feel like your landlord is trying to unlawfully evict, you should speak to an attorney with experience in landlord-tenant law as soon as possible. Consultations with attorneys are a great first step in the path to protecting your legal rights in court. Often times, they will have already worked on a case with a similar set of circumstances. This knowledge can prove invaluable when your living situation is threatened.
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