Eviction is the legal process that occurs 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. For instance, most written rental agreements provide for eviction in the case of non-payment of rent. A tenant can also be evicted for violating a rental agreement in other ways, such as having a pet when not allowed, making too much noise, or causing damages to the rental unit. In some cases, a landlord can even evict a tenant without cause at the end of the lease term.
A landlord starts eviction proceedings by giving written notice to the tenant that he or she needs to either move out or remedy the problem that led to the eviction. In other words, if the tenant doesn’t pay rent for the month of August, then the landlord can send him a written notice telling him that he has to either pay the past-due rent, or move out. The amount of notice that a landlord is required to give a tenant before evicting him or her can vary from three days up to thirty days or more, depending on the rental agreement, state law, and/or the grounds for the eviction. Typically, however, the eviction process is relatively fast, especially in comparison to other types of legal processes.
If the tenant doesn’t move out or remedy the problem within the period specified in the notice, then the landlord must file an eviction action in court in order to legally evict the tenant and recover any monetary losses, or damages, from the tenant. State law specifies the procedures and requirements for giving the tenant notice of the eviction. However, a landlord must use the court process in order to evict a tenant – “self-help” is not allowed, a landlord cannot simply lock a tenant out of the rental unit, remove his or her belongings from the rental unit, and/or turn off the utilities in an effort to evict the tenant. The law typically does provide a way for landlords to dispose of property that a former tenant has left behind in the rental unit, but this cannot occur until the tenant has clearly left the rental unit without intending to return.
Finally, the court process allows the landlord to recover money that is owed by the tenant for past-due rent or damages. State law, and/or the rental agreement, also determines 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 go about getting his or her security deposit back after moving out, and how quickly a landlord must return all or part of the security deposit to the tenant.