There are few things scarier than coming home to find eviction papers tacked to your front door. For most of us, our home is a place of security, and knowing that we might be forced to leave it can be very traumatic. If you receive eviction papers, it is extremely important that you respond appropriately. Reading the papers carefully, seeking legal advice, and negotiating with your landlord can be good, constructive ways of dealing with the threat of eviction, as are filing a response in court and attending your hearing.
In some places, the initial written notification of an eviction is not necessarily a legally enforceable order to leave. Your landlord may be required by law to give you a notice of his plans to evict you prior to actually filing for an eviction in court. The eviction papers may offer you a way to avoid eviction and remain in your home. For example, if you are late in your rent, the papers may give you a few days to pay up. If your landlord wants to evict you because of some violation of your lease rules, such as keeping a pet, you may also have some time to correct the situation. In any case, contacting your landlord to see if you can negotiate an alternative to eviction can be a good idea.
If your landlord is insistent on your moving out, your next step should be to seek legal advice. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact the legal aid clinics or tenant unions in your area to see if they can assist you. While they may not be able to provide you with your own attorney, they can help you to understand the eviction papers and prepare you for the possibility of going to court.
If your landlord does file an eviction case against you, you will likely be served, perhaps by the sheriff or a special process server, with a legal summons to the court hearing. The summons should advise you as to the date and time of the court hearing and may instruct you to file papers with the court. If leaving your home is not an option or you do not believe that your landlord has a good case against you, you may choose to fight the eviction rather than move out on your own. Be sure that you do this within the time frame stated by the eviction papers, or you may lose your chance to explain your side of the story to the judge.