A tenant eviction process is the means by which a landlord can legally remove a tenant from a property. The steps in the tenant eviction process may vary from region to region, but generally follow a somewhat predictable course. Understanding the steps in the tenant eviction process can help both tenants and landlords navigate this often frustrating or upsetting situation. It is important to remember to consult local legal authorities to understand the specific tenant eviction process in a region.
Generally, the first step in a tenant eviction process is the serving of an eviction notice. Depending on the region, this notice may need to be delivered in person, or can simply be posted on the door of the residence or mailed to the address. The notice generally lists the date the eviction will take effect, as well as the reasons for the eviction. The amount of time between notice and eviction can depend on the type of violation that has led to this step; failure to pay rent or causing property damage may allow a 30 day waiting period, while crime on the property may allow the landlord to serve a three-day eviction notice.
If a tenant has a dispute with a landlord, this is the time to attempt to solve it amicably. In some cases, if a tenant has suddenly lost his or her job or if there has been a medical emergency in the family leading to temporary financial problems, the landlord may change his or her mind about the eviction. Some eviction causes, like drug dealing or a domestic violence incident on the property, can be considered “irreconcilable” by the landlord, in which case the tenant may have to move. In cases where a tenant is purposefully withholding rent because the landlord is refusing to keep the property in habitable repair, an eviction notice may be the time for a tenant to involve a lawyer.
If the eviction notice expires and the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord can usually file a complaint with the local court, which will start court proceedings against the tenant. If the tenant believes he or she is being unlawfully evicted, he or she may respond to the lawsuit and request a court date. A refusal to respond may result in a default judgment, which is generally in favor of the landlord. If a tenant continues to remain on the property after a judgment against him or her, the sheriff may be empowered to remove the tenant. At no time can a landlord forcefully remove a tenant or shut off vital services such as water or power in an attempt to get the tenant to leave.
Supposing that the tenant responds to the initial summons with a counterclaim, the next step in the tenant eviction process is a trial. Both sides will have a chance to provide evidence, and for this reason it is vitally important to have all conversations between landlord and tenant in writing. Even if a conversation is over the phone, follow it up with an email or letter summarizing the discussion and asking for a reply in return. The court will then make a binding decision based on the available evidence.