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What do I do if I Am Getting Evicted?

Jessica Ellis
Updated: May 17, 2024

Eviction is the enforced removal of a tenant from a property. Being evicted can be a traumatic and frustrating experience, and may even sometimes be an illegal attempt to throw a law-abiding person from his or her home. If a person is getting evicted against his or her will, it is important to gain a full understanding of the reasons for the eviction and explore possible solutions.

Nearly every region has very specific laws about what constitutes grounds for eviction. Both tenants and landlords have certain rights and responsibilities to a rented property. Usually, but not always, a landlord cannot evict a tenant unless the tenant has broken rental or lease terms. For this reason, it is extremely important to get a copy of the lease or rental agreement out as soon as an eviction notice is served, to see what clauses may have been violated. Common reasons for eviction include failure to pay rent, destruction of the property, or criminal activity on the property.

In most cases, a notice of eviction gives a tenant a certain amount of time to move out or fix the issues. Often, such as in cases where rent is late or unpaid, the eviction notice may be rescinded if the tenant pays the amount owed. It is important to try and discuss options with the landlord when getting evicted; if a job loss or family crisis has left a tenant temporarily cash-strapped, the landlord may be willing to give the tenant more time to find the money. Legal experts often strongly suggest trying to solve the problem with the landlord peacefully, rather than resorting to threats of lawsuits or more serious action.

There are some cases where the fault causing an eviction is considered not fixable. In California, for example, a landlord can force a three-day eviction if a tenant commits domestic abuse or deals drugs on the premises. While it is usually recommended that a tenant seek legal advice when getting evicted, in cases where the landlord is acting within the parameters of the law and the fault is irreparable, the tenant may have no choice but to move out. If a person is getting evicted and has no money to move to another place, contact local human services departments or charitable organizations that provide shelter for temporarily homeless people. Getting evicted and having no place to go is also an understandable reason to call on the aid of friends and relatives.

If a tenant believes he or she is getting evicted illegally, it is important to contact a legal expert immediately. Either hire a lawyer or contact local low-cost legal aid societies for advice and possibly representation. Research the local tenant/landlord laws to discover if the eviction is truly illegal, or merely seems unfair. If a tenant is being evicted illegally, the landlord may back down when he or she realizes the tenant is going to raise a legal ruckus. Even a consultation and a letter of intended action from a lawyer may be enough to get a bullying landlord to back down.

It is not unheard of for landlords to try and kick out tenants for ridiculous, selfish, or groundless reasons, but it is also not unusual for tenants to be equally unreasonable. Some legal experts recommend that a tenant trust the actual law in the area to determine who is right or wrong, and try to leave personal issues out of the situation. Screaming and shouting at a landlord will be very unlikely to solve a problem, but following legal procedures can be far more efficient. If an eviction is truly illegal, legal assistance may be the best way to prevent it from occurring.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By Vincenzo — On Feb 08, 2015

@Logicfest -- Whether a tenant has a good defense or not always depends on the laws of the state where the conviction takes place.

In my state, for example, the laws are very much in favor of landlords. A tenant who gets an eviction notice, then, has few options when it comes down to what he should do. Often, the tenant has not choice but to just pack up and leave. Tenants have more protections in other states.

How can you find out what tenant rights you have? Consult an attorney if a landlord is trying to boot you out. Consultations are usually free, so what could it hurt to talk to that lawyer?

By Logicfest — On Feb 08, 2015

@Soulfox -- If you do have a valid defense to an eviction, they you ought to get a lawyer. If you can't afford a lawyer, there should be a legal aid group in your community that takes on cases for free for people who need some help and don't have the money to hire a lawyer.

More people really should look into that. If a landlord is trying to evict one tenant unjustly, you know he or she has done it before. That behavior needs to stop and fighting an unjust eviction may be the only way to get it to stop.

By Soulfox — On Feb 07, 2015

Hire an attorney to fight an eviction? That usually will not work at all. Plus, a lot of times, the tenant doesn't have the cash to hire an attorney, anyway. If someone is unable to pay their rent, then where will get the money for an attorney and why don't they use that cash to pay the past due rent so the landlord will stop the eviction?

If you get served with an eviction notice, just make plans to find another place and move out unless you can cure the problem the landlord is griping about. Usually that is all you can do.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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