What is a Residential Eviction?

Daphne Mallory

A residential eviction is the process by which a landlord sues a tenant in court to vacate the property. The landlord may also sue the tenant for back rent and any damages the tenant may have caused while renting the unit. Real estate laws vary among jurisdictions, but the laws often require that the landlord serve the tenant a residential eviction notice, allowing the tenant an opportunity to cure any breach of the lease agreement or vacate the property. An illegal residential eviction is one in which the landlord tries to evict the tenant by his own means, such as by changing the locks and barring entry into the apartment without a court order. Tenants have the opportunity to stop a residential eviction by raising legal defenses, such as landlord retaliation.

A notice of eviction posted on an apartment door.
A notice of eviction posted on an apartment door.

The lease agreement signed by the landlord and tenant often governs the landlord and tenant relationship and sets the terms for renting the unit. A judge hearing a residential eviction case will refer to the lease agreement to help him make a decision about whether rights were violated and if the eviction is warranted. Lease agreements often allow the tenant to fix any problems raised by the landlord when they receive notice, such as remove pets, lower the apartment noise or pay back rent. When there is no written lease agreement, the judge in a residential eviction often refers to real estate laws to determine the outcome of the case. Common reasons why landlords pursue eviction include the failure of the tenant to pay rent and non-compliance with material clauses in the lease agreement.

A residential eviction refers to the process of a landlord suing a tenant in court for the purpose of he or she vacating a property.
A residential eviction refers to the process of a landlord suing a tenant in court for the purpose of he or she vacating a property.

The eviction process can often only be initiated after the property notice has been served. Various jurisdictions require different types of notices, and within the same jurisdiction a specific notice may be necessary based on the facts of the case. Some of the types of notices for a residential eviction include Cure or Quit, Pay Rent or Quit and Unconditional Quit notices. When a landlord serves the first two notices, the tenant still has a chance to live in the unit as long as they pay the rent or correct a lease violation within a set time period. There is often not much the tenant can do after receiving an unconditional quit notice, except to raise legal defenses in court.

One of the legal defenses a tenant can raise in response to a residential eviction is improper notice. If the landlord does not serve the proper notice or fails to serve it in a timely manner, the case may be dismissed, and the landlord would have to initiate eviction proceedings again. Another defense available to tenants is retaliatory eviction. If it’s shown that the landlord is evicting the tenant because the tenant requested that repairs be made in order to make the rental unit habitable, then the court often denies the landlord's request for an eviction.

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