5 Tell-Tale Signs that an Eviction is Illegal
Some landlord-tenant relationships are compatible matches that leave both parties fulfilled and satisfied; however others, are the stuff that nightmares are made of. If you are a tenant who finds yourself in the latter category, you may suspect that the landlord is trying to evict you. Evictions can be legal, but they must be filed in court and ordered by a judge.
If you notice any of the following, you may be the victim of an illegal eviction:
1. You come home to find your personal belongings on the curb.
2. The door is padlocked shut.
3. Your gas, electricity, heat, or water has been turned off or tampered with.
4. Your property has been destroyed.
5. The landlord has allowed the rental property to become uninhabitable.
Self-help evictions are illegal in virtually all states. A landlord must first terminate tenancy by first giving you written notice, and then filing a lawsuit--commonly called an unlawful detainer.
The landlord may claim to the court that the tenancy should be terminated for cause. Common violations of a rental agreement include:
- failing to pay rent
- violating a term of the lease, such as a no-pets policy
- engaging in an illegal activity on the premises or damaging the property in a significant way.
The landlord can petition for eviction even without cause, but he or she must give you adequate notice---usually 30 or 60 days.
The eviction lawsuit offers the tenant an opportunity to appear in court and submit defenses for why he or she shouldn't be evicted. If the judge does decide to grant the eviction, the landlord is still not authorized to remove your items from the property. A sheriff must be present to escort the tenant (and belongings) from the property.
If you find yourself amidst an illegal eviction situation, consider taking the landlord to small claims court or contact an attorney about the best way to proceed.
- Illegal Evictions...And How to Stop Them (Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee)
- How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know (FindLaw)
- Don't Lock Out or Freeze Out a Tenant -- It's Illegal (FindLaw)
- Illegal Retaliatory Evictions (FindLaw)
- Can the landlord take the tenant's possessions or physically throw the tenant out after the court allows eviction? (FindLaw)
- Real Estate FAQs (provided by Avallone Law Associates)
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