How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
An eviction occurs when a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property.
The eviction process varies. It may be as simple as the landlord giving written notice to the tenant with an explanation of the eviction and the final date by which the tenant must move out. On the other hand, it may escalate to a legal dispute. Thus, the length of time an eviction process will take depends on the specific situation. It can range from a few weeks to more than a year.
Tenants generally are allowed more time if the eviction is without cause, as opposed to eviction with good cause. An example of good cause for eviction would be evicting a tenant who violated the terms of the lease, or an owner wanting to move back into their property after the renters' lease ended.
Eviction Notices Without Cause
Landlords generally may not break a fixed-term lease without good cause, since doing so would constitute a breach of contract.
If a landlord decides to evict a month-to-month tenant without cause — perhaps because they want to make renovations — the landlord must give the tenant notice, typically 30 days.
Some cities with rent control, such as San Francisco, do not allow evictions unless the landlord is able to prove a legitimate reason to do so.
Eviction Notices With Cause
Regardless of what type of lease the tenant has (fixed-term or month-to-month), tenants generally have fewer protections if they are being evicted with cause. Eviction with cause fall into three categories:
- Pay Rent or Quit: Tenants who have not paid rent have just a few days (typically three to five days) to pay their current rent balance or move out.
- Cure or Quit: The tenant has a specific amount of time in which to "cure" a misbehavior (such as keeping an unapproved pet, adding a person not on the lease, or violating noise rules). The amount of time allowed is usually negotiated with the landlord but can be as few as three days in some jurisdictions.
- Unconditional Quit: This type of notice has no conditions that, if met, would allow the tenant to stay. Most states allow unconditional quit notices only for extreme cases, such as tenants who are chronically late with rent or involved in criminal activity.
After the notice period expires, the landlord may file a lawsuit alleging forcible entry or unlawful detainer. In such actions, the landlord will allege that the tenant entered and stayed in the rental unit after being told to leave.
In most states, the case will be tried in civil court a matter of weeks after the landlord files the lawsuit. If the tenant does not show up to defend against the charges, the judge will automatically rule for the landlord in a "default" judgment.
An unlawful detainer may then go on the renter's record, which can make it hard for the person to rent again. If you are at risk, contact an unlawful detainer lawyer to present your case.
In some states, the judge can order eviction immediately at the end of the trial. But the court customarily gives the tenant time to move out, usually one to four weeks.
If the tenant remains after that period, the landlord has to hire a sheriff or marshal to carry out a forcible eviction. That will take several more weeks. Further delays are possible if the tenant files a motion for more time, files for bankruptcy, or appeals the judge's ruling.
Eviction may take longer yet if the tenant is being evicted during times of turmoil, pandemic, or weather emergencies.
Thus, the eviction process can take from five weeks to three months, assuming there are no delays. If there are delays, the process can take as much as a year.
Learn More About the Eviction Process from an Attorney
If you are having problems with a tenant or a landlord and it looks like an eviction is in the picture, talk to a local landlord-tenant lawyer for legal assistance.
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