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How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?

Moving van with boxes in driveway of house

The length of the eviction process depends on the circumstances of the eviction. Eviction cases can take a few weeks to more than a year to complete. Some evictions are as simple as the landlord giving the tenant written notice to leave the rental property. Other cases may escalate to a legal dispute involving lawyers and courts.

In an eviction, the landlord removes the tenant from a rental property with a court's permission.

This article explores the eviction process.

Common Reasons for an Eviction

In an ideal world, renters would fulfill the terms of their lease agreement without any conflict. Unfortunately, in relationships like the landlord-tenant relationship, disputes are often inevitable.

Here are a few common reasons landlords and property management pursue eviction proceedings:

  • Nonpayment of rent/withholding rent
  • Illegal activity
  • Intentional property damage
  • Other lease violations during the tenancy

Lease and rental agreements are binding legal contracts, and property managers need a valid reason to break the contract. They cannot use any self-help measures, such as changing the locks or removing your personal property from the rental property.

The Eviction Process

Even if your landlord or property manager has a valid reason for pursuing an eviction, they must follow local and state laws. They cannot use self-help measures, such as changing the locks, to regain possession of the property. Your landlord will need a court order and a law enforcement officer to evict you from the rental property.

Landlords who don't follow the legal process risk criminal prosecution and civil liability for damages.

Eviction Notices

Although eviction laws vary from state to state, eviction proceedings often start with an eviction notice. In Maryland, a "Notice to Vacate" starts the eviction process. In Maryland, one month's advance written notice covers most eviction cases. The only exception is if the tenant's lease violation presents "a clear and imminent danger," in which case the landlord can give 14 days' notice to vacate.

Landlords should send notices via certified mail so that they have proof they mailed the notice.

Written Notice Options

Evictions are often time-consuming and costly. For these reasons, landlords may allow the tenant to remedy the underlying issue. The tenant's options depend on the underlying cause of the eviction. These options include:

  • "Pay Rent or Quit": Tenants with an unpaid rent balance can either pay their current rent balance or move out.
  • "Cure or Quit": The tenant has a specific time to "cure" a lease violation. Examples of lease violations include adding a person not on the lease or violating noise rules. Often, tenants can negotiate the amount of time with the landlord.
  • "Unconditional Quit": This type of notice is used to order the tenant to move and does not give them any opportunity to remedy the situation 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.

Eviction Court Hearing

If the tenant does not move out by the end of the notice, the landlord or property owner can file a suit with the appropriate court. Appropriate courts may include local district courts, housing courts, and small claims courts.

After receiving the suit, the court will set a court date for the hearing and issue a summons for the tenant to appear. If you receive an official summons to appear, attend the hearing. It may be your only opportunity to present your side to a judge. If you are unsure whether the summons is official, you can contact the court to confirm. If you do not appear, you risk default judgment, meaning your landlord automatically wins the suit.

Conclusion of Eviction Process

The court will hear both sides during the hearing and issue a ruling. Landlords and tenants can represent themselves, or they can get legal representation. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the court will issue an order giving the tenant a few days to vacate the rental property. In most states, either party can appeal the court's decision.

In addition to approving an eviction, the court can also assess late fees, attorney fees, and court costs to the losing party.

The Eviction

On the eviction day, local law enforcement (often a sheriff) will go to the tenant's home and order them to vacate immediately. The landlord can remove the tenant's property and leave it outside the rental unit if necessary.

Unlawful Detainer

An unlawful detainer is an option for an eviction proceeding. In an unlawful detainer suit, the landlord alleges that the tenant entered and stayed in the rental unit after the landlord asked them to leave.

Eviction Timeline

In most states, courts give the tenant some time to move out, often one to four weeks.

If the tenant remains after that period, the landlord must hire a sheriff or marshal to carry out the eviction. That can take several more weeks. Further delays are possible if the tenant does any of the following:

  • Files a motion for more time
  • Files for bankruptcy
  • Appeals the judge's ruling

Eviction lawsuits may take longer if the eviction occurs during turmoil, pandemic, or weather emergencies.

Get Help

Evictions are a legal process. Anyone facing an eviction, whether landlord or tenant, should seek legal advice. A qualified landlord-tenant attorney is an expert in landlord-tenant law and can help you through the process. Speak to an experienced, local landlord-tenant attorney today.

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