Rules for Landlords and Property Managers When Evicting a Tenant
An eviction, simply put is an official legal proceeding that a property owner must follow in order to have the tenant move out. There are various rules when it comes to evicting a tenant. These rules vary from state to state, and even from city to city within a state. There are some general issues, however, that property owners and property managers should be aware of when evicting a tenant.
This article covers:
- Eviction notices for cause
- Eviction notices without cause
- Defenses available to tenants
- How to remove a tenant
- Reasons for the strict eviction rules
These are important issues for landlords and property managers as they affect the eviction process. And, while it's best to research your specific state laws, having a general understanding of the rules for evicting a tenant can help you better understand the laws in your state.
An eviction notice for cause may come in a variety of forms, but they all arise from a tenant doing something wrong or against the terms of the lease. In general, there are three types of eviction notices for cause: Pay rent or quit notices, cure or quit notices, and unconditional quit notices.
Pay Rent or Quit Notices
Pay rent or quit notices generally are sent for nonpayment of rent by the tenant. These written notices normally give a tenant a short period of time, set by state law, in which to pay rent or else be subjected to a lawsuit for eviction.
Cure or Quit Notices
Cure or quit notices are generally mailed out when a renter does something wrong or violates a term of the lease agreement. Like a pay rent or quit notice, these notices generally provide a tenant a short amount of time in which to cure the defect or else face eviction.
Unconditional Quit Notices
Lastly, unconditional quit notices are hard on the tenant. These eviction notices can generally only be used when:
- The tenant shows a pattern of paying late rent or not paying rent
- The tenant seriously damaged the rental property
- The tenant engaged in dangerous or illegal activity on the property
Which notice is the proper eviction notice for a landlord to send to a tenant when evicting a tenant depends upon state law. In states where the laws favor landlords, unconditional quit notices can sometimes be sent in situations where a pay rent or quit notice would be sent in another state.
An eviction notice without cause means that the landlord wants a tenant out but not because of a wrongful action of the tenant. In most states, eviction notice without cause is wrongful if it occurs before expiration of the lease. If a landlord decides to evict without cause, they may be required to pay damages to the tenant.
Many states require landlords to give either 30- or 60-day notice to tenants before being allowed to begin an eviction lawsuit. Some states that have rent-controlled apartments require landlords to give a legally justifiable reason for wanting to end the lease agreement and do not permit landlords to end leases without cause.
Tenants often become very firm in defending their right against tenant evictions by the property owner. They have a number of defenses available to them.
The tenants may argue that the eviction notice was improper because it did not contain the necessary information required by law. They may argue that it was served (delivered) improperly. They may claim both. Tenants may claim that they have not paid rent or they took some action the landlord doesn't agree with because of the landlord's wrongdoing or negligence.
If a landlord has a court order to evict a tenant, they have won what is called an unlawful detainer suit against the tenant. One may imagine a landlord picking up everything the tenant owns and putting it on the sidewalk, but that is not what happens next.
If the tenant refuses to leave voluntarily after losing an unlawful detainer suit, the landlord must take the court order to the local sheriff. The landlord pays a fee for the sheriff to carry out the court order. The sheriff will then ensure that the tenant leaves the rental property.
Sometimes, tenants leave personal property in the rental unit after being evicted. Some states require the landlord to store that property while they attempt to contact the prior tenant to get it back to them. Other states allow landlords free reign over abandoned personal property.
The eviction proceedings landlords must follow while evicting a tenant are so strict because of the nature of this type of case.
- First, unlawful detainer suits are much faster than almost any other type of civil litigation (lawsuit), often resolving in a month or two, or even faster. The compromise for this speed is that the landlord must be absolutely sure that every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed.
- A lot is at stake. A landlord may lose money each month because of a tenant, but if a tenant loses the unlawful detainer suit, he or she won't have a home anymore. Due to the sensitive nature of these cases, lawmakers have made landlords work extra hard in order to properly evict a tenant.
Have Questions About Evicting a Tenant? Talk to an Attorney
Evictions may result in a series of costly exchanges. Knowing your rights can help ensure that the process goes smoothly. Contact a skilled landlord-tenant attorney near you to make sure you're following the eviction rules imposed on landlords and property managers.