Tenant Eviction: What You Should Know as a Renter
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Chris Meyers, Esq. | Last reviewed January 03, 2023
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In order to be evicted from your rental property, your landlord must first give you adequate notice, normally in writing. It must conform to your state, municipal and city ordinances. At this point, you have a few options:
- You can act according to the eviction notice and move out;
- You can fix whatever defect your landlord has complained about (smoking, pets, late rent, etc.) and see if your landlord still wishes to go through with the tenant eviction procedures; or
- You can do nothing and just continue to live in your apartment.
If you choose the last option, your landlord will have to file a lawsuit against you, normally called an unlawful detainer suit, to keep the eviction procedure moving forward.
This article will provide you with some information to better understand the eviction process. More specifically, the following topics:
- Tenant eviction notices for cause.
- Tenant eviction notices without cause.
- Lawsuits for eviction.
- Defense to eviction.
- Sheriff and police involvement in the eviction process.
Each state has a different standard when it comes to tenant eviction, and there are often many strict procedures that must be followed before a landlord can lawfully evict a tenant. These laws may require a landlord to submit multiple eviction notices or follow other standards. Whatever the case, your landlord must follow the state laws and procedures to the letter in order to lawfully evict you.
Tenant Eviction Notice for Cause
There are, in general, three different types of eviction notices that you may receive if you have violated some part of your lease agreement or rental contract. First, there is the "Pay Rent or Quit" notice. This is basically what it sounds like. Your landlord will typically give you a set number of days to pay rent that is past due. Generally, you will get between three to five days in order to pay rent, or "quit" the lease and move out.
Second, "Cure or Quit" notices are typically sent out to tenants that have violated a condition or specific term in the lease agreement. In general, a tenant will have a certain period of time in which to correct their bad behavior or leave the apartment.
Lastly, there are "Unconditional Quit" notices. They are the worst to receive. These notices give no chance for the tenant to correct any wrong and generally leave no doors open to keep the tenancy continuing. Because of the harshness of these notices, state laws limit their use to certain, well defined situations. These notices can, in most situations, only be sent if you have:
- Paid rent late on more than a few occasions;
- Violated a term or condition of the lease multiple times and have failed to correct or cure the defect;
- Been conducting illegal activities in the lease property; or
- Seriously damaged the rental property.
Tenant Eviction Notice Without Cause
In some situations, your landlord may ask you to vacate the property even if you've paid all your rent on time and haven't behaved in a way that would allow an eviction for cause. Eviction law allows landlords to still ask you to move out, but you must be afforded some extra protections.
First, for eviction notices without cause, the landlord must give you a longer period of notice to vacate, generally 30 or 60 days. This lengthened time period is designed to allow you to find another place to live.
Some state laws require a landlord to be able to prove a legally recognized reason for termination of the lease on rent controlled apartments. These statutes are called "just cause eviction protection," and make it so that landlords can only evict for certain, specified reasons.
Lawsuits for Eviction
If you haven't moved out or fixed the defect in the lease after receiving a notice to vacate, the landlord must go forward with a lawsuit to remove you from the property. In order to do so, the landlord must properly serve you with a copy of the complaint as well as a summons to go forward with evicting you.
Defenses That You Can Use
When you appear in court, you'll have several possible defenses that you may be able to use to defeat your landlord's lawsuit for eviction. You can point out that you've already fixed the defects in the rental agreement and that eviction is no longer warranted.
Alternatively, you could show that the landlord didn't follow proper eviction procedures or that you withheld rent because your landlord failed to make necessary repairs to the property after repeatedly being informed of the dangers.
When the Sheriff Comes for You
If the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit against you, they cannot simply come in and place your things on the street outside the place. Instead, the landlord must go to the local sheriff with a court order, pay a fee, and have the sheriff come remove you.
An Attorney Can Help With Your Tenant Eviction Concerns
If you're facing eviction, it may feel like the landlord controls the situation. This isn't always the case. You have certain rights and your landlord must follow specific procedures to follow through with an eviction. A local landlord-tenant law attorney can help review your situation and ensure that your rights are protected.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.