The Eviction Process FAQ
Eviction usually isn't anyone's first choice of action. Landlords prefer tenants they can trust to pay rent and respect their property, and tenants want a safe, well-maintained place in which they can live. However, renting doesn't always turn out as well as people might hope it will. In those situations, eviction may become the best option available.
Eviction is a fairly simple concept, but the actual process of eviction can be confusing. If you're dealing with an eviction, you may have asked yourself some of the following questions.
Q: Can evictions be appealed?
Generally, yes, although it may not always the best course of action for tenants. If a judge rules that an eviction is justified, and the tenant disagrees with the judge's ruling, the tenant can submit a motion for reconsideration. This motion provides the judge with an opportunity to reconsider their decision. If the tenant still doesn't get the decision they want, they can then submit an appeal.
The key point is that once an appeal has been submitted, judges no longer have the option of reconsideration, whereas an appeal can follow a motion for reconsideration. Because of this, it is usually in a tenant's best interest to submit a motion for reconsideration before moving toward an appeal.
Q: Are there times when a person can't be evicted?
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers suddenly lost their jobs and were unable to pay for their housing. In response, the federal government enacted an eviction moratorium. That moratorium prevented landlords from evicting tenants who couldn't pay their rent due to the pandemic. The federal eviction moratorium has since expired, but some states have enacted their own eviction limitations.
Some states have their own limitations on evictions and utility cancellations separate from any pandemic-related measures. For example, Minnesota has a Cold Weather Rule, which prevents utility companies from shutting off utilities from specific housing units during the cold months of the year.
Q: How long do tenants have to move out once they've been evicted?
It depends. The process of eviction often takes more time than many people think. Even after a landlord has posted an eviction notice, tenants generally have an opportunity to fix whatever issue motivated the eviction notice, e.g. late rent, unacceptable pets, etc. If the tenant is unable to remedy the issue, they may still have a few weeks to move out before the eviction process escalates.
If an eviction case goes to court and a judge rules that the eviction will stand, the tenant may have to move out immediately after the court case, but it's more common that they'll have a couple weeks following the ruling to get their affairs in order.
It's worth noting that landlords are not legally allowed to forcibly evict a tenant on their own (known as a self-help eviction). This means landlords cannot,
- Change a tenant's locks
- Have utility companies shut off a tenant's utilities
- Remove a tenant's property from the rental unit
- Force the tenant to leave
Landlords are only able to forcibly remove a tenant after going through the full, legal eviction process. Even then, they are required to hire a sheriff to remove a legally evicted tenant from a rental property.
Q: If a tenant is evicted, do they lose their security deposit?
Not necessarily. Every state has its own rental laws, but the general purpose of a security deposit is to cover the cost of repairing damages to a rental unit that fall outside of the usual wear and tear. Some rental contracts have clauses that state that landlords can keep the security deposit to make up for unpaid rent or a breach of contract, but landlords cannot keep security deposits without notifying the tenant.
If a landlord wants to keep or use any portion of a security deposit — even if the tenant was evicted — they need to notify the tenant in writing within a certain time period. The time limit for notification varies from state to state, but it's generally anywhere from 14 to 45 days. If a landlord keeps a security deposit and fails to notify the tenant, the landlord is opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit.
No matter which side of the situation you're on, navigating an eviction can be challenging. If you are involved in an eviction, you may want to consider seeking out the assistance of an experienced legal professional.
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