What Does the Landlord Need to Do to Evict the Tenant?
Property owners, landlords, and property managers must use the eviction process to evict a tenant from their rental units. They cannot use self-help or harassment to evict a tenant. The eviction process varies from state to state, so anyone considering an eviction should check their state laws first.
This FindLaw article explores some basic steps landlords must follow to evict a tenant.
Determine the Reason for the Potential Eviction
Before you start the eviction process, you should make sure you have a legally valid reason for evicting the renter. People often think unpaid rent is the only reason to evict a tenant. That is not true. The following are a few examples of legally valid reasons for starting the process:
- Nonpayment of rent
- A lease agreement violation, such as an illegal sublet
- Violation of occupancy limits
- Illegal activity on the rental property or in a rental unit
This is not an exhaustive list of legally valid reasons to evict a tenant. Please consult an attorney or your state's eviction laws for state-specific information. Some cities and other jurisdictions may have their own rules as well.
Give Written Notice
Although state laws vary, most states provide guidance on giving written notice to your tenant before filing an eviction lawsuit. There are three main types of eviction notices:
- Pay rent or quit: Landlords use this notice for things like unpaid rent.
- Cure or quit: Landlords use this notice for tenants to either fix a problem, such as an illegal sublet, or quit the lease within a specified period.
- Unconditional quit notice: Landlords use this for egregious conduct. It does not offer an opportunity to cure the problem. Instead, the tenant must vacate the rental unit immediately, often following a three-day notice.
Preparing the Written Eviction Notice
When preparing a written notice, landlords should consider including the following:
- Tenant name
- Location of rental property
- Reason for eviction
- The number of days the renter has to vacate the rental unit
- A copy of the lease or rental agreement highlighting the underlying issues
- Signature of homeowner or property manager
Before you create the eviction notice, consult your state's eviction laws, or speak to an attorney for guidance. You don't want to violate your tenant's rights during this process.
The Eviction Lawsuit
If the renter is not responsive to the eviction notice, you cannot summarily remove their personal belongings and take possession of the property. That is illegal self-help. You must continue the eviction process and file an eviction case in the appropriate local court. In some states and cities, small claims court is the proper court to file your lawsuit. In some states or localities, you can file an unlawful detainer to remove a tenant.
The goal of your lawsuit is a court order directing the renter to vacate the premises. The court can assign court costs and attorney fees in addition to the order.
After the Eviction Lawsuit
Some tenants still refuse to move after a court orders them to do so. In these cases, the landlord can turn to law enforcement for help. The landlord can give a copy of the order to a local law enforcement official who will handle the eviction. They will set a date for vacating the rental property. If the tenant is still in the property on that date, the law enforcement official will give them a short amount of time to gather their belongings and vacate the rental property. Often, this leaves tenants with less than one hour to leave.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Strictly speaking, a lawyer is not required to evict a tenant, but the possible consequences of a mistake made by a layperson landlord may outweigh the cost of counsel.
A landlord must complete every step according to the law. A mistake can delay the eviction proceedings and even require the landlord to start the process anew, meaning more lost rent.
Evicting a Tenant: Additional Resources
If you would like to do additional research, click on the links below:
- Get Legal Help with a Tenants' Rights Issue
- State Property and Real Estate Laws
- Select State and Local Landlord-Tenant Laws
Get Legal Help
Whether you are a tenant, landlord, or property manager, you should understand the eviction process. A qualified landlord-tenant attorney can help you understand each step of the process and can offer sound legal advice. Speak with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney first.
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.