After you have tried to work out a plan with your tenants to help them through their challenging time, you may be faced with filing an eviction if tenants are disturbing other tenants, damaging your property, or violating the lease. This article will explain how you can evict a tenant without needing a lawyer. It may take a bit more effort, but it can save you a lot of money to do it yourself. Here's how...
How to Evict with a Lawyer:
1. Learn your State's Landlord-Tenant Laws
The laws surrounding the landlord-tenant relationship vary state by state. Each state's eviction laws detail what needs to be done to evict a tenant. It's important to know that you should never try to evict someone without taking the proper legal action because, in many states, an illegal eviction such as - changing the locks, putting tenants' property out of the rental, or threatening or coercing them - is prohibited. If you are found guilty of these actions, you can face fines and an even more complex process of legally evicting tenants in the future.
You can often find your state's landlord-tenant laws on your 'states ".gov" website. These are usually located under housing or landlord-tenant laws on the state website.
2. Refer to the Terms of Your Lease
The terms of your lease will dictate much about the eviction process. For example, suppose you have a rental agreement with a tenant that is month-to-month. In that case, you can evict quickly in most states as long as you provide a written eviction notice. This notice typically has to be served at least 30 days before the first day of the following month. For example, if you give your tenant a 30-day notice on June 30th, your tenant has until July 30th to leave the property. If you provide that notice on June 15th, the tenant still has until July 30th. In some states, you don't need to provide a reason for eviction to present this type of 30-day notice.
Whereas evicting renters in a long-term lease often requires a reason for how the lease was breached. This type of eviction will require a 30-day notice to quit, and it will require you to go to court. Some lease violations to consider in your leases are:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Illegal activity
- Disturbing other tenants and neighbors
- Subletting, unless your lease allows it
- Moving other adults into the unit who are not on the lease
- Unapproved pets
- Property damage
Missed rent payment is handled differently from other violations in many states. Non-payment of rent evictions can sometimes (varies by state) be dealt with a notice to quit that states the renter needs to leave within a few days or weeks.
In addition, the rental agreement or lease states both the renters' and the landlord's responsibilities, so you will want to ensure you have not breached any lease terms. The landlord's obligations are often:
- Keeping the property in a safe state
- Keeping the property in good repair
- Ensuring the property is free of pests.
- Warrant of Habitability - State guidelines dictate keeping the rental property hospitable. It varies, but often that means providing adequate heat and hot water.
3. Issue an Eviction Notice
The eviction notice is a document that is a written request from the property owner to the renter asking them to vacate the property. Each state has different guidelines on how this document needs to be issued. Some states require the notice to be served by the sheriff or constable, while others allow you to send it via certified mail. Dispute provides eviction notice templates for different states that you can generate and file with your local court.
An eviction notice does not mean that your renter is automatically "evicted." The notice gives the renter a pre-determined amount of time to "cure" the issue. This could mean paying the past due rent or stopping the lease violation. Otherwise, the renter could face a formal eviction lawsuit in housing court. The time to do so varies from 3 to 30 days depending upon the type of eviction and the state where the property is located.
There are three types of eviction notices. Two types fall within the "cure" situation described above and possibly allow the renter to stay on the property. The third kind is called a "notice to quit" and does not provide an option for them to stay.
The first two give the tenant options to cure the situation and stay in the rental unit. The third is called a "notice to quit, " which does not give them the option to stay. Here's a bit more detail on the types of eviction notices:
- Notice to Pay Rent or Quit - If the renter has ceased paying rent, a notice to pay rent or quit may be the answer to get the rental payment owed. This notice allows the renter to pay the past-due rent to avoid further formal eviction proceedings. In some states, renters are only offered this option once. If rent is late again in the future, you can evict for nonpayment, regardless if the past rent is paid.
- The Notice to Cure or Quit - This can be provided if your tenant is bothering neighbors, destroying the property, conducting illegal activity on site, or otherwise violating the lease terms. This provides the tenant some option to "cure" the behavior that breaches the lease terms, or they risk further eviction proceedings (quit).
- Notice to Quit - This type of notice does not provide the tenant the opportunity to cure the situation. This notice sets a certain time for the tenant to move out of the property, or the landlord will begin the formal eviction process. The time between serving your notice and starting the legal process varies from state to state (from 7 to 30 days).
If the tenant refuses to leave after providing notice, you may be required to have them removed by what's called a "sheriff lockout" and have their property put into storage - possibly at your expense.
4. Begin Eviction Proceedings
As we touched upon earlier, it's illegal for landlords to take the law into their own hands to try and remove the tenants. Instead, you will want to go to your local housing court and formally file your eviction to begin the process.
Dispute provides all the needed paperwork, and you can even file the documents at the housing court of your choice. But after filing, you will want to be prepared to represent yourself effectively in court. Some good things to prepare are;
- Proof of the violation (photos of damage, emails, text messages, police reports, voicemails)
- Copy of the rental agreement (or lease) signed by both parties
- Copy of the served eviction notice with proof of services, such as a signed receipt or a sheriff's copy
Once you have prepared for court, it is time to show up for the scheduled court date. This is usually provided within 30 to 45 days from when the formal eviction paperwork is filed with the court. But it's important to know if your local court has a backlog or upcoming holiday because it can take even longer. That is why it's critical for you to be organized and act with haste on any violations or non-payment of rent.
You can expect to be in court for quite a while on the day of your hearing, as you may not be the first case heard that day. It would help if you arrived early in case others in front of you don't show up to court and the judge presiding moves quickly through their docket.
The judge will review the evidence and arguments the tenant and landlord present. After hearing from both sides, the judge will decide to rule in the tenant's or landlord's favor. They may also ask both parties to seek out meditation to find a solution. If they do find it in your favor as the landlord, the judge will provide an order to the tenant that they must leave the property. Typically, the judge's ruling provides the tenant with a week or two to leave the rental.
5. Executing an Eviction
If the judge has ruled in the landlord's favor and the tenant refuses to leave of their own volition within the time provided, you will need to involve the sheriff's office to serve a notice to vacate. This notice usually provides them 2-3 days to leave the property, or they will be removed physically in a "sheriff lockout."
The sheriff does not move out of the renter's property but will make sure that they physically leave the premises. Once the tenant has been removed, you can change the locks and reclaim your rental property. You may be required (depending upon your state's laws) to store any remaining property and belongings left by the tenant and keep them secure for a set amount of time. So, remember to research your local guidelines on the landlord's responsibilities in this matter.
Dispute is here to help if you want to learn more about the eviction process.