Being a landlord with a tenant who won't pay rent, damages your property, or commits illegal acts on your property is a miserable situation, for you and for your other tenants. If it becomes necessary, you may legally evict your tenant. However, there are specific legal restrictions you must follow, or you could end up sued by your tenant in return. The laws for landlords who wish to evict a tenant vary from state to state, so be sure to check your local laws with an expert before proceeding. Here though, are a few guidelines and basic terms to get you familiar with the process of how to evict a tenant.
Terminating the Tenancy
Before an eviction suit begins, a landlord must terminate the tenancy. Rules for termination vary from state to state, but in general there are notices for cause and notices without cause. Both must be served on the tenant. Notice of termination for cause are based on common sense reasons for eviction such as failure to pay rent, damage to property and illegal activity. Notices can give the tenant a chance to cure (solve the problem) or just notice to quit (leave). Notices to terminate without cause are most often used to terminate a month to month rental agreement.
Removal of Tenant
If you have successfully completed the termination of the tenancy and the tenant still has not quit the property, or cured the problem, landlords can then file the eviction suit, called an Unlawful Detainer (UD) suit. Even if you win the suit, you may not just toss the tenant and/or the tenant's belongings onto the sidewalk. It is best to give the court judgment to a local law enforcement officer (sheriff or marshal), along with a fee that is charged to the tenant as part of your costs to bring suit. The sheriff or marshal gives the tenant a notice that the officer will be back within a number of days to physically remove the tenant if necessary. Note, be careful about removing property the tenant appears to have left behind. Even if it looks like the tenant is gone for good, some states require storage and notice procedures by a landlord.
A tenant may contest the eviction process. If the tenant did not receive proper service (notice of) the termination or if the property is uninhabitable, these may be used as defenses to a notice of termination. Your past treatment of the tenant may become a factor in the outcome. If the tenant can show the eviction is in retaliation for legal complaints about the property (i.e., no heat), or is based on discrimination, you could lose your case.
Know your Rules
Landlord tenant rules can be complex and are designed to be detailed because an eviction affects a person's home. Tenancy laws vary not only from state to state, but often from city to city. Even if you are confident that you know how to evict someone, be sure to check with an attorney experienced in this area before initiating eviction proceedings.
- How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers (FindLaw)
- Ten Landlord Legal Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw)
- How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know (FindLaw)
- Real Estate Info (provided by Polizzotto & Polizzotto)
- Liability of Tenants and Landlords (provided by Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, P.C.)