Does Your Landlord Have the Right to Evict You?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 3, 2020

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If you’ve been served with an eviction notice, and you’re not ready to move out, you are probably asking yourself “Does the landlord have the right to evict me? What can I do to remain in place as a tenant? And for how long can I remain in place?”

What is the Basis for the Eviction?

First, consider the claimed basis for the eviction. Perhaps your lease has already ended and the landlord was not willing to renew it. Or maybe the landlord let you hold-over on a month-to-month basis, but now wants to raise the rent or get you out. In some cases a landlord may try to evict you “for cause” or for a “breach of the lease” – whether for not paying the rent on time, or violating something in the lease — perhaps throwing a party that was too loud or having one roommate too many. The more common reasons why a landlord may terminate a tenant’s right to use and possess residential rental property include:

  • failure of the tenant to pay rent when due
  • “waste” or damage to the rental property caused by the tenant
  • possession of pets in violation of the rental agreement
  • occupancy of the rental property by persons not named on the lease or rental agreement
  • material disturbances of other tenants (such as extreme noise disturbances).

If you have received an eviction notice, you could try to informally work things out with the landlord. Perhaps the landlord will agree to allow you to stay for a few weeks or months longer. If so, get it in writing.

Things Your Landlord Can’t Do – Things Your Landlord Must Do

What if the landlord wants you out NOW? Just because the landlord wants you out doesn’t mean you must move immediately. The landlord can’t legally resort to self-help measures, like changing your locks or shutting off your electricity, until the landlord has fully complied with all the requirements of the law. As a tenant, you have the right to remain on the property and challenge the eviction in court.

Before an eviction can legally occur, the landlord has to carefully follow a series of detailed legal procedures and timetables set out in your state’s eviction laws, and you can demand the landlord complies with them to the letter.

Eviction Defenses

If you have a legitimate defense to eviction, raise it in your answer to the eviction papers that were served on you. Perhaps the claimed basis for the eviction is bogus – that so called loud party was next door, or the “roommate” was your brother who visited from out of town for a weekend. Perhaps the eviction is in retaliation for the time you reported health and safety code violations, or repeated requests for necessary repairs? In addition to the possibility of an improper attempt at a retaliatory eviction, other common defenses are that the landlord didn’t provide proper notice of a rent increase, or increased the rent as a form of illegal discrimination.

If you’ve received an eviction notice, read the papers carefully, consider your own rights, and consider contacting an attorney who represents tenants in your area. Oftentimes just a letter from a knowledgeable attorney will stop the eviction or buy you more time.

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