Eviction of Family Member or Friend from Home

In the eyes of state law, the eviction of a family member or friend from home is a possibility. If a person refuses to vacate your space, then taking legal action to remove a tenant is your final option. But before taking any legal action, you must first determine how the law classifies the unwanted family member. Enter your ZIP code to find out more about the eviction of a family member or friend.

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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: Jul 15, 2021

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Family members and friends can wear out their welcome through an over-extended stay. When this happens, the most general and direct option is to ask them to leave. Beyond a simple request, other options for legal removal of unwelcome house guests will be governed by the laws of your state.

So, how do you legally remove someone from your home?

Read on to find out how to get someone out of your house or apartment who won’t leave. If you need further help with the eviction of a family member or friend from home or understanding reasons for eviction, contact an attorney by entering your ZIP code in the box.

Are they a tenant or licensee?

Before you begin any legal action, you must first determine how the law classifies the unwanted family member: Are they a licensee or are they now a tenant? A family member or friend occupying your home may be considered a tenant regardless of whether a lease agreement was signed or there was a payment of rent. If the family member paid for things like utilities or food, the payments of these expenses can be considered rent money.

Accordingly, some state laws will treat them as a tenant. To remove them from the premises you will have to file a formal eviction proceeding (known as an unlawful detainer action) as in any other landlord-tenant relationship.

But, how do I evict a family member from my rental properties?

If there has been nonpayment of rent, many states permit you to simply ask the family member/renter, to leave and remove their belongings without any legal proceedings. However, in other states, someone who enters your home and stays with your permission will be classified as a licensee. This status grants the family member more rights than a general guest. To revoke the permission you gave them to remain on your property, you will need to go through the steps of a formal eviction to have them legally removed.

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How do you prepare for eviction?

If your state’s laws classify the family member as a tenant or licensee, your next step is to prepare for eviction or unlawful detainer action. Before you can file suit, you must first serve your family member or friend with a proper notice to vacate (or notice to quit) the premises. This type of notice is a more formal way of asking the person to leave your home.

The notice must be given before the suit is filed. In some states, a 30-day notice is required, however, some only require as little as a 3-day notice.  Each state has its own rules regarding how and when to serve the eviction notice. Be sure to follow all legal requirements. If your family member or friend fails to leave by the requested date, you can then file an eviction petition.

Once you file your petition, you must request an unlawful detainer hearing. This is a short court hearing in which you explain the reason for the eviction and present evidence of the prior notices to vacate. If the judge agrees with you, they will issue an order of eviction and a writ of possession (or your state’s equivalent). The order will usually set a vacate date for the family member or friend. If they still refuse to leave in violation of the order, you can then call law enforcement and have them removed, using physical force if necessary.

Eviction or unlawful detainer actions are not generally complicated lawsuits. However, the rules of tenancy and procedure vary by state. Before jumping into a lawsuit, you should speak with an attorney in your area to learn your state’s rules and local procedures. They can advise you on the correct legal steps required in your jurisdiction.

While having a real estate attorney represent you in this type of case is not mandatory, you can avoid more problems by having one. If you fail to comply with all of your state’s eviction procedures you will delay the removal of the unwanted guest. You may even find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit for unlawful eviction. Remember, follow the law, and don’t be tempted to use self-help measures such as changing the locks or physically removing the person yourself.

Can you protect yourself with a protective order?

Finally, if a family member or friend living in your home is abusive and putting you in fear for your safety, the quickest temporary solution under such circumstances is to apply for a protective order from your local family court or criminal court. Depending on the laws in your state, a protective order can exclude the unwanted family member from using the residence for 30 days or for a number of years. Even if a protective order is granted, you should still consider the eviction process to remove the unwanted family member permanently.

How can you get professional help with evicting family members?

Evicting a family member is not an easy task at all, so if you want to avoid emotional blackmail, it might be worth considering a professional lawyer specializing in landlord or tenant law. Since evictions are regulated by state and local law, an attorney will help you with the type of notification you must give, documents you must file, checks you shouldn’t give out. Hiring a professional attorney will also make things easier from a financial perspective. Moreover, making even a tiny mistake when filling out forms can lead to a legitimate case being thrown out of court. If you decide to use a professional to evict your family member, enter your ZIP code in the box.

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