The Eviction Process

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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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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When it comes to evicting tenants, every landlord must follow applicable state and local laws by providing proper notice to the tenant and following the procedures necessary for a legal eviction. Even if a tenant is late paying the rent or has violated some rule laid out in his or her lease, a landlord usually has a duty to follow the process, which includes legally ending the tenancy first before suing to evict the tenant.

The Steps Required for Eviction

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, he or she must:

  1. Inform the tenant in writing: If a tenant is in breach of contract (the lease), the tenant must be informed of the breach in writing, sent both by regular and certified mail. A “breach of contract” means that the tenant is violating important terms in the lease, such as the requirement to pay rent. The communication must specifically include a description of the breach, and the portion of the lease that points out the breach. The notice must be as detailed as possible. Some effort must be made to work out an arrangement to address the problem.
  2. File for eviction: If direct communication with the tenant fails to bring about necessary improvement to the situation, the landlord can file for eviction. This can be done by:
    1. Hiring an attorney to file all necessary documents, or
    2. Going to court and filling out the necessary paperwork to file for eviction. If a landlord files for eviction himself, he must provide the court with several pieces of information, including:
      1. His name and address,
      2. The tenant’s name and the rental address,
        • A copy of the signed contract,
        • The specific portion of the contract that has been breached,
        • In cases of nonpayment of rent, the landlord must provide dates that rent was due and how much rent is past due, including all associated late fees,
        • In other cases, such as damage to the premises or other infractions, documentation and other proofs may be required.
    3. Wait for the court to serve the tenant: Once the landlord files for eviction, the landlord must then wait for the court to officially serve the tenant with eviction papers, and inform the tenant of a hearing date to address the eviction. 
    4. Use official channels for physical eviction: If eviction is granted, either after a hearing or by a default judgment if the tenant does not respond to the eviction suit, then the landlord must give the eviction court documents to the local Sheriff’s Office, which then posts for eviction. The landlord still cannot change the locks, and must follow proper procedures to avoid legal troubles.

A landlord can never force an eviction by just changing the locks and putting the tenant’s belongings out on the street. If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord will have to file an eviction lawsuit in the local court, and must serve the tenant with the proper summons and complaint. During the eviction lawsuit, the tenant will have the opportunity to defend him or herself. Perhaps the tenant didn’t make that rent payment because he or she had to make necessary repairs to the property. The tenant might also point out any errors in the eviction paperwork, causing the court to dismiss the eviction lawsuit.

Until the landlord has jumped through all of these legal hoops, the tenant cannot legally be evicted.

Seeking Eviction Help from a Landlord Tenant Attorney

If you find yourself facing eviction, you should take any steps you can to remedy the situation as soon as possible so you don’t find yourself out of your home. If you believe the eviction is unfair or improper, you should consult with an experienced landlord tenant attorney who will assist you in protecting your legal rights as a tenant. Likewise, if you are a landlord seeking to begin eviction proceedings against a tenant, a qualified landlord tenant attorney in your state can advise you of your rights and responsibilities, and file the necessary paperwork in court to begin your eviction action. Find a landlord tenant specialist in your area at JustAnswer Legal.

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