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...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jun 12, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

If you haven’t been paying your rent, or have had some other ongoing problem with your landlord, you shouldn’t be surprised if you receive an eviction notice from the courts. If you do get an eviction notice, you must take action immediately in order to preserve your rights and potentially avoid eviction. 

Here are three tips on how to handle an eviction notice.

  1. Determine the reason you are being evicted: Have you failed to pay your rent? Have you destroyed property? Have you failed to live up to some other aspect of your contract, for instance by having others live with you who are not on the rental agreement, or by subletting? Have your neighbors been making noise complaints or have you been keeping your apartment in an unsanitary condition or using it for illegal activity? Has your lease ended, and have you decided not to leave despite your landlord’s decision not to extend your lease?

    State law generally prescribes specific situations where a landlord is permitted to evict a tenant. Thus, in each of these instances, your landlord may have a legal right in your state to evict you, and how you should respond will depend largely on the reason you are being evicted. Conversely, if there is no legally-permissible reason for your eviction, it may be wrongful. A qualified landlord tenant attorney will be able to evaluate your eviction notice and determine if you have any legal recourse.

  2. You must respond immediately: In some states, you have very little time to respond, as little as five days. Do not simply ignore an eviction notice, or worse, avoid your hearing date. You must respond either to your landlord directly or to the court, depending on where you live. Contact your local court clerk to find out where you should respond. If you don’t show up for your hearing, a default judgment could be entered against you, which means you will lose your right to contest the eviction.
  3. Try to make arrangements to avoid eviction: Even though you received an official eviction notice, it is not too late to make the problem go away by remedying the situation with your landlord. The process for working out the situation will of course depend on the reasons for your eviction, but you might consider:
    • Proposing some sort of revised rental payment arrangement or borrowing money to pay late rent.
    • Addressing damage you have caused or offering to make necessary repairs.
    • Making an effort to prove that you are not subletting or you do not have people living with you unlawfully.

If it is not possible for you to work things out with your landlord, and you feel like you are being wrongly evicted or that you have been discriminated against, you can contact your local renter’s board, or consider hiring legal counsel to advise you of your rights and to represent you in court. Again, communication is vital when you are facing eviction. Clearly articulate why you feel you are being wrongfully evicted, and seek the necessary help during the allotted timeframe allowed under the eviction proceedings. Do not delay – doing so will only bring you closer to eviction.