If you’re a renter, you never want to find yourself up against eviction. But if it happens to you, it’s vital to be as informed as you can regarding the eviction process and how it all works—including whether you have grounds for an appeal or not. And if you find yourself having to move to a new apartment, find yourself a good mover who can handle the process quickly and seamlessly.
Eviction laws do vary by state, so there’s no federal eviction process that every landlord must follow. However, there are some standard eviction steps that most places follow. It’s up to the tenant – aka YOU – to know your rights and role in all this. Here’s a quick guide to how the eviction process works.
Reasons You May Be Evicted
There are some common reasons why landlords can legally serve tenants with eviction notices. Usually, evictions don’t come out of the blue and are not entirely unexpected. They’re not even the first step in conflict resolution. In many cases, you can resolve the issue at hand without resorting to the eviction process.
Legal reasons a landlord could evict a tenant include:
- Failure to pay the rent
- Lease violations, such as failing to abide by a pet policy, welcoming unapproved occupants to live in the unit, or having a large amount of nuisance complaints
- Engaging in illegal activity within a unit
- Extensive and costly property damage
Reasons that a landlord may not legally evict tenants include:
- Discrimination based on sex, religion, race, color, disability, national origin, or familial status
- Retaliation (i.e., as a response to a tenant complaint about the unit)
- Failure to pay rent because of an unaddressed safety or health issue within the unit
In some cases, landlords can file an eviction notice without cause, involving an eviction that is filed without a direct reason (see above). The laws vary but landlords usually have to give between 30 and 60 days’ notice.
The Eviction Process Works: How it Works
An eviction doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, there are many steps a landlord has to take in order to evict a tenant. Here’s what you can expect, generally speaking.
1. Written Notice
Landlords must serve tenants with an eviction notice in writing by certified mail, usually following one or more previous written notices.
An eviction notice is the first step in the process, and doesn’t mean your landlord can change the locks.
If you have received a written eviction notice from your landlord, check out your lease to determine if it violates pre-agreed-upon terms. Try to hold a civil discussion with your landlord to see what other options are available. Perhaps you could come up with a modified payment plan regarding late rent payments. Send a written response if you feel like emotions will run high and could escalate.
2. Court Filing
A court filing would be the next step, which would only happen if you did not vacate the property or resolve the eviction request prior to the provided date, says Moving.com. This filing will probably go through your town’s local eviction court, but your landlord may choose to use another court if you owe a large amount of back rent or related fees.
You should secure your own legal representation before filing, but keep in mind hiring a lawyer can be far more costly than simply vacating the property. In any case, be sure to gather all documents that are relevant to the situation so you can bring all the proof you need to the hearing.
3. Eviction Hearing
The eviction hearing comes next, which takes place on a court-appointed date. Remember, only a court can formally evict you. If you feel you are being wrongfully evicted and can prove it, your landlord will have no choice but to let the matter drop.
Arrive on time to the hearing and be sure to dress professionally. Show up with your attorney or by yourself with all documented proof. The landlord is the one who has to prove an eviction is valid, not you, so your goal is simply to convince the judge otherwise.
If the judge rules an invalid eviction, the case will be dropped and this brings an end to the eviction process. If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the process continues.
An appeal period of about 10 days kicks in, during which time you can appeal the ruling. If you don’t appeal within this time frame, the eviction process moves to the lockout phase. On the day of eviction, the sheriff arrives at the property to make sure it’s been vacated and that the landlord can safely reclaim possession without incident. The locks will be changed at this time, and any of your items left inside will be removed. As a tenant, you should vacate the unit before lockout day so you can get your stuff out in a timely manner without being rushed.
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