How to Evict a Tenant: A Guide

At some point, every landlord finds themself in the uncomfortable position of needing to evict a tenant. Even the most stringent background checks can’t prepare you when a situation with a tenant goes from ideal to disaster.

The eviction process can be a daunting endeavor. There are many rules concerning what a landlord can and cannot do regarding eviction law.

In this article, we’ll talk you through the eviction timeline. We’ll go into detail on every step involved in the process. That way, you can get your problematic tenant out without making matters worse. Keep reading to learn more.

Timeline to Evict a Tenant

The eviction timeline is relatively straightforward, but eviction law varies among states. The best way to prepare to evict a tenant is to know your particular state’s eviction laws and to determine the grounds for eviction.

The first step in evicting a tenant is to give the tenant the proper termination notice for the situation. This could be for a notice of termination with or without cause.

Once the notice is given, the tenant needs to vacate the premises or otherwise follow the instructions contained in the termination notice.

If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. In addition, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord as well.

If the landlord wins the lawsuit, the next step is to remove the tenant and their property.

Determining Grounds for Eviction

A landlord cannot evict a tenant for any old reason. Your grounds for eviction must have validity. The best way to find a valid reason to evict is to revisit the lease agreement your tenant signed.

Some of the most common lease violations include:

  • Failing to pay rent
  • Consistently paying rent late
  • Causing damage to the property
  • Performing illegal activities on the property
  • Disturbing other tenants
  • Unauthorized subletting
  • Failing to vacate the premise after the lease expires

If you think you have a valid reason to evict a tenant, make sure you document evidence of their lease violations. Every detail matters if it comes down to proving your case in court.

If you can, collect evidence in the form of photographs, email/text transcripts, bank statements, and bounced checks. These documents will come in handy if the tenant refuses to vacate.

Once you’ve determined grounds for evicting your tenant, the best approach is to make an effort to reason with them before giving them a termination notice.

Sending the Appropriate Termination Notice

How To Evict A Tenant 1

If every attempt to reason with your tenant has proven fruitless, the only option is to send a termination notice. A termination notice is different from a notice to vacate.

The purpose of this notice is to inform your tenant that you intend to evict them and on what grounds. The notice will also include a deadline by which time they either need to remedy the violation or move out.

The termination notice is integral to the eviction process. A landlord cannot move forward with an eviction lawsuit unless they have legally terminated the tenancy. Written notice is required to terminate a tenancy.

The type of termination notice you give your tenant will depend on the specific situation with that tenant. It will also depend on your state’s procedures for how to write and deliver termination notices.

Termination With Cause

When a landlord has a valid reason for wanting to evict a tenant, it is called termination with cause. The cause for termination is typically the result of the tenant violating their lease in some manner.

There are three types of termination notices that apply for termination with cause. These include pay rent or quit notices, cure or quit notices, and unconditional quit notices.

A landlord typically uses a pay rent or quit notice when the tenant has failed to pay rent. In this case, the landlord would give the tenant a matter of days to pay rent. Otherwise, the tenant needs to vacate the premises.

Landlords may issue a cure or quit notice when a tenant has violated the terms and conditions of their lease. Some examples of this include violating a no-pets clause or a no-subletting clause.

In the event of a cure or quit notice, the landlord gives the tenant a set amount of time to either correct the violation or vacate.

An unconditional quit notice is different. This type of notice does not allow the tenant to remedy the violation or pay rent to avoid the eviction.

An unconditional quit notice is justified when a tenant consistently fails to pay rent, severely damages the property, or engages in significant illegal activity.

Termination Without Cause

Termination without cause does not apply to tenants with a fixed-term lease. When a tenant is renting on a month-to-month basis, landlords can terminate without cause.

In that case, all the landlord needs to do is provide the tenant with enough notice as required by state law.

Filing an Eviction Lawsuit

If a tenant refuses to move out or correct the violation by the given deadline after receiving a termination notice, the next step is to file an eviction lawsuit. It’s illegal to remove a tenant without going through the courts.

Making Your Case

When you file the lawsuit, be prepared to show proof that the tenant received sufficient notice to correct the violation or vacate the premises. This is why it’s important to have the tenant sign and date the termination notice.

Once you’ve filed, you will receive a hearing date. Hire a lawyer and enlist their help in filing the required paperwork and collecting the necessary evidence of the tenant’s violations.

You will also need to bring your photo ID, the signed lease, and your renter’s license in addition to a copy of the signed eviction notice. If the evidence is clear, your case will likely be successful.

Tenant’s Defense

Tenants have the right to defend themselves against eviction lawsuits. This can add significant time to the eviction process.

Some defenses the tenant might use include pointing out mistakes in the termination notice or eviction complaint. They can also claim improper delivery of the notice.

When making a judgment in an eviction case, the courts will consider the landlord’s past actions. Failure to maintain the property or retaliating against tenants will not bode well for the landlord.

Evicting the Tenant

If you win your case, the tenant will have a new deadline to vacate the premises. This should be a matter of days. The hope is that your tenant goes willingly.

If the tenant still refuses to vacate, this is when you have the option to involve the police in removing the tenant and their personal possessions from the property.

It’s always a good idea to check with your state laws before disposing of any belongings left behind by a tenant. Some states allow you to dispose of abandoned possessions, but others require you to store them.

When the tenant vacates the premises or gets removed, you’ll be able to collect unpaid rent by filing a lawsuit in a small claims court.

Eviction Moratoriums

Eviction moratoriums have been happening in various cities and states across the U.S. as a result of COVID-19. Both federal and state governments have imposed eviction moratoriums at different times.

This is an effort to reduce houselessness during the pandemic while so many people remain unemployed. Despite the eviction moratoriums and government assistance, 6 million Americans remain behind on rent.

Even when there is an eviction ban, tenants are legally obligated to pay rent. For those who cannot afford to pay rent due to the pandemic, the government provides options like rental assistance.

Yet eviction moratoriums affect landlords in significant ways. For one thing, rental assistance has been slow to reach landlords. Many of whom rely on their rental income and have struggled without it.

The reality is that even when there isn’t a ban, the majority of U.S. courts won’t hear eviction cases related to non-payment in court. However, landlords can assess late fees, interest, and other penalties with or without a ban.

In some states, like California, an end to the eviction ban is imminent. Check your area’s court website to learn more about the status of eviction lawsuits and moratoriums where you live.

Eviction Process Takeaways

If you’ve found yourself facing the decision of whether or not to evict a tenant, you’re not alone. When preparing to evict a tenant, do your research first and make sure you have a valid reason for eviction.

There are many laws in place to protect renters from eviction. Make sure you follow them to avoid an unfortunate result.

As a landlord, the best way to protect yourself is to have landlord and rental property insurance.

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