To begin the court process of evicting a tenant for breach of contract, the tenant must be served with an eviction notice, also known as a "notice to quit." However, this is just the beginning of a process that can take up to a few months. During this time, a landlord must wait out a few court-ordered deadlines given to a tenant while refraining from any adverse action to force the tenant out.
After delivering an eviction notice to a tenant, you must wait out the due process period before you can have a tenant legally removed from your property. This can range from one week up to a month. Tenants have legal resources they can use to increase the amount of time before a court order can forcibly remove them; depending on state law, this can add months to the due process period. When compared with other civil court processes, some of which can take more than one year, the eviction process in any state is much quicker.
Laws governing any part of the tenant-landlord relationship are administered and enforced at the state level. Check your state's tenant code to find out that state's particular process for eviction cases. Some states, such as California, Colorado and Ohio, process court orders for evictions three days after the notice has been delivered to the tenant for either breach of lease or non-payment of rent. Ten states, including Massachusetts and Georgia, don't allow evictions due to a breach of lease other than non-payment.
Once the time period a tenant is given to satisfy the terms of an eviction notice runs out, a landlord's next step is to sue the tenant for unlawful detainer. Once you have won the lawsuit, bring proof of the court-ordered eviction to the local law enforcement agency or sheriff's office. An officer will visit the tenant and explain that he will be back within a certain number of days to remove the tenant. Once the sheriff has removed the former tenant, you will again be able to rent out your property.
What You Can't Do
Landlords must stick strictly to the letter of the law throughout the eviction process or risk losing the unlawful detainer lawsuit or may even incur fines. Although some states give more privileges to landlords during eviction than other states, a landlord anywhere will hurt the defense of his court-ordered eviction if the tenant can prove that any utilities were shut off or locks changed in an attempt to force the tenant to leave. A landlord's responsibility to follow the court process strictly is sometimes seen as a reflection of the tenant's high stakes — the loss of his shelter.
- Pine Tree Legal Assistance: What Can I Do if My Landlord is Trying to Evict Me?
- NOLO: How Evictions Work — Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- Landlord.com: Eviction Notice Termination Law Guide
- NOLO: Don't Lock Out or Freeze a Tenant — It's Illegal
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