When a landlord decides that it is time for a tenant to move out, she is almost always legally obligated to inform the tenant in writing of her decision. If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord must then take steps to have the tenant legally evicted from the rental home.
When a landlord or tenant decides to terminate (or not renew) a lease or rental agreement, state law often requires one party to give written notice of his decision to the other party. This is sometimes known as a “notice to terminate”. An eviction is a legal proceeding in which a landlord asks a court to order the tenant to leave the property. Giving a tenant a notice to terminate is often a first step in the eviction process, but it isn't the same as an eviction.
Types of Notice
The types of termination notices required to begin the eviction process differ between states. In many states, landlords can use several different types of “quit notices” depending on the circumstances. A “quit-or-pay” notice notifies a tenant that the rent is past due and of the landlord's intention to evict if it isn't paid. A “cure-or-pay” notice orders the tenant to correct a problem (such as loud noises) before facing eviction. An “unconditional quit” notice orders the tenant off the property, with no second chances to pay a bill or change behavior. Some states only allow landlords to issue unconditional quit notices in cases where a tenant is using the home for criminal activity or repeatedly doesn't pay rent or follow property rules. Once a landlord files for eviction, she will have to serve the tenant with a summons to appear in court. This is an official notice from the court that an eviction hearing is to take place.
In some states, a tenant may have five or 10 days to pay the rent or get rid of a barking dog. If the situation is very serious, such as a tenant dealing drugs out of an apartment, the landlord may only have to give the tenant 24 hours to leave the premises.
Methods of Service
Landlords can serve quit notices to tenants by tacking or taping them to the tenant's front door or actually handing the notice to the tenant. Some states require the landlord to mail the notice to terminate notice to the tenant via regular or certified mail. State laws are more particular about the service of an eviction notice: In many places, only a sheriff's deputy or special process server can serve a tenant with eviction court papers.
Many an eviction case gets thrown out of court because a landlord failed to send the proper quit notices to his tenant. Landlords should talk to a lawyer about proper methods of service and get boilerplate termination notices for use in their landlord business.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.