Tenants usually pay their rent on time, but in some cases, they either cannot or purposely avoid paying their landlord or property manager. This can result in a the tenant getting a three-day notice to pay or quit, which is basically a demand to pay or leave the rental property. After receiving a three-day notice, you may be able to stay in the rental property for a month and a half or more, depending on how you handle the notice and how busy the courts are.
If You Pay
A three-day notice to pay or quit is a precursor for your landlord or property manager filing an Unlawful Detainer (UD) suit against you in court. If you pay what you owe within three days, the landlord or property manager won't file the unlawful detainer and you won't have to move out. Depending on the reason for the three-day notice, you may be able to maintain a very good relationship with your landlord or property manager if you pay.
The Unlawful Detainer
If you do not pay what you owe or move out within the three days indicated on the notice, the landlord or property manager can then file the UD. Usually, this happens around the 10th day after you don't pay rent, depending on when you are served with the three-day notice to pay or quit. Typically, the sheriff serves you with the unlawful detainer notice the day after the landlord or property manager files the UD. Once served with the UD, you usually have five days to respond to the UD notice.
Request for Trial or Default
After you have a chance to respond to the UD notice, around two and a half weeks after you miss your rent, the landlord or property manager asks the court for action against you. If you've responded, court will hold a hearing. If you haven't responded, the court will render a default judgment in favor of the property manager or landlord.
When a tenant doesn't respond to a UD notice and the court grants a default judgment in favor of the landlord or property manager, the tenant must leave within five days or be escorted off the premises by the sheriff. At this point, about three weeks has passed since the tenant didn't pay rent and about two and a half weeks since the landlord or property manager gave the initial three-day notice.
If a tenant responds to a UD, they can file a counter request. The counter request lets the court know the tenant intends to attend the hearing and asks for the hearing to be scheduled on a date on which the tenant is available. Counter requests usually are filed about a month after late rent, or three and a half weeks after a three-day notice.
Within two weeks of the counter request, the court sets a hearing date. However, the time that elapses between the setting of the hearing and the actual hearing varies depending on the backlog of the court. It may take several weeks or even months to get through the eviction process if the tenant responds to the UD and uses all his appeal options.
The Bottom Line
A three-day notice is just that -- if you want to avoid an unlawful detainer and can't pay the landlord or property manager, you cannot stay beyond those three days. However, if you are willing to risk the UD, then it likely will take at least a month and a half for a hearing even to be scheduled. After that, how long you can stay depends on the court.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.