In most states, a landlord has to terminate a rental agreement before he can pursue an eviction complaint in court. This termination notice is sometimes confused with the actual eviction notice, but the termination notice is written and served by the landlord, while the eviction order is served and executed by a sheriff after the landlord receives a court order.
For most eviction cases, the landlord has to send the tenant a termination notice before he can go to the courthouse to fill out an eviction complaint. In some states, the landlord may be able to avoid this requirement if the tenant is performing an illegal action or has repeatedly violated the lease agreement. The time frame for an eviction notice ranges from 24 hours to three months, depending on the eviction reason and rental situation. Generally, termination for nonpayment and illegal activity are the fastest notice periods. Rent controlled and Section 8 tenants usually get longer periods of time before termination occurs.
The landlord has to go through a court procedure to get an actual order or judgment of eviction, along with any money judgments she may seek because of damages or back rent. The landlord has to wait for the termination period to be complete, then fill out the eviction complaint form. This lawsuit is called a Forcible Entry and Detainer, or Possession, lawsuit. The legal purpose of the eviction complaint is to transfer legal ownership from the tenant to the landlord.
Once the complaint is filed, the tenant receives a court summons for the eviction hearing. The landlord can get a default judgment if the tenant does not respond to the summons or show up for the hearing.
The tenant is served with the eviction judgment and given a specific time period to leave the rental unit. This period of time varies by state and circumstance. Some states allow tenants a notice period equal to the judgment appeal length, while judges may also choose to grant additional time for special circumstances.
If the eviction judgment notice period passes and the tenant remains on the property, the landlord has to file for a Writ of Possession or Execution to enforce the eviction. This writ is taken to the sheriff's office and served to the tenant. Generally, the writ gives the tenant 24 hours notice before the sheriff arrives to remove the tenant from the rental unit.