In most states, a landlord can legally evict a tenant for reasons such as not paying rent or when the tenant’s conduct creates a safety or health hazard for other tenants. According to the American Bar Association, if the tenant rents month to month without a lease, the law requires the landlord to give the tenant a written 30-day notice to terminate the lease. The length of time it takes to actually evict a tenant depends in part on the laws in your state.
Serve the tenant with written notice 30 to 45 days in advance of the date to vacate. Ask the tenant to leave for the reasons stated in your letter. You or a server must hand deliver the termination notice to the tenant. Some laws require that a copy of the notice also be mailed to the tenant. Make sure to comply with all state and local laws for serving an eviction notice. If the tenant does not leave voluntarily by the end of the period of notice, the landlord has the right to evict.
Request court directed mediation; the purpose of which is to reach an agreement with the tenant. An unbiased third party will help settle the dispute. Mediation is not required, but the process can be faster and less expensive than taking the case to court. Steven Glassberg, a Manhattan real estate attorney, points out that the court process can be lengthy and expensive, especially if a tenant contests the eviction.
File an unlawful detainer lawsuit to seek the court’s help in evicting a tenant who refuses to vacate the property. This is the next step in the eviction process if mediation fails or you choose not to pursue that option. File a complaint with the court. The complaint is then served on the tenant. Tenants who challenge the reasons for an eviction generally have the right to dispute and are entitled to a court hearing.
Hire an attorney to represent you in the event your eviction proceedings go to trial. Your attorney will present the facts of the case to the court. You must prove to the court that you are the legal owner of the property and that you served the tenant with an eviction notice. Provide any other evidence that supports your reasons for evicting the tenant. The court will then enter a decision either for the landlord or the tenant.
Take the court order to the local sheriff if the court rules in your favor. The sheriff will post a notice on the tenant’s door. If the tenant fails to comply by moving out by the date and time indicated on the posting, the sheriff will return to physically remove the tenant and his belongings from the property.
Landlords who win the eviction dispute in court can attempt to recover court costs and attorney fees. However, without a written rental agreement providing for such, you may not be able to get back these costs.
In some jurisdictions, if a judge orders the tenant to move from the property, the tenant is responsible for paying double rent for the time he continued to occupy the property after the landlord ordered him to vacate.
- American Bar Association: Evictions
- Steven Glassberg; Glassberg and Associates, LLC, New York, NY
- FindLaw: The Unlawful Detainer Process
- Rent Law: Evicting Tenants
- NOLO. "How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- MassLegalHelp. "When Can Landlord Evict." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- VA Legal Aid. "Evictions (including Lockouts and Utility Shutoffs)." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Kreis-Enderle. "Evictions 101: Possession Judgments Vs. Money Judgments." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Pew. "How Free Legal Help Can Prevent Evictions." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Eviction Lab. "What Is the Eviction Process Like?" Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Legal Aid of North Carolina. "Eviction Guide." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- NOLO. "Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Virginia." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Harvard Law Review. "The Limits of Unbundled Legal Assistance." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Eviction Lab. Email. Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Harvard. "Documenting the Long-Run Decline in Low-Cost Rental Units in the US by State." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Brookings. "Is the rent “too damn high”? Or are incomes too low?" Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Govtrack.us. "H.R. 748: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act." Accessed August 14, 2020.
- CBPP. "Extend CARES Act Eviction Moratorium, Combine With Rental Assistance to Promote Housing Stability." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020
- CNBC. "Trump’s order does little to stop impending eviction crisis, experts say." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Urban Institute. "The CARES Act Eviction Moratorium Covers All Federally Financed Rentals—That’s One in Four US Rental Units." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
- Federal Register. "Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19." Accessed Aug. 9, 2020.
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.