Millions of Americans are still struggling financially as large and small companies battle to remain viable in the face of recurrent epidemic shutdowns and re-openings.
Tenants, in particular, are concerned about the risk of eviction if they are unable to pay their rent. For all parties involved, evictions are unpleasant, traumatic, and expensive to handle.
However, it is a legally binding procedure that is enforced by law and has to take place in the event one party breaks the terms of the contract.
By definition, eviction is the civil procedure through which a landlord can lawfully remove a tenant from their rented property.
When a tenant fails to pay rent, the rental agreement’s provisions are violated, or other legal grounds exist, the renter may be evicted. In the United States, evictions are controlled by individual states and localities.
Landlords are obligated to provide renters with a notice of eviction that states the cause for the eviction as well as the days remaining before eviction procedures commence.
How Eviction Laws Work
Landlord-tenant laws apply to rental property and any parties engaged in lease arrangements. Landlords are not permitted to remove renters without justification. However, they have the legal right to remove renters for one of the three reasons:
- for failing to pay rent
- for other important lease violation reasons
- when the lease has expired.
While landlords can evict renters for a variety of reasons, including taking in boarders, destroying property, making a nuisance, or violating the law, the most common reason is the failure of paying rent.
This is according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab study.
What is even more interesting is that landlords are under no general obligation to enable tenants to renew their leases, and they may refuse to renew for whichever reason, or even for no reason whatsoever.
They cannot, however, remove renters or refuse to renew leases for inappropriate grounds, as specified by stature.
Furthermore, landlords may refuse to extend a lease merely because they dislike the renter, but they may not refuse to issue a new lease because the tenant is African-American.
There are six major forms of regulations that regulate eviction. They include state law, local law, leases, federal law, common law, and court rules. Eviction laws by state vary.
The majority of states have laws governing residential renting, including eviction procedures.
That is why some states enable landlords to remove tenants at will, even if they have done nothing wrong.
However, these renters may have protection in jurisdictions that permit no-fault evictions, especially if the conduct is deemed discriminatory or retaliatory by the justice court.
Many jurisdictions establish their legislation based on the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.
These restrictions are frequently supplemented by cities, counties, and other local governments. Lease conditions allow landlords and renters to further manage evictions.
The Legal Eviction Process
When a landlord determines that the lease has been broken, he or she can commence the eviction procedure to reclaim their property. The procedure varies by state, but it typically follows 5 steps.
The steps to the eviction process are:
1. Give the Tenant an Eviction Notice
Before a landlord may evict a tenant and their belongings, the landlord must provide the tenant with formal notice that an eviction action will be filed in court.
The state’s eviction notice must be legal and indicate the period of time the tenant has to either rectify the breach (if applicable) or depart the premises.
The three most commonly used notices are as follows:
- Notice to Pay or Quit
In areas where landlords are required to offer tenants the opportunity to resolve the problem, this notice will allow them to stay if they can pay the rent on time, usually within 3 to 5 days.
A Notice to Quit is often referred to as a “cure” notice. This is due to the fact that a Notice to Quit is a means for the landlord to offer the tenant the chance to rectify or cure whichever lease violation has been committed by the tenant, such as not paying rent or not complying with a key term in the lease agreement.
- Comply or Quit Notice
For evictions resulting from lease rule breaches, such as keeping illegal pets, this notice will give the tenant some opportunity to “fix” the breach and stay on the premises.
- Unconditional Notice to Quit
However, landlords are granted additional power in most jurisdictions to evict renters without providing them with the option to remedy or cure the violation.
In this case, they are issued with an “Unconditional Notice to Quit.” This notice asks the renter to vacate the premises within a specified number of days.
In most states, an unconditional notice can only be issued after significant or recurring lease violations, such as seriously damaging the property or utilizing the property for criminal reasons.
If the tenant has not vacated the premises after the number of days specified in the notice, the landlord must take the renter to court to get a formal eviction.
2. File the Eviction Form
If the tenant fails to react sufficiently to the landlord’s eviction notice in a timely way after receiving it, the landlord may petition for eviction.
It is crucial to note, however, that in virtually all states, if the landlord seeks to possess the property back due to the tenant’s lack of paying rent, the landlord is not automatically entitled to file for eviction.
In these states, landlords are required by law to allow their renters a specified number of days (usually ranging from 3 days to even 30 days) to pay their rent.
Only if they fail to pay such rent would a landlord be able to file an eviction claim and have a court hearing.
3. Serving the Tenant With Notice, Summons and the Complaint
Following the filing of a lawsuit, the landlord is required to provide proper notice of the eviction proceeding. This notification is the result of legally “serving” a copy of the eviction lawsuit on the defendant.
The landlord must also submit proof of service to the court.
In most states, personal delivery of the notice, summons, and complaint is mandatory. To protect the tenant’s constitutional right to procedural due process, the summons and complaint must be delivered directly to him.
The serving of these documents must be performed by local law enforcement such as a sheriff or a process server.
4. Eviction Trial – Tenant’s Response
The tenant must now reply to the complaint and summons. At this point, they typically have two to five days to get back. After receiving the service, the tenant may be given the chance to respond in writing to the eviction complaint.
In certain states, renters can waive their right to a trial by failing to file a response or failing to appear in court. In certain instances, the landlord receives a default judgment.
Most states allow eviction actions to be expedited to trial. If the court date approaches and the renter is still residing on the property, a trial will be held.
The landlord must establish at the trial that the tenant substantially broke their rental agreement and received proper notice.
In some areas, a successful landlord might obtain damages and attorney’s costs in addition to an order to leave or writ of possession.
5. After the Judgement – Writ of Possession
If the tenant has not moved out after a final judgment has been filed and all deadlines have passed, the landlord might very well ask the judge to issue a “writ of possession.
” When a renter and all of their possessions and belongings are taken from the rented property, this becomes the final step in the eviction process.
If the tenant does not reply in a timely manner, the matter will be taken to court, where the landlord must succeed in order to get a writ of possession.