Real estate laws are different in each state, but they all require some form of pay or quit notice prior to an eviction. Your landlord is supposed to use the notice to demand the payment of rent plus late fees, and to notify you of his intent to proceed with an eviction. In many jurisdictions the landlord is able to initiate eviction proceedings right after sending the notice, but the tenant still has a set amount of time to pay the rent. If you pay the rent in time, then the judge often dismisses the case.
Pay or Quit Notice
A notice to pay or quit is a type of unconditional notice. That means, you don’t have time to make it right prior to the landlord’s right to file an eviction lawsuit. As soon as he sends the notice, then he can file a lawsuit without waiting for a response. The problem is that some landlords rush to get tenants out of the apartment, and they don’t send a notice or they send improper notice.
Notice Is Required
The laws in your state probably requires your landlord to send a notice first, even if there is no time lapse between when the notice is sent and when your landlord initiates an eviction lawsuit. If your landlord doesn’t send a notice, then the case under most circumstances cannot move forward. Your defense to the entire eviction lawsuit should be that you did not receive a pay or quit notice.
Proof of Notice
When you raise the defense that you did not receive a pay or quit notice, the judge will review the paperwork filed for proof of service. Many judges do this to begin with, even if you don’t raise the issue as a defense. Proof of service consists of a signature from a third party eligible to serve court papers, such as a sheriff. However, each state has its own rules for what constitutes service of notice, and it may include taping it to the door. Check the rules in your state to find out what is required for how your landlord must deliver notice.
Verbal Notices Are Insufficient
Your landlord might argue that you received a verbal notice about failing to pay rent and the his intent to gain possession of the apartment through an eviction. Landlord and tenant laws don’t recognize verbal notices for the most part. Notices must be in writing, and a judge is most likely going to rule that improper notice was given in that case. You should document all discussions with your landlord regarding non-payment of rent, as well as anything else that pertains to your lease provisions.
What Happens with Lawsuit
If the judge is convinced that you never received a pay or quit notice, then the case will probably be dismissed. The landlord will be allowed to start the process all over again, but this time your landlord would have to send you notice. You would have time to pay rent to stop the landlord from filing the case all over again.
Do what you can to work with your landlord to resolve the issue of rent to avoid a pay or quit notice. Keep in mind that you might need a landlord reference if you move.