A Step-by-Step Guide to the Eviction Process

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The eviction process varies from state to state. It can even vary from city to city, town to town. However, the procedure is generally the same in every jurisdiction.

Most importantly, if you are faced with an eviction, you should seek an experienced lawyer immediately. You may have only a few days to protect yourself, and such cases can be complex to wade through on your own.

General Considerations

If you are faced with an eviction, or a possible eviction in the near future, keep in mind the following:

  • In most jurisdictions, a landlord must have a court order to forcibly evict a tenant. This means that the landlord must follow certain procedures, must go to court, and have a judge sign an order to evict the tenant.
  • When a court order is required, the landlord cannot simply change the locks on a tenant’s door, turn off the electricity, or use other means on his or her own to try and remove a tenant from the property.
  • A landlord can evict for a breach of the lease agreement (such as violating a no-pets policy), for nonpayment of rent, due to the natural end of the lease term, or for other reasons allowed by local law.

The Eviction Process

Although it may vary from state to state, the common steps to eviction follow.

First, a landlord will make some kind of written demand prior to filing for eviction. There is usually a time limit for doing so, and requirements for the contents of the demand.

Next, the landlord will file suit against the tenant for eviction. This is sometimes known as an “unlawful detainer action.” If a suit is filed, the tenant will receive a court summons and a copy of the landlord’s filing (or “complaint”). The summons usually states the time, date, and location of a court hearing.

In some jurisdictions, the tenant must “answer” the complaint with a filing to dispute the landlord’s allegations. If this is not done, the landlord could win without a hearing.

At the hearing, a judge or magistrate will hear from both sides.

The judge will make a decision, usually at the end of the hearing and in front of the parties.

After the decision is made, either side may appeal the decision to a higher court. If the tenant appeals, he or she will likely be able to stay in the property pending the appeal, but will have to continue to pay rent.

If no appeal is taken, and the landlord wins the hearing, the next step is for the landlord to have a sheriff remove the tenant. The sheriff will generally post a notice at the property, stating that the tenant must leave by a certain date or face removal. On that date, the sheriff will return and physically remove the tenant from the property, if necessary.

Any personal possessions left on the property after an eviction are disposed of according to local laws.

Again, it is always best to consult with an experienced attorney if you receive a rent demand or a court summons. For more information, the following link lists resources for each state’s eviction laws: http://www.chiff.com/legal/eviction-laws.htm.

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