Before You Panic: How to Handle an Eviction Notice

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You come home to find an eviction notice posted to your door. Do not panic. While eviction is a matter that should be taken seriously, and handled immediately, the notice does not mean that you have to move out tomorrow. It is important, however, to understand your rights and the eviction process.

The Notice to Pay or Quit

The notice on your door is not an actual eviction. An eviction can only be mandated by the court. The notice on your door is really a Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice is issued by the landlord, and includes the date the landlord is requiring you to vacate the rental unit. The notice should also include the reason the landlord is requiring you leave. If the reason given is due to non-payment of rent, the notice will generally give you a choice to pay that rent within a certain number of days (usually mandated by your state), or vacate the unit. If the reason given is something else – perhaps numerous tenant complaints, you will only be given a Notice to Quit, or vacate the unit. Chances are, however, if you have a rental agreement, your landlord has probably already given you a 30-day notice of his intent.

While this notice is not a legal document, if you do not move or pay the rent due, the landlord will have local law enforcement issue you a Summons and Complaint, signaling the start of the eviction process. If you do move prior to the date indicated on the notice, the landlord will not take any further action towards eviction.

The Summons and Complaint

The Summons and Complaint is a legal document. If you have not hired an attorney by this point, you should do so immediately. If you do not respond to the Summons and Complaint, you essentially forfeit your rights. Law enforcement will come to your apartment to remove you, sometimes without your belongings.

Make sure you respond to the Summons and Complaint. In your response to the Summons, you will explain your defense, and you will be scheduled to appear before a judge.

A Tenant’s Defense

If you are in disagreement over the reason for eviction, make sure to collect copies of all canceled checks for rent payments. Also, read your rental agreement. The rental agreement should stipulate how the landlord is to notify you of his intent to evict. If this process has not been followed, then he generally cannot evict you. Also, if the landlord accepts any payments from you after the Notice to Pay is served, he cannot evict you. If you have filed complaints with the landlord, and consequently withheld rent, collect these letters as evidence in your defense.

Things to Remember

Remember to take the Notice to Pay or Quit seriously. Handle all matters professionally. If you are unprofessional, you will only be adding more fuel to the fire, giving the landlord further cause to evict. Also, if in the end, you are served an eviction by the court, make sure to fill out a Stay of Execution, which will grant you additional time to move out and collect your belonging.


Emily Gojko: I am a writer, marketer, and manager with a strong background in real estate development and management. I am also a native New Yorker with an obsession for home design shows, so I have personal and professional experience making the most of small spaces, and dealing with good and bad living situations.

10 Responses to “Before You Panic: How to Handle an Eviction Notice”

  1. December 01, 2011 at 2:11 am, virginia said:

    i am single mother of 4 and i am on wafer i have been living at the same plays for seven years and i was never late on by rent my oldest son turns 18 on July 19 and i git my income drops 250.0 that’s wen the problem start , but for all this time first the owner never did any work on my app the carpet was horrible and the walls were yellow infested with mi es and Rocha’s never did any thing and sins the fest day i move every time we Tuck a showed the kicking and the bathroom flooded and still floods i tack to the owner and tell him sins i am a graduate Carpenter and have three years of exp i will do all repairs to the app and that way i pay you wat i ow you and he sad ok but i did three moths of work with the help of my 18 , and 15 y old kids with it was a beautiful exp and learning poses for them i was fascinated with their work and will power but wen all is don he wants to tack advance and payed us not even a 3 part of Wat i owed him and for the more 2 moths later he kicks me out all this winter i have not had a hitter i used the stove to kip my kids worm and every time we take a shower we have to scoop the water out with a bucket to the toilet so we don’t have a flood can you help me and till i don’t want to give him no problems i fill that i have to be gravel for the help given but if i don’t act my kids will be in the streets and for me they are all that matters


    • November 29, 2016 at 7:51 am, Mary price said:

      I am a widow lady of 66 years old. I am disabled with poor eyesight and anxiety. My manager harassed me for as long as she's been here I have lived here 14 years she's been here close to a year. I am under the help of home health because I had a mini stroke 2 weeks ago. I have always paid my rent. She is trying to evict me because she said I could not manage to keep a clean house. Help me please!!>


  2. September 11, 2016 at 7:47 pm, Lorie Hogan said:

    I already went to court and my ten days are up. I almost have all of my money together to pay landlord. The officer has not posted eviction on my door yet. How much longer do I have. I am disabled and was out of work.


  3. September 29, 2016 at 8:57 am, carrie Drake said:

    I'm out of work with a rotator cuff injury to my left shoulder. The injury to my left shoulder it's from a previous job so I will not get disability. However my right rotator cuff is torn also so where are my benefits were denied they just approve them but I have not received my first payment yet. I have never received notice to vacate how do I handle that?


  4. September 29, 2016 at 8:58 am, carrie Drake said:

    benefits were denied they just approve them but I have not received my first payment yet. I have now received notice to vacate how do I handle that?


  5. November 09, 2016 at 11:10 am, John Garza said:

    We rent a home that we take good carr of. Due to late rent a few times because if hardship & husband falling at work and breaking his neck.
    We currently are up to date on rent and renter still wants to evict us. We are in our 60's and our rent was always on time before. What legal rights do we have in the state of Wisconsin?


  6. November 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm, denise Miranda said:

    Im a mother of two boys, 14 and and soon to be 2 year old, i been out of work for awhile, try babysitting to met the rent, but its been very hard for me, jobs are not as easy to come by loke back in the day … is there anyway i could get help with getting housing ? In the state of new Jersey newark, its sad that i see people that are
    Drug dealers and people that use drug get all the help in the world, why can i ??? I am so depress cause of this


  7. January 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm, Danica Donaldson said:

    My mom (home-owner) is filing eviction against my 17 year old daughter who stayed there 4 months. No rent was charged. My mom is simply being hateful. Will this have a degoritory effect on my daughter's credit???


  8. February 06, 2017 at 11:40 am, Deborah walker said:

    I've received an eviction notice to leave in 7 days if I try get the money together to pay can I still be evicted


  9. April 01, 2019 at 2:19 pm, Pat said:

    Can an eviction notice be sent by regular mail U.S. mail by the mailman with a stamp on it ?
    no one was home to be served personally.


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