What are a Tenant’s Rights During an Eviction?

in Legal Issues on by
Young tenant is in shock reading an eviction notice from her landlord.

Receiving an eviction notice is jarring, if not devastating. Even if you knew it was coming, the idea of losing your home can cause instant panic. But before you make any big decisions, it’s important to know what your rights are in the situation, and how to respond accordingly.

First Steps

Your landlord can’t just verbally tell you to get out. They have to submit the request in writing and in accordance with local, state, and/or federal laws and guidelines that grant tenants preset windows of time to vacate the premises. Each state has specific procedures that must be followed depending on the reasons for the eviction.

There are four main types of eviction. They are:

Tenant Eviction Notice for Cause

This type of eviction deals with something specific you did that your landlord sees as violating the terms of your lease or rental contract.

Pay Rent or Quit is clear. This notice is typically a request for you to bring late rent payments up-to-date in a specified number of days. This period is generally three to five days, and if your rent is still in arrears after that time, you’re required to vacate the premises (quit).

Cure or Quit notices are normally given to tenants that have broken a non-money-related condition or term in the lease, such as noise violations, improper use of space, illegal activities, parking infringements, smoking inside, etc. A tenant is usually given a specified time period during which to correct the infraction or move out.

Unconditional Quit notices are by far the most awful to receive because they give the tenant no choice but to leave. This type of eviction is rare and typically arises when a tenant has repetitively paid rent past the due date or not at all, ignored warnings to cease specific behavior that violates the conditions of the lease, conducted illegal activity on the property, or caused serious damage to the property. Due to the severity of this action, state laws typically control their use.

Tenant Eviction Notice Without Cause

Under some circumstances, your landlord may ask you to depart from the property even when you’ve been a perfect tenant and always paid your rent on or before the due date. The landlord is under no compulsion to tell you the reason, but it often involves a sale of the property, problems that make the property unsafe, or other grounds they aren’t compelled to reveal. This is legal, unfortunately, but you’re typically given 30 or 60 days to find a new home. The only exception to this rule is on rent-controlled properties, where some states demand a cause for the eviction.

Lawsuits for Eviction

If you ignore notices to vacate or don’t correct infractions to the lease or rental agreement, the landlord has no choice but to sue you to vacate the property. In this case, you will receive both a copy of the grounds for eviction and a court summons ordering you to move.

Next Steps

Depending on the type of eviction notice you receive, you have several options going forward. You can pack up your belongings and simply move on, although many people don’t have the resources or time for such quick action. You can comply with the landlord’s requests (i.e., pay back rent, get rid of your pet, stop playing loud music) and ask for another chance to be a better tenant. Or, if you haven’t been sued by the landlord, you can stay in your place and wait for an unlawful detainer suit from your landlord to arrive and move the eviction procedure to the next level, which means appearing in court to defend yourself.

Before you choose the court option, you need to make sure you have a valid defense. Avoid name-calling, whining, and weak excuses, which most judges won’t tolerate. If you’re unsure about your defense or feel intimidated by the landlord, contact a local tenants’ rights group or landlord-tenant attorney for support and advice.

In any case (and if applicable), you should always do your best to provide proof that you’ve corrected the defects/infractions being cited by the landlord, which renders the eviction procedures invalid. This may include receipts for repairs, pictures of corrected offenses such as overflowing outdoor garbage cans, and/or letters from neighbors attesting to you keeping noise down or not using their parking spaces.

Another good defense is proving that the landlord didn’t follow proper legal procedures for the eviction. This is most commonly done with applicable paperwork, but you can also show pictures of needed repairs the landlord never made and explain that you legally withheld rent until the dangerous situations were rectified.

What Happens If You Lose

Even if you comply with the landlord’s requests and execute a perfect court appearance, you can still lose. If the landlord succeeds with the eviction lawsuit against you, they still can’t legally move you and/or your belongings into the street. They first have to present the court-ordered eviction to the sheriff, pay a fee for the sheriff’s department service, and wait for the police to escort you and your belongings from the property in question.

4 Responses to “What are a Tenant’s Rights During an Eviction?”

  1. November 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm, Suzanne said:

    How can I get extension on a notice to quit premises in 5 day when the court ls closed 3 days
    Small children involved need just a little more time to pack

    Reply

  2. January 09, 2017 at 5:27 am, Kylie said:

    I was wondering how I get a extension on my eviction PLS as I have just lost the last bond I can get any were so the longer I can stay here the longer the kids have a roof over there head and all so im worried the welfare will take my children off ne

    Reply

  3. March 13, 2020 at 12:14 pm, Darren Chaker said:

    Wonderful post about rights during an eviction. Thank you for taking the time to go into such detail. Best to everyone here! Darren Chaker

    Reply

  4. May 31, 2020 at 12:44 pm, Rose said:

    This is all new to me. How does one even find available Section 8 apts in Bucks County, PA. I don't know where to start. Thanks

    Reply

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