Evictions are stressful. If you received notice that your landlord or property manager is moving forward with a legal eviction, the best thing to do is to work with your landlord or manager to move out on amicable terms. In some cases, you might be able to move out prior to an eviction lawsuit getting filed, which means you will not have an eviction on your eviction history report.
To help you through an eviction, we’ve put together some information to help you understand the eviction process, your rights as a renter, and what resources are available to you during an eviction.
What is an eviction?
An eviction is much more than your landlord asking (or telling) you to move out. An eviction is an official lawsuit, typically referred to as an unlawful detainer, that a landlord or housing provider files with the local courthouse against a renter.
In order for a landlord to file an eviction lawsuit, he must follow your state’s laws for a legal eviction procedure. This usually includes notifying a renter of a lease violation, sending an official notice to fix the lease violation, if the violation remains unfixed, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit and attend a court hearing for a ruling.
After filing an eviction lawsuit, the landlord and tenant will be given a court date. If the judge rules in the favor the landlord, he will issue a Writ of Possession. A “Writ of Possession” is a document distributed by the court when a judge rules to return possession of the rental property back to the landlord. If the renter has not moved out by the official eviction day, a sheriff or other authorized person will arrive to escort the evicted tenant off the property.
Learn more: How Long Does an Eviction Take?
What’s the difference between an eviction and a “Pay Rent or Quit Notice” or a “Cure or Quit Notice”?
If you receive an official notice to “Cure or Quit” or “Pay Rent or Quit”, do not start panicking. You are not actually getting evicted, yet, and no official documents have been filed with the local courthouse. You are, however, probably in serious violation of your lease term, and your landlord is giving you one last chance to fix the violation before moving forward with an official eviction.
Before a landlord files for an official eviction, he or she must officially terminate the lease agreement by providing one of the following types of notices.
Notice of Termination for Cause
- Pay Rent or Quit – This official notice is typically delivered to tenants who have not paid their rent as outlined in the lease agreement. The notice will outline the deadline for payment, the amount of rent and late fees that are now due, and the instructions for payment. The notice usually gives tenants 3-5 days to pay rent or move out (“quit”). If the tenant does neither in the designated timeline, your landlord can move forward with filing an eviction.
- Cure or Quit Notice – This notice is typically sent to tenants after they have violated a lease term, like having a pet in a pet-free property or smoking in a smoke-free area. Like Pay Rent or Quit, the Cure or Quit Notice, usually gives a tenant set amount of time to fix the issue (“cure”) or move out. Depending on your state, cure or quit notices can involve a 3-30 day fixing period. – For example, Virginia requires notices allow a tenant 21 Days to cure or 30 days to move.
- Unconditional Quit Notices – In some cases, a landlord can send a notice to a tenant that requires them to move without a chance to fix the situation. According to Nolo, only a few states allow landlords to send unconditional quit notices for reasons like:
- Repeatedly violating a significant lease clause
- Seriously damaging the property
- Engaging in illegal activity, such as dealing drugs on the premises
My landlord is threatening to evict me, what can I do?
Landlords and property managers are not allowed to threaten their renters. If you are violating your lease agreement, your landlord or manager can notify you of the violation and remind you of the consequences, including possible eviction.
A landlord or manager cannot simply say, “I am going to evict you,” in a threatening manner if you get into a heated discussion about the property. All communication, especially around lease violations, should be handled professionally, and hopefully, in a way that is trackable like email, certified mail, or even text messages.
Know Your Renter Rights:
Harassment by your landlord is illegal. Almost every state has a landlord-tenant law that prohibits the following behavior and makes it illegal for a landlord or manager to:
- Change the locks
- Harass or threaten the tenant
- Shut off Utilities
- Hire moving service to remove all tenant belongings.
If you feel like your renter rights are being violated, you should speak with your local housing authority or a licensed attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state. If you feel like you are in danger, contact the police immediately
How to Respond to an Eviction Notice
According to Nolo, before an eviction trial, the tenant must file an answer with the court. The answer will detail any defenses the tenant wishes to make to challenge the eviction. At the trial, the tenant must prove any defenses made in the answer. The judge will listen to both the tenant and the landlord and then make a final decision regarding the eviction.
If the landlord has retained a lawyer for the trial, the tenant should strongly consider using a lawyer as well.
The Civil Law Help Self-help Center has put together a detailed article that reviews your options for responding to an eviction notice by either filing an affidavit or answering with the court. This includes references to the necessary paperwork a tenant must file with the court in response to an eviction lawsuit.
Need Help Paying Bills has set up a resource system to help renters find agencies to help them with evictions in their state.
Local assistance programs and services
Many states, counties, cities, and towns offer support to struggling households and administer financial help. Resources are listed below.
- Find information on federal, state, and local government assistance programs.
- There are numerous charity organizations that can provide emergency assistance for paying bills, rent, food, and that offer support for other basic needs.
- Community action agencies can help the low-income as well as unemployed.
- Programs can provide help for senior citizens, including food, free medications, and housing. Click here.
- Short-term help may be offered to families living in poverty as part of church assistance programs.
For more information, visit www.needhelppayingbills.com.
Find Help for an Eviction
Most states have local agencies specifically created to help renters handle an eviction in your area. These organizations will be able to point you toward helpful resources and help you figure out which landlord-tenant laws apply to your case.
A good starting point is to Google “[Your State] Eviction Help”. Results will show you tenant resource agencies and attorneys that specialize in evictions in your state. You should also speak with your local housing authority for advice on your rental housing situation.
This article was originally published in February 2018 and has since been updated.