How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
An eviction is a process whereby a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property. It may be as simple as a notice to the tenant with an explanation of the eviction and the final date by which he or she must move out, or it may escalate to a legal dispute. Thus, the length of time the eviction process will take is determined largely by your particular situation. Tenants generally are allowed more time if the eviction is without cause, as opposed to evictions with cause.
For related articles and resources, see our Eviction subsection (part of our Landlord Tenant Law section).
Eviction Notices Without Cause
If a landlord decides to evict a month-to-month tenant without cause -- perhaps to make renovations -- he or she must give notice, typically 30 days. But some cities with rent control, including San Francisco and New York City, do not allow evictions unless the landlord is able to prove a legitimate reason to do so.
Landlords generally may not break a fixed-term lease without cause, since doing so would constitute a breach of contract.
Eviction Notices With Cause
Regardless of what type of lease they have (fixed-term or month-to-month), tenants generally have fewer protections if they are being evicted with cause. Notices for eviction with cause fall into the following categories:
- Pay Rent or Quit: Tenants who have not paid rent have just a few days (typically three to five days) to pay their current rent balance or move out.
- Cure or Quit: This type of notice is similar to the pay rent or quit notice, in that the tenant has a specific amount of time in which to "cure" a misbehavior (such as keeping an unapproved pet or violating noise rules); the amount of time allowed usually is negotiated with the landlord, but can be as few as three days.
- Unconditional Quit: This type of notice has no conditions that, if met, would allow the tenant to stay; most states allow unconditional quit notices only for extreme cases, such as tenants who are chronically late with rent or involved in criminal activity.
After the notice period expires, the landlord may file a lawsuit alleging forcible entry and unlawful detainer. The case will be tried as a summary proceeding in a matter of weeks after the landlord files the lawsuit. If the tenant does not show up to defend the charges, the judge will make a default judgment of guilt.
In some states, the judge can order eviction immediately at the end of the trial. But the court customarily gives the tenant time to move out, usually one to four weeks. If the tenant remains after that period, the landlord has to hire the sheriff or marshal to carry out a forcible eviction. That will take several weeks more. Further delays are possible if the tenant files a motion for more time or objects to the court determination. Eviction may take longer if the tenant is being evicted during the winter months.
Thus, the eviction process from the end of the notice period can take from five weeks to three months, assuming there are no delays. Consider speaking with a landlord-tenant lawyer in your area if you have additional questions or need legal assistance.