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Rules for Landlords and Property Managers when Evicting a Tenant

For a landlord to properly and legally evict a tenant from a rental property, the landlord must follow many procedures to the letter of the law. First, a landlord must provide an eviction notice to the tenant and provide the necessary details in the notice as specified by state or local laws. Depending upon the type of eviction notice, the tenant may be given an opportunity to fix whatever wrong there was and remain in the rental property. However, if the tenant does not cure the defect, the landlord may be able to bring a lawsuit, called an unlawful detainer lawsuit, to formally evict the tenant.

As mentioned, there are different types of eviction notices, and each eviction letter must comport with the laws that apply to the situation. These laws change from state to state, and even city to city within a state. If you are in the process of evicting a tenant, be sure to follow these laws carefully.

Eviction Notice for Cause

An eviction notice for cause may come in a variety of forms, but they all stem from a tenant doing something wrong or against the terms of the lease. In general, there are three types of eviction notice for cause.

First, pay rent or quit notices generally are sent when a tenant is delinquent in paying rent. These notices normally give a tenant a short period of time in which to pay rent or else be subjected to a lawsuit for eviction. Depending upon the laws of the state, this time period is usually between three and five days.

Second, cure or quit notices are generally mailed out when a tenant does something wrong or violates a term of the lease agreement. These are often mailed out if a tenant brings in a pet that is specifically not allowed under the terms of the rental contract, or fails to maintain the property in a state acceptable under the contract. Like a pay rent or quit notice, these notices generally provide a tenant a short amount of time in which to cure the defect or else face eviction.

Lastly, unconditional quit notices are very hard on the tenant. These notices are an order from the landlord to the tenant to leave the property immediately with no chance to pay late rent or remove pets. These eviction notices can generally only be used when a tenant has a pattern of paying late rent, refusal to pay rent, seriously damaged the rental property, or engaged in dangerous or illegal activity on the property.

Which notice is the proper eviction notice for a landlord to send to a tenant when evicting a tenant depends upon the laws of the states. Some states are quite tenant-friendly while others are very landlord-friendly. In states where the laws favor landlords, sometimes unconditional quit notices could be sent in situations where a pay rent or quit notice would be sent in another state.

As stated above, if a tenant refuses to leave even after receiving an eviction notice, a landlord must go through the process of filing an unlawful detainer suit against the tenant.

Eviction Notice without Cause

Unlike an eviction notice for cause, an eviction notice without cause means that the landlord does not have to have any reason to want a tenant out. Because of this, many states require landlords to give either 30 or 60 day notice to the tenant before being allowed to begin an eviction suit. However, some states that have rent controlled apartments require landlords to give a legally justifiable reason for wanting to end the lease agreement and do not permit landlords to end leases without some cause.

Defenses that are Available to a Tenant

Tenants facing evictions often become very tenacious in defending their right to stay in the property. Tenants have a multitude of defenses available to them, any one of which may derail your entire cause to evict the tenant. First, tenants often argue that the eviction notice was improper because it either did not contain the necessary information required by law, was served (delivered) improperly, or both. Also, tenants often attempt to show a landlord's wrongdoings in order to take the focus away from themselves and gain sympathy from a judge. This is why it is important to be a good landlord and never give a tenant an opportunity to argue to stay in one of your rental properties.

Removing the Tenant

If you have won your unlawful detainer suit against your tenant, you may think it will be as easy as going to the property and picking up everything the tenant owns and putting it on the sidewalk -- but it isn't. If the tenant still refuses to leave voluntarily after losing an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you must take the court order to the local sheriff and pay a fee for the sheriff to carry out the court order. The sheriff will then ensure that the tenant leaves the premises.

Sometimes tenants leave behind various personal items of property inside of a rental unit after being evicted. Some states do not allow landlords to do anything with this property but attempt to contact the prior tenant to get it back to them. Other states allow landlords free reign over this abandoned personal property. You should learn the laws of your state before attempting to handle left-behind personal property.

Why are the Rules so Strict?

To put it simply, the rules that landlords must follow while evicting a tenant are so strict because of the nature of the case. First, unlawful detainer suits are much faster than almost any other type of civil litigation, often resolving a matter in a month or two, or even faster. The compromise for this speed is that the landlord must be absolutely sure that every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed.

Lastly, in most situations, an unlawful detainer suit is worth more to a tenant than it is to a landlord. On the one hand, a landlord may be losing money each month because of a tenant, but on the other hand, if a tenant loses the case, he or she won't have a home anymore. Because of the sensitive nature of these cases, lawmakers have made landlords work extra hard in order to properly evict a tenant.

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