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Rules for Landlords and Property Managers When Evicting a Tenant

Eviction Notice - Rules for Landlords and Property Managers When Evicting a Tenant

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

An eviction, simply put is an official legal proceeding that a property owner must follow in order to have the tenant move out. There are various rules when it comes to evicting a tenant. These rules vary from state to state, and even from city to city within a state. There are some general issues, however, that property owners and property managers should be aware of when evicting a tenant. This article covers:

These are important issues for landlords and property managers as they affect the eviction process. And, while it's best to research your specific state laws, having a general understanding of the rules for evicting a tenant can help you better understand the laws in your state.

Eviction Notice for Cause

An eviction notice for cause may come in a variety of forms, but they all arise from a tenant doing something wrong or against the terms of the lease. In general, there are three types of eviction notice for cause: Pay rent or quit notices, cure or quit notices, and unconditional quit notices.

Pay Rent or Quit Notices

Pay rent or quit notices generally are sent for nonpayment of rent by the tenant. These written notices normally give a tenant a short period of time, set by state law, in which to pay rent or else be subjected to a lawsuit for eviction.

Cure or Quit Notices 

Cure or quit notices are generally mailed out when a renter does something wrong or violates a term of the lease agreement. 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.

Unconditional Quit Notices 

Lastly, unconditional quit notices are hard on the tenant. These eviction notices can generally only be used when:

  • The tenant shows a pattern of paying late rent or not paying rent
  • The tenant seriously damaged the rental property
  • The tenant 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 state laws. In states where the laws favor landlords, unconditional quit notices can sometimes be sent in situations where a pay rent or quit notice would be sent in another state.

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-days notice to tenants 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 Available to a Tenant

Tenants often become very firm in defending their right against tenant evictions by the property owner. Tenants have a multitude of defenses available to them, any one of which may ruin 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.

Removing the Tenant

If you have a court order that allows you to evict a tenant, you have won what is legally called an unlawful detainer suit against your tenant. In such cases, 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 suit, 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 moves and leaves your rental property.

Sometimes, tenants leave behind various personal property inside 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?

The eviction proceedings landlords must follow while evicting a tenant are so strict because of the nature of this type of case. First, unlawful detainer suits are much faster than almost any other type of civil litigation (lawsuit), often resolving 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. A landlord may be losing money each month because of a tenant, but if a tenant loses the case, he or she won't have a home anymore. Due to the sensitive nature of these cases, lawmakers have made landlords work extra hard in order to properly evict a tenant.

Have Questions About Evicting a Tenant? Talk to an Attorney

Evictions may result in a series of costly exchanges. Knowing your rights can help ensure that the process goes smoothly. Contact a skilled landlord-tenant attorney near you to make sure you're following the eviction rules imposed on landlords and property managers. 

Next Steps

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