There are many reasons why a landlord might want to evict a tenant from the property. The most common, of course, is for non-payment of rent. Beyond that, the tenant, their children, or their pets might be significantly damaging the property beyond a reasonable "wear and tear" level. Speaking of pets, the tenant might be violating the lease, often by sneaking pets into a pet-free unit. And of course, there's always the possibility that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes, such as trafficking in drugs or prostitution.
Whatever your reason, eviction isn't as simple as throwing the tenants and their property onto the street. There are many rules which must be followed before a tenant can be legally evicted. Otherwise, you might open yourself up to a lawsuit, or even criminal trespassing charges.
Step 1: Give Written Notice
The exact name varies state-to-state, but generally, a tenant must be provided a termination of tenancy notice. The requirements of how this must be served upon a tenant also vary by state. In some states, the tenant must be served in person. In others, you may attach it to the door of the tenant's property.
Step 2: Commence the Lawsuit
If the written notice alone did not succeed in completing the eviction, the next step is to follow through with the warning and file a complaint in your local court. This usually requires serving the tenant with a summons and copy of the complaint, as well as paying a filing fee.
Step 3: Win in Court
While some states may allow the tenant to choose a jury trial, nearly all of these proceedings are handled in front of a judge only. The judge will hear evidence regarding your reason for eviction and any defenses to eviction presented by the tenant. If you win, the tenant is ordered to vacate the premises. If they refuse, landlords can have authorities remove the tenant after the requisite time for them to vacate has passed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
While some states have made an effort to provide standardized forms and expedited eviction proceedings to ensure that unwanted tenants are not squatting in apartments, the process varies greatly by state. It is very important that a landlord complete every step according to law. A single mistake can delay the eviction proceedings and even require the landlord to start the process anew, meaning more lost rent. While, strictly speaking, a lawyer is not required to evict a tenant, the possible consequences of a mistake made by a layperson landlord may outweigh the cost of counsel.
Evicting a Tenant: Additional Resources
If you would like to do additional research, click on the links below:
Unsure About the Eviction Process? Get a Free Legal Evaluation
If you're relatively new to being a landlord, haven't had to evict anyone before, or have a particularly complex case, you may want to err on the side of caution and meet with an attorney first. Get started today by having a local real estate attorney evaluate your case for free.