How to Fight an Eviction

Melissa Lyken

February 10, 2021

Don't panic if you've been evicted. You can fight it!

Summary: Did you recently receive an eviction notice? Whether the eviction is warranted or not, you have rights. Find out how to fight an eviction and keep it off your credit report.

Receiving an eviction notice, no matter what the reason, can be a terrifying and exhausting experience. Evictions are not a small matter you want to overlook because they will significantly affect your rental history. Evictions remain on your credit report for up to seven years, and they are a huge red flag to any potential landlord or property manager moving forward.

Whether you believe the eviction is warranted or not, there are steps that you can take to fight an eviction. So before you give up hope and think that there is nothing you can do, continue reading our tips and strategies to fight an eviction.

Review Your Lease and Research Tenant Rights in Your State

Generally, when you receive an eviction notice, a landlord must provide you with the reason for your eviction beforehand. You will usually have a set timeline to rectify the reason for eviction. For example, if you received an eviction notice for non-payment of rent, you will usually have three days from the date of notice to provide payment and stop the eviction process.

Take some time to review the lease that you signed. Review the section on termination of your lease and evictions. Thoroughly read this section to understand if you broke any lease agreements and see how much time the lease says you have to rectify the matter. In many states, a landlord must notify you if you broke any of the terms in the lease, which would warrant an eviction. You may have anywhere between five to ten days to rectify the matter that the landlord brings to your attention.

To fight the eviction, you need to know your rights as a tenant in your state. There are specific laws in each state that governs how and when a landlord can evict a tenant. You can visit this HUD website to find the Landlord and Tenant Act for your state.

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Fight an Eviction Using Tenant Defenses

It may be worth it to fight your eviction if you believe you have received a wrongful eviction notice. Here are a few defenses that you may want to raise if they are relevant to your situation. A court will not accept just any excuse or reason as your defense. Here are a few commonly accepted defenses:

Prove That Your Landlord Breached the Lease by Failing to Maintain the Property

If your landlord is evicting you, but your landlord refused to fix a leaking roof or another required living necessity outside of your control or not your fault, your landlord may have breached the lease agreement. If this is your defense, you will need to have adequate documentation that you contacted your landlord about your living conditions, but they refused or neglected to rectify the situation.

Prove That You're a Victim of Discrimination

It is against the law for your landlord to discriminate against you. So if you have evidence that your landlord is evicting you for any of the following reasons, you can also fight your eviction by bringing attention to this.

For example, if you have a disability that requires that you have an emotional support animal and your landlord seeks to evict you because of this, you may be able to fight your eviction with this defense. Prepare to furnish any documentation to verify your defense. Do you believe your landlord is evicting you based on any of the following?

  • Color
  • Race
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

Prove That Your Landlord Improperly Served You with Notice of Eviction

Check the tenant laws in your state to see if your landlord provided you with proper notice of eviction. Evictions are no light matter, so your landlord should not spring it on you out of the blue. In most states, landlords are required to provide you with notice before filing an eviction. If your landlord improperly served you, you may be able to use this defense to fight the eviction.

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Prove That Your Landlord Has No Justification for Evicting You

Is your landlord evicting you without cause? It may be the case that your landlord refused to accept your rent after they provided you with notice. Even after several attempts to offer them your rent, they still want to seek eviction. If this is the case, you will want to keep documentation of your attempts to pay rent and provide this evidence as your defense of the eviction.

File a Motion to Dismiss Eviction if Your Landlord is Wrongfully Evicting You

If any of these defenses or other applicable defenses specific to your state apply to your case, you may want to file a Motion to dismiss before your hearing. The Motion to Dismiss Eviction allows you to ask the court to dismiss or cease the eviction on the grounds of defenses you raise. In your Motion, you will want to include relevant exhibits, or evidence, of how the landlord is wrongfully evicting you. Contact the Clerk of Court or visit your court's website to see if you can use any court provided forms to file your Motion.

Seek Rental Assistance If You're Evicted for Non-Payment of Rent

Some landlords are willing to work with you as they understand their tenant's financial hardships. If your landlord does not work with you, you may need to seek additional options. One of these options is to seek rental assistance. There may be various government and city programs available to you if you need a little help paying your rent. Do a quick Google search of your city and type in rental assistance programs. You may be surprised to find that many programs are available to help you during this time and keep you from getting evicted.

Receiving an eviction notice can be a startling and exhausting process. If you have the means to do so, you may want to consider reaching out to a tenant's rights attorney to help you fight the eviction process or lookup free legal aid in your area. Whatever you decide to do, it may be in your best interest to fight the eviction to avoid the eviction stamp from following you for the next seven years. We hope these tips help you know your rights and fight back where possible.

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