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How Eviction Works for Renters

Chloe Meltzer | October 19, 2022

Summary: Nobody wants to deal with an eviction notice. Here is SoloSuit's guide on eviction, reasons for it, and the eviction legal process.

Going through an eviction is never something a renter wants to deal with. However, eviction may be more common than you might think. Around three million renters were evicted between 2016 and 2018. After the pandemic, we can expect this to be true for even more people. However, some evictions can be avoided, so it is important to educate yourself on this process if you fear it may happen to you soon.

What is an eviction?

Eviction is often associated with a tenant being physically removed from their rental property. In reality, eviction is a legal process. A landlord can legally evict a tenant for one of three main reasons, which we will discuss later. Most landlords want to avoid evictions because it is a costly and lengthy process. In fact, there are specific processes that must take place that will eventually lead to an eviction. The process begins with an eviction notice, either in the form of a Pay or Quit Notice. The end result can be an Unlawful Detainer, which is carried out by local law enforcement.

Let's explore these ideas a little more.

There are three main reasons for eviction

Like we mentioned before, landlords are legally allowed to evict their tenant for one of these three reasons:

  1. Failure to pay rent: If the tenant has failed to pay their rent, the landlord has the legal right to evict.
  2. Non-trivial violations of the lease: If the tenant has violated the lease in any serious way, the landlord may choose to evict, For example, if a tenant buys a dog and their signed-lease specifically states that no pets are allowed in the apartment, the landlord can evict unless the dog is a trained service animal.
  3. Expiration of the lease: Once a lease has expired, the landlord can evict the tenant for any reason if they continue to stay after the lease is over. For example, a landlord may choose to rent out their townhome on a short-term, or month-to-month, lease because they have plans to sell the house in the near future. Once the lease has expired, the landlord can evict the tenant to continue with their plans of selling.

Landlords want to avoid eviction

Because eviction can cost a landlord thousands of dollars, and span multiple weeks, it is not something a landlord wants to do. Additionally, an eviction is similar to a vacancy. After an eviction, a landlord will be required to find new tenants, screen them, and hope that they can afford the rent.

If a landlord can help it, they will avoid an eviction at all costs. This is why a discussion is usually the first step. Landlords typically approach the tenants and find a solution to avoid going to court.

The cost of an eviction

When you are being evicted from a rented apartment, it is good to note that there are many costs that the landlord must pay. This makes it less desirable for a landlord to pursue an eviction. Costs of eviction include:

  • Attorneys fees
  • Court costs
  • Lost rent
  • Turnover costs
  • Property damages

Generally, all these eviction costs equal to about $3,500. Even when a landlord wins a financial judgment against the tenant, it may not be possible to force you to pay your rent. It may end up simply as debt on your account. However, this can hurt your credit history.

Length of an eviction

Evictions are not only expensive for a landlord, but they are also time-consuming. In some cases, it can take anywhere from five weeks to three month for an eviction to be fully carried out. This is another thing that you have in your favor as a renter. In many cases, evictions can take even longer than average, lasting up to a year, which may give you time to partially pay your rent and stop the eviction.

Steps in the legal eviction process

In order for a landlord to carry out an eviction, they must first take several legal steps. These steps may vary, depending on which state you live in, but generally they include:

  • Receive a Pay or Quit notice.
  • Receive a Cure or Quit notice.
  • Receive an Unconditional Quit notice.
  • File an eviction lawsuit.

Receive a Pay or Quit notice

Pay or Quit notices are a formal warning that they are violating their lease by failing to pay rent. The notice will provide insights into what violations have been completed, as well as instructions for how to comply with the lease. It will also include how many days are available until the tenant must leave or before a lawsuit is filed.

Receive a Cure or Quit notice

Cure or Quit notices are a formal warning to tenants who are violating the lease in any other way besides failure to pay rent. With this type of notice, tenants are given a certain number of days to "cure" their misconduct before an eviction lawsuit is filed.

Receive an Unconditional Quit notice

An Unconditional Quit notice requires that tenant vacate the property without having any chance to pay the missed rent or correct their bad behavior. This type of notice is usually only served to tenants with extreme misbehavior like chronically late or missed rental payments or some sort of criminal activity.

File an eviction lawsuit

After one of the notices mentioned above is served, the tenant has a specific number of days to either comply with the notice or vacate. If they do not comply, then the eviction lawsuit may be filed. However, this does not mean that the tenant will be immediately physically removed, it only means that a lawsuit claiming forcible entry or unlawful detainer will be filed.

The forms filed to start a forcible detainer include:

  • Eviction complaint: This document starts the eviction case.
  • Summons: This document informs the tenant about the eviction case.

What happens when you are served with an eviction notice

As a tenant, if you are served with an eviction Summons, you need to follow the instructions listed on the document properly. After the eviction is filed through the court, a judge will review the documentation. They will also issue a decision. If you have to attend a hearing for the eviction, bring a copy of your lease, record of payments, or the reason why you did not pay. If you violated the lease in another way, be sure to have proper proof for your reason.

What happens after a judgment

The final step in the eviction process is removing a tenant from the property. This involves removing belongings as well. After eviction has been awarded to the landlord, it is still not legal for the landlord to harass or intimidate the tenant to leave. Although it varies based on the city and state, if the tenant refuses to leave the property voluntarily, usually the tenant cannot be forcibly removed. Some states allow for personal belongings to be removed by the landlord, while others require them to be removed by the court process.

Circumstances that affect evictions

There are certain circumstances that may affect or lengthen the eviction process. For example, these might include accepting partial or full rent payments. This can often negate the eviction process. Therefore if you are being evicted, providing some form of rent payment may stop the process. Another option is to declare bankruptcy. At this point, the eviction process will be put on hold until bankruptcy proceedings are finalized.

If you're struggling with debt, SoloSuit can help

You may have fallen behind on your rental payments because you are struggling with credit card or other types of debt. If you are being bothered by debt collectors constantly, or if you are being sued for a debt you owe, SoloSuit can help you take a stand and fight back.

When a debt collector first contacts you about a debt you supposedly owe, try to respond by sending a Debt Validation Letter. This letter is a formal request to the collector to show proof you owe the debt, stop contacting you for any other reason, and report the debt as disputed. Many debt collectors cease collection efforts after receiving a letter like this.

On the other hand, if you've been sued for a debt you owe, the first step to winning in court is to respond to the debt lawsuit with a written Answer. Check out this video to learn more about how to draft an Answer to a debt collection lawsuit:

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You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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