An Eviction Notice is a letter a landlord sends to tenants to inform them that they must fix a particular problem or vacate the property within a certain number of days.
Landlords generally send eviction notices if tenants fail to pay rent, but they also use them if tenants violate the terms of the lease agreement.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
What is an Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice ( or an eviction letter ) is a legal document used by a landlord to evict a tenant for not complying with the original terms of the lease or rental agreement.
In some cases, the landlord may believe the problem is not fixable and send what’s known as an incurable eviction notice. In the case of an incurable eviction notice, the tenant has no choice but to vacate the property within a certain number of days.
Even if the landlord serves an eviction notice, the tenant has the right to stay on the premises until a judge hears from the landlord and tenant.
What is the Difference Between a “Tenant at Will” and a “Tenant at Sufferance”?
Most states give a “Tenant at Will” more protection than a “Tenant at Sufferance.”
A tenant at will usually stays on the premises with the landlord’s permission, so states often give such tenants more advanced notice (i.e., 30-day notice).
In contrast, a tenant at sufferance (i.e., a holdover tenant) stays on the premises without the landlord’s permission and gets less time for when a landlord can begin an eviction (i.e., usually no advanced notice is required).
Here’s an easy to understand chart describing the differences:
Tenant at Will vs. Tenant at Sufferance
|Tenant at Will||Tenant at Sufferance|
|Landlord permission given||Landlord does NOT give permission|
|Month-to-month lease (written or verbal)||Landlord ends month-to-month lease|
|Invalid lease (i.e. no rent amount)||Landlord sends a Notice to Quit|
|Written lease ended or expired BUT |
1. Landlord accepts your rent
2. No new lease has been signed
|Written lease ended or expired and
1. Landlord wants Tenant out
2. Landlord does not accept rent or
accept rent under protest (AKA "Holdover Tenant")
|No expiration date or last day of rent|
Types of eviction notices
As a reference, there are three kinds of notices:
1. Pay Rent or Quit Notices (“Failure to Pay Rent”)
The tenant has 3 to 5 days (check your local housing laws) to pay rent or leave.
Most state eviction laws agree that tenants should pay their rent on time. More than a third of the states require landlords to give a minimum 3-day eviction notice when rent is late or overdue, while almost a quarter of the states require a minimum of 5-days, and only six states require 7-days.
2. Cure or Quit Notices (“Lease Violation”)
Tenants have a certain amount of time to correct or “cure” a problem like violating a no-smoking or no-pet policy. Otherwise, they must leave or “quit” the premises.
States vary widely on the minimum number of days a landlord should give tenants to cure the default (i.e., no longer violate the lease provision).
If a tenant has broken one of their promises in the lease agreement, nine states require that landlords give tenants a minimum 3-day eviction notice.
Interestingly, eight states do not require a minimum notice since the lease already spells out the obligations, and the tenant is perhaps assumed to have broken the lease knowingly.
3. Unconditional Quit Notices (End “Month-to-Month”)
The tenant cannot pay rent or correct the problem because, on multiple occasions, they have:
- failed to pay rent on time
- violated the lease agreement
- seriously damaged (or is currently damaging) the premises
- committed a crime on the premises (like selling drugs or running a prostitution business)
Most states (more than ⅔) require only a 30-day eviction notice to end a month-to-month or holdover tenancy, but some states like Delaware and Georgia provide a more tenant-friendly 60-day notice.
Landlords also use unconditional quit notices to end an unwanted landlord-tenant relationship with someone who has overstayed their lease (i.e., a Tenant at Sufferance).
What is the Eviction Process?
Generally, the rules and regulations governing the process provide different landlord and tenant due process protections. Neither the tenant nor the landlord can be deprived of “property” in the form of either housing (for the tenant) or rent money (for the landlord) following appropriate legal procedures and safeguards.
The process is akin to an expedited lawsuit by the landlord (i.e., plaintiff) against the tenant (i.e., defendant). The process makes sure that both the tenant and the landlord receive fair treatment. Only the judge has the final say in whether the tenant must leave.
Other ways to refer to the eviction process include:
- Eviction lawsuit
- Forcible detainer
- Summary process
- Summary possession
- Unlawful detainer action (UDA or UD)
Usually, the eviction process is a “summary” court procedure. This means that the court will move forward with the case quickly, and the tenant has a short time to respond to the lawsuit.
Instead of waiting months for a judge to hear the case, the landlord and tenant can appear before the local court relatively soon after the landlord files a complaint.
When Do You Need an Eviction Notice?
Landlords use an eviction notice to inform tenants of the beginning of the eviction process, but landlords may not need to begin eviction if the landlord and tenant can resolve the problem by themselves.
It is desirable in most cases to avoid serving an eviction notice to save both parties time, energy, and expense.
The following are some possible reasons for eviction:
- The tenant has failed to pay rent. If the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord can use the eviction notice to notify the tenant to pay the rent that is due. If the tenant does not pay rent by a specific date, the tenant must leave the premises.
- The tenant has violated the lease agreement. If the tenant has violated the lease agreement, the landlord can use the eviction notice to notify the tenant to leave the premises by a specific date. In some cases, the tenant can remedy or correct the violation by a specific time to avoid eviction.
- I wish to terminate a month-to-month tenancy. If the current agreement is a month-to-month rental arrangement, the landlord can use the eviction notice to notify the tenant that their month-to-month tenancy will end by a specific date.
- The lease has ended and the tenant has remained on the property (holdover). If the tenant has stayed on the property past their lease end date, the landlord can use this eviction notice to notify the tenant that they must leave the premises.
If the tenant is late paying rent, there are several procedures a landlord can follow.
Sometimes a sincere apology, candid communication, and an honest willingness to cooperate can save both the landlord and tenant time and money in the long term.
If landlords and tenants cannot resolve a disagreement, and landlords want to end the lease agreement and properly ask tenants to leave by a specific date, they should send an eviction notice.
Some states require landlords to store abandoned belongings for a specific time.
In contrast, others allow landlords to sell these items, but only after contacting the tenant, posting a notice in the newspaper, or following other strict procedures.
How to file an Eviction
If a landlord doesn’t strictly follow the proper procedures, the tenant can challenge the eviction on a technicality and force the landlord to re-start the whole process.
For example, if the landlord was required to give a 10-day notice but only gives a 3-day notice, the tenant may be able to claim that you violated their right to due process.
A landlord should consult their local housing laws and carefully follow the strict steps needed to evict a tenant properly.
It’s my house! Can’t I kick out a bad tenant?
Even if a tenant may be actively damaging the premises, a landlord may NOT resort to self-help measures. Instead, the court will require the tenant to move out sooner if the landlord is right. In most states, self-help measures are ILLEGAL.
A landlord may NOT:
- Change the locks
- Put padlocks on the door
- Remove outside doors or windows
- Shut off the lights, gas, or water
- Move out the tenant’s furniture
- Intimidate or harass the tenant to move out
- Physically remove the tenant (i.e., Uncle Vinny can NOT help you)
The landlord MUST use the court-administered eviction process to remove the tenant from the premises.
Ultimately, only the courts have the power and authority to decide whether an eviction can legally occur.
For Tenants: What happens if I receive an eviction notice?
While the notice is NOT a court order to leave, do NOT ignore it.
An eviction notice allows the landlord to START the eviction process in court if the tenant cannot resolve the problem and comply with the lease agreement.
The landlord MUST receive a court order or judgment from the court to make you leave.
If you receive an eviction notice, try the following immediately:
1. Talk with your landlord and come to a mutual understanding
Perhaps there was a misunderstanding about the terms of the lease? Did the tenant experience a death in the family, suffer a work injury, or lose their job? Maybe the landlord is willing to work out a payment plan for missed rent payments? Would the tenant be willing to pay for the cost of repair to fix the damage caused to the premises?
Having a simple conversation may be the cheapest way to resolve the problem.
If the lease is ambiguous or does not cover the situation at hand, you might also consider local mediation or arbitration resources available in your town or city. Alternative dispute resolution services can sometimes be a faster and cheaper alternative to the traditional court process.
2. Hire a private attorney
If you have the means and the stakes are high, it may pay off, in the long run, to hire an attorney to guide you through the detailed eviction process.
Even if you do not have the means to pay, some attorneys may accept clients on a contingency basis, so you only pay if the attorney is successful. For example, attorneys might agree beforehand that they will subtract court costs like filing fees and a fixed percentage (usually one-third) from the award amount won if you win.
Other attorneys who are very familiar with the local housing process may only charge a flat fee.
As a client, be sure to ask detailed questions about the fee structure and expected costs.
3. Contact government agencies and offices
With a bit of research, you may also discover that your local or state government offers helpful landlord-tenant services. An increase in homelessness would further burden municipal services, so some local governments invest resources in housing assistance to prevent such problems. For example, try finding the following:
- Human Rights and Human Services Department
- Consumer Protection Agency
- Housing Agency
- District Attorney’s Office
- City or County Rent Control Board
- Health and Human Services Department
- Housing Authority
4. Find a helpful nonprofit
Because housing affects everyone, many 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations specialize in offering assistance to landlord-tenant disputes. You may qualify for subsidized or free legal services, depending on your economic situation. Here are a few possible sources of additional help:
- Legal Aid Organization
- Housing Clinic
- Local Law School Public Interest Clinic
- Tenant Organization
- Tenant-Landlord Programs
5. Represent yourself in court
Another option is to appear before the judge without legal counsel, also known as appearing pro se or “for yourself.”
In some states like Massachusetts, the housing court may offer something akin to a Lawyer for a Day program, which provides limited legal advice on a pro bono (free) basis to tenants and landlords on a first-come, first-served basis.
Before going to court, be sure to collect any documents, photos, and information that may help explain or support your side of the story. Remember to prepare beforehand and practice giving a short and clear explanation of what happened. The judge often has a large caseload and is under a lot of pressure to get through many cases quickly.
The more organized your story and documents are, the more grateful the judge will be for helping them understand and resolve your problem faster.
Here are some other tips:
- Prepare your explanation beforehand
- Address the judge as “Your Honor”
- Speak loudly and clearly
- Dress modestly and appear professional (i.e., wear your Sunday best)
- Be courteous to the other party (i.e., no yelling or name-calling)
Tenant Resources: What if this eviction notice is not fair?
Perhaps the tenant withheld rent and didn’t pay because the landlord didn’t fix the air conditioner? Maybe the landlord is unlawfully retaliating against the tenant for reporting a housing code violation (i.e., retaliatory eviction)? Perhaps the landlord started treating the tenant differently once they met their same-sex partner or started dating a person of a different race or nationality?
As a tenant, you may have good reasons for not being evicted.
Explore possible affirmative defenses if you think your landlord is unlawfully evicting you.
What happens if a landlord evicts a tenant?
In addition to not having a place to live, a tenant’s credit may also suffer. A judgment against the tenant will show up on the tenant’s credit report for seven years.
Additionally, past evictions show up on background checks. Having been evicted, you may find it is harder to find housing in the future since a rental application usually requires a background check.
Landlords: 6 Ways to Avoid Eviction Costs & Headaches
If you don’t enjoy unexpected and unnecessary costs, you can take the following steps to avoid these problems and save yourself a big headache.
Each of these steps requires using specific forms to notify the tenant (all of which you should save copies of):
- work status
- credit check
- background check
- current financial ability to pay
- references from past landlords and property managers
2. Use a Late Rent Notice to document each time rent is past due (again).
3. Use a Notice of Lease Violation to require the tenant to “cure” a problem.
4. Use a Notice of Termination to warn that the landlord will not renew the lease.
5. Use a Notice of Rent Increase to warn that rent is being raised.
6. Use a Landlord’s Notice to Enter to notify tenants (usually 24 hours in advance) to:
- Inspect the premises for maintenance like painting and heating
- Check whether the lease or rental agreement is being complied with
- NOTE: Not required if there is an emergency like a fire or burst pipe
What Should a Landlord Include in an Eviction Notice?
When thinking about how to write an eviction notice, remember that the document should answer: Who, Why, Where, What and When
Who the eviction notice applies to
- The tenant’s name and address
- The landlord’s name and address
Why there is reason for an eviction
- Failure to Pay Rent
- Lease Violation
- Month to Month Tenancy Ended
- Lease Expired (i.e., Holdover Tenant)
Where the eviction occurs
- The “Address” or the “Premises:”
This is the address and location of the rental property (or “Premises”) the landlord is evicting the tenant from. Be sure to include any room or apartment number as part of the street address if it applies to your type of housing.
What should be done to fix the problem
- The name and date of the original lease agreement
- A reference to the lease about how the tenant can fulfill their promise
When the tenant must remedy the situation
- The notice is in effect (the “Notice Date”)
- The tenant must pay rent or leave the premises by a specific date (“Deadline”)
Sample Eviction Notice
The following downloadable eviction notice is a sample of what to use when your tenant fails to pay rent (also known as a notice to pay rent or quit).
Eviction Notice Example
The following eviction notice example is a record of a notification given by the landlord, ‘Sarah R Cooper’, to the tenant, ‘Margaret A Burgess.’ Sarah R Cooper wishes to let Margaret A Burgess know that the lease is terminated and Margaret needs to leave the premises.
If you wish to send your tenant an eviction notice for a different reason, or if you want to save time, use our document builder to create your eviction notice online.
Our state-specific eviction notice builders let you easily create a customized eviction notice (with step-by-step instructions) that you can send to your tenant.
How to Write an Eviction Notice
Before you fill out your notice of termination, enter the state where you will start the eviction process.
Step 1 – Fill Out Tenant Information and Property Address
1. Tenant Name. Provide the name of all tenants that entered into the original lease agreement.
2. Property Details. Enter the full and complete street address for the rental property including the unit/apartment/room number, if applicable. This is the physical location from which you are evicting the tenant.
Step 2 – Enter Lease Agreement and Late Rent Details
3. Name of Original Agreement. Write the name/title of the original agreement between the tenant and landlord, such as Lease Agreement, Rental Agreement, or Residential Lease Agreement.
4. Date of Original Agreement. Fill out the date of the original lease agreement (the date the landlord and tenant entered into the contract).
5. Past Due Rent Dates. Provide the start and end dates for the period of time in which the rent is past due.
6. Past Due Rent Amount. Write the amount of money for past due rent that the tenant owes the landlord.
7. Total Late Fees. Enter the amount of late fees (due to past due rent) the tenant owes the landlord. The original lease agreement should address the calculation of late fees. Keep in mind that state laws regulate late fees and may place limits on the amount a landlord can charge a tenant for late rent, for example, late fees cannot exceed 5% of the rent due in some states.
Step 3 – Tell the Tenant How to Pay the Late Rent
8. Date to Pay Past Due Rent. Explain the number of days the tenant has to pay the amount past due or face eviction. The number of days the tenant has to pay depends on the state your property is located in (for example, 3 days’ notice or 5 days’ notice.) If the tenant does not pay within that time frame, then you can terminate the tenancy and the tenant must leave the property.
9. How to Pay Past Due Rent. Select one of the methods that is acceptable to receive the past due rent payment.
Step 4 – Reference State Statues and Sign Notice
10. Notice Provided in Accordance with State Statute. Our builder will populate the applicable state law/regulation name and section number depending on the state your property is located in.
11. Landlord Name and Date of Signature. Sign and date this notice.
12. Landlord Contact Information. Provide the most current information so the tenant can easily contact the landlord if necessary.
Step 5 – Provide Proof of Service Information
Proof of service is an affidavit, signed under oath, that acts as proof that the Eviction Notice/Notice of Termination was served to the Tenant.
13. Date of Delivery. Enter the date of delivery. This is important because it provides evidence of the date the notice is delivered to the tenant, which starts the number of days the tenant has to pay the past due rent.
14. Method of Delivery. Choose a method of delivery. Personal hand delivery to the tenant is one of the best and most direct methods. Delivery to someone other than the tenant is acceptable if the server is confident the recipient will reliably give the notice to the tenant. The server should complete the fields for the person receiving the notice and the address of the location where the notice was delivered.
Step 6 – Sign the Notice
15. Person Delivering Notice. The server, the person delivering the eviction notice/notice of termination, signs and dates the proof of service and prints the full name.
Eviction Notice FAQs
It usually takes 1 to 3 months to evict someone. The length of the eviction process depends on state laws — some states only require landlords to send a 3-day notice to quit, but others require 30 or more days’ notice.
Your lease or rental agreement should have the title or name of the document at the top. Common names are: Lease Agreement, Rental Agreement, or Residential Lease Agreement.