Evicting someone is a process all landlords hope to avoid. Evictions can be unpleasant and costly but are sometimes unavoidable.
If you find yourself in a situation where a tenant fails to pay rent or respect the lease agreement terms, it is time to ask them to leave.
What is an Eviction?
An eviction is a legal process by which a landlord removes a tenant from a rented property. If the tenant refuses to leave, your best bet is to treat them like any other tenant and serve them a formal eviction notice even if they didn’t sign a lease agreement (most states offer unwanted guests the same privileges as month-to-month tenants).
Unless you’re using a month-to-month lease, you’ll need a valid reason for terminating the lease before the end of the lease period.
Common reasons for evicting a tenant include:
- Unpaid Rent: failure to pay rent within the time frame noted on the lease
- Lease Violation: damaged property (such as waste or mold buildup), constant noise (“nuisance”)
- End a Month-to-Month Lease: landlord wants to end a month-to-month or at-will rental
- Lease Expired: staying after the lease expires, is canceled, or is terminated (holdover)
- Unwanted Roommate: landlord no longer wants to live with a friend or family member
- Illegal Activity: tenant engages in unlawful or criminal activity on the premises (such as drug dealing)
Make sure you have proof of the tenant’s violation in case the eviction goes to court.
Eviction Process – Steps for Legal Eviction
We’ll take you through the steps of a lawful eviction so you can minimize the time and money spent on the process and get your property back on the market as soon as possible.
Step 1: Check state laws
Eviction laws vary by state, so you should know what your state requires. One of the most important things to know is how many days’ notice you need to give a tenant before filing a complaint.
If you don’t give a tenant proper notice, they can hold it against you in court, and the judge may rule in the tenant’s favor.
Step 2: Choose the correct notice of termination
The notice you need to serve your tenant depends on your state, the reason for the eviction, and whether the tenant will have a chance to correct the problem.
Pay rent or quit notice
When rent is overdue, tenants have a given number of days to pay rent in full (canceling the eviction) or vacate the property. This is the most common type of eviction notice.
Cure or quit notice
A cure or quit notice gives tenants a certain number of days to fix a lease violation or move out. This type of notice is also suitable for a material breach, such as illegal activity on the property.
Unconditional quit notice
This type of notice tells the tenant they must move out within a given number of days, either because they’ve repeatedly violated the lease or failed to pay rent on time or because they have a month-to-month lease that can terminate at any time with 30 days’ notice.
No matter what type of notice you need, ensure you’re using the proper eviction notice for your state.
Step 3: Deliver the written notice
Once you’ve found the correct eviction notice, you can deliver it to your tenant and get proof of service.
Do this by delivering it in person or requiring a signature through a certified mail receipt.
Some states require you to notify your tenant in multiple ways, so ensure you follow the correct procedure depending on your location.
After you’ve served a pay rent or quit notice, don’t accept partial payment from the tenant — doing so could prevent you from legally being able to pursue an eviction, and you may have to start the process over.
Step 4: File a complaint with the court
In most cases, a tenant will either resolve the problem or move out after you serve the eviction notice, but if they don’t, this is legally known as an unlawful detainer.
The next step a landlord needs to take is to file a complaint with the court and receive a court date.
You’ll need to bring proof that you gave the tenant proper notice and that they’re now unlawfully staying on the property.
Step 5: Attend the court hearing
If you’ve done everything correctly, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose the eviction case.
Still, sometimes the judge will rule in the tenant’s favor if you’ve followed any parts of the eviction procedure incorrectly or failed to fulfill your duties as a landlord by providing a safe, habitable place to live.
The best thing you can do to prepare is to ensure you have as much supporting documentation as possible for your case — like text conversations with the tenant, photos of the damage, or bounced checks.
Step 6: Reclaim property and collect past-due rent
If you win the case, the judge will issue a subpoena, and the tenant will have a reasonable amount of time to vacate the property.
The landlord cannot remove any tenant’s belongings from the property or change the locks.
The sheriff’s department removes them if the tenant still doesn’t move out in the allotted time.
If your case also included a money judgment, the tenant will be required to pay you back the rent owed plus fees and damages where applicable.
How the Eviction Process Works
This easy-to-follow infographic shows you the exact path to eviction:
Although the eviction process requires patience and attention to detail, the result will always be better if you don’t skip any steps or try to take matters into your own hands.
You can also apply what you’ve learned from the eviction process to your next lease agreement, working in extra protections that will save you time and money.
Eviction Notice FAQs
How much notice should a landlord give a tenant to leave?
It depends on your state and your reason for evicting the tenant. You need to give the tenant the proper number of days’ notice required by your state, depending upon the nature of their violation.
What happens if I receive an eviction notice?
The notice is not a court order to leave, but 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:
- Talk with your landlord and come to a mutual understanding.
- Hire a private attorney.
- Contact government agencies and offices for helpful landlord-tenant services.[/lt_faq_answer]
How can I evict a tenant fast?
The fastest way to evict a tenant is to follow the correct legal procedure from the beginning so you don’t wind up in a lengthy lawsuit. Ensure you have evidence of the tenant’s violation and deliver the notice quickly.
Create your eviction notice using our builder or download a free template.
How much is an eviction notice?
It costs nothing to create your eviction letter, but you may need to pay the certified mail delivery fee to serve the tenant’s notice.
If the eviction goes to court, the average fees will be anywhere from $50 to $200 or more, depending on your state and the case’s specifics.
Do I need a lawyer to evict a tenant?
You don’t need a lawyer to evict a tenant. However, you may consider hiring a lawyer to help you if:
- This is your first eviction
- The tenant is filing for bankruptcy
- The tenant is against the eviction and has a lawyer[/lt_faq_answer]