Although the thought of receiving an eviction notice brings dread to most tenants, just because you receive one doesn't mean you need to move out immediately. A landlord must first obtain a court order for your eviction before they can legally evict you. And while serving you notice is the first step in the eviction process, receiving such a notice doesn't necessarily mean you will end up being evicted.
What to Do If You Receive an Eviction Notice
Getting that eviction notice can be a scary moment, but there are a number of steps you can—and should—take that might help your situation.
- Check state and local laws. Before you panic, it's important to do some research. The regulations governing evictions vary considerably from state to state, as well as locally. For example, in cities where rent controls are in effect, such regulations may impact your options.
- Address the reason for the eviction. If you're late with your rent payment, your landlord might send a type of eviction notice known as a notice to pay rent or quit, which should state a set amount of time to pay the outstanding amount, plus interest and any related fees, so that you can stay. The amount of time varies according to state laws but is typically between three and seven days. If, however, you're violating a term of the lease agreement, you may receive an eviction notice that gives you a set amount of time to correct your behavior. For example, if your lease agreement has a no-pets clause, you would need to get rid of your pet within the time stated in order to avoid eviction.
- Check for restrictions on the reasons for eviction. With more severe violations of lease terms, such as a long-term pattern of late payment or committing illegal activities in the rental property, the eviction notice might not give you the option to avoid eviction. Sometimes, the eviction notice may have nothing to do with your actions and yet you still end up on the receiving end of a 30- or 60-day eviction notice, also known as a “no-fault" eviction notice. In such cases, your landlord may have decided to terminate your month-to-month lease or to not renew a fixed lease because of reasons completely unrelated to you. In either of the above two scenarios, you should check your state and local laws, as there may be restrictions on the types of situations in which such notices may be issued. For example, while a landlord has the right to terminate a month-to-month lease, they can't do so for discriminatory reasons.
The Eviction Process
If you fail to correct the behavior underlying the eviction notice before the end of the allotted time period, or if you've received an unconditional type of eviction notice that requires you to move out by a certain time, you may find yourself facing legal eviction if you don't voluntarily vacate by the given date.
The eviction process isn't immediate, however. Your landlord must first go through the courts in order to obtain an eviction order. You are then given notice as to the time and place of the hearing, at which you can present your defense. For example, if your landlord has refused to make necessary repairs to the rental property and is responsible for doing so under the terms of the lease agreement, you may be able to show the court that your landlord is in violation of those lease terms.
Your landlord must also be in strict compliance with laws throughout the eviction process, so review the paperwork you've received to make sure you've been given all the information required by your state's eviction regulations.
If your defense or counterclaim fails or you don't have one, then it's likely the court will grant your landlord's request for an eviction order. If this happens, the eviction is legal and you must move out.