An eviction is the court-ordered removal of a tenant from a rented home or apartment by a landlord. The eviction process typically involves many legal steps with strict requirements for both the landlord and tenant that vary depending on the jurisdiction where the eviction takes place. A landlord needs a valid and specific reason to evict a tenant. Eviction can also be used to remove tenants from commercial rental properties.

A tenant can be evicted from a rental property for a variety of reasons including a breach of the terms of the lease or rental agreement, nonpayment of rent, property damage, and when a tenant refuses to move after a lease has expired. Tenants have many defenses that they can argue to show that they should not be evicted or that eviction is unfair under the circumstances.   

What is an Eviction Notice?

The eviction process typically begins when the landlord gives a tenant a written eviction notice which is sometimes called a notice to quit. This notice acts as a warning to the tenant that the landlord will move forward with obtaining an eviction order from the court if the tenant does not comply with the eviction notice.

The type of eviction notice must be proper for the specific reason for the eviction. Generally, an eviction notice must clearly state the names of the tenants, the location of the rental property, the reason for the eviction, and a deadline by which the tenant has to either move or fix the lease violation.

Generally, there are three different eviction situations when an eviction notice is issued:

  • A nonpayment of rent notice is a warning to a tenant to either pay the overdue rent amount or leave the property by a certain date. If a tenant is able to make their past-due payments, they will be allowed to remain in the rental property;  
  • A lease violation notice warns a tenant that they have breached the terms of the lease in a different way other than by not making timely rent payments. A lease violation can occur if a tenant has an animal in a pet-free property, has been smoking inside an apartment, is using the apartment for non-residential uses, or has caused damage to the apartment or noise violations; and/or
  • The landlord can order that the tenants move if a lease has terminated expired, or the landlord’s decision to remodel a unit or rent the unit to another tenant upon the end of the current lease.

Can a Landlord Throw the Tenant and Their Belongings Out of the Rental Property?

No. Only the police can forcibly remove a tenant and their belongings from a rental property. This typically happens when the court has ordered an eviction, but the tenant refuses to leave the property. The landlord can request that the local police order that you leave by providing you with a notice to vacate.

At this point, your landlord may have the right to change the locks on your doors so that you will not be able to return. If you have been evicted and are unable to return to your apartment, then you may have left personal belongings behind. In these situations, your former landlord does not have the right to destroy or sell your property, as long as you have not abandoned it.    

What Happens If I Don’t Follow the Eviction Notice?

If you have received an eviction notice from your landlord, and you have failed to follow the instructs on the notice to quit, your landlord may go to court and request that the court order you to be evicted.

A court hearing will be scheduled to determine if the eviction is fair and necessary. You will be able to attend the court hearing to explain why you feel you should not be evicted from your rental property.

What Defenses Does a Tenant Have Against Eviction?

Tenants have multiple defenses to argue against a landlord’s eviction attempt. These common defenses include:

  • The landlord violated the implied warranty of habitability by allowing a rental unit to become infested with mold or rodents or to fall into a state of disrepair;
  • The landlord is engaging in housing discriminating against the tenants, and trying to evict them based on race, gender, religion, color, national origin, family status, or other protected categories; and
  • The landlord is evicting the tenants out of retaliation for requesting repairs or maintenance, or for calling health code or building code inspectors.

Should I Consult a Lawyer If I Am Facing an Eviction?

You may be able to defend yourself against eviction on your own, but landlord-tenant law is a complicated area to fully understand. Being forced to move from your home can be a frustrating and emotional situation.

If you’ve been threatened with an eviction, you should consider contacting a real estate attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you defend against an unfair eviction and protect your rights to your rental property.