21 August, 2008


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There are two types of evictions, termination for cause and termination without cause.

If a tenancy is being terminated for cause, the landlord must give the tenant notice, commonly called a notice to quit or notice to vacate. The tenant has a short amount of time (usually 3 to 5 days) to correct the error. Commonly the cause is nonpayment of rent or a breach of the lease (such as keeping a pet when renters are not allowed). In some cases, a landlord may post an unconditional quit notice, meaning the tenant can do nothing to correct the error. These are reserved for extreme cases such as failure to pay rent for multiple months or the apartment being used for criminal activity.

A tenancy can be terminated without cause if there is no lease or the lease is expiring, although further advance notice must be given (generally 1 to 3 months). In some areas, just cause eviction controls exist, making this type of eviction more difficult or illegal. Rent control ordinances or statutes may also affect a landlord's ability to terminate tenancy without cause.

Summons and trial

If the tenant remains in possession of the property after the notice to quit has expired, the landlord then serves the tenant with a complaint. This requires the tenant to appear in court. If the tenant does not file an answer or appear in court, the landlord can then file for a default judgement and wins automatically. In the tenant's answer, they may state their side of the story, and provide affirmative defenses, such as the landlord not making required repairs or the tenant not being given proper notice.

When the answer is filed, a trial date is set. Eviction cases are often expedited since the issue is time-sensitive (the landlord loses rental income while the tenant remains in possession). If the judge sides with the tenant, the tenant remains in possession of the property, although any back rent due must still be paid. If the landlord wins, the tenant has a small window of time to move before the eviction takes place, generally less than a week, although the tenant can ask for a stay of execution if they need more time.

Removal from the property

The landlord obtains a writ of possession from the court and presents it to a law enforcement officer. The officer posts a notice for the tenant that the officer will return to remove the tenant from the property on a certain day. On that day, the officer may physically remove the tenant and any other people on the property if they are still there. Any possessions of the tenant still on the property may be put in storage for the tenant, or considered abandoned, depending on local laws. The property is then turned over to the landlord.

It is illegal for the landlord to attempt to force the tenant off the property themselves, or to force them to move in other ways, such as shutting off utilities or changing the locks. A landlord who does so may be countersued by the tenant.

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