Every state has a version of the Landlord and Tenant Act. This act basically lays the groundwork for the relationship between you and your landlord. Most Landlord and Tenant Acts have a lengthy section on the eviction process. Get a copy of this act and read it cover to cover. Most states post a copy on their attorney general website. You can also get a copy by visiting a local courthouse.
It’s a good idea to keep records of any interaction you have with your landlord. If you haven’t yet done so, you need to start as soon as you think you may get evicted. Keep a copy of every notice your landlord gives you. If your landlord speaks to you in person, make a note of the time, date and nature of the visit. Find copies of cashed checks or rental receipts to prove past payments. Finally, go around the rental and use a digital camera with a date stamp to take photos of the property’s condition. (Some landlords will go as far as to claim nonexistent property damage, or damage you did not cause, on you). Basically, you want to build your case against the eviction using as much documentation as you can collect.
While you do not have to have a lawyer during an eviction, getting legal assistance will help tremendously.
In order to evict you, the landlord will need to schedule an eviction hearing through the local court. A great many tenants choose to simply skip out on the rental property and not show up for the eviction hearing. This is a mistake. If you do not appear in court, the judge will decide in favor of the landlord. Not only will appearing in court give you a chance at beating the eviction, but it will prevent the landlord from claiming any property damage, undue rent or other fines that you did not cause.
Ending a landlord-tenant relationship requires strict compliance with state law and applicable local ordinances. Generally speaking, a landlord must give a written “notice to vacate” to a tenant to end the relationship, while a tenant must give the landlord a written “notice of intent to vacate.” Proper notices should be given even in situations where the landlord and tenant mutually desire to end the relationship.
State law allows either a landlord or tenant to terminate a periodic tenancy, such as a month-to-month tenancy, by giving written notice to the other. For a tenant, the notice should state his intent to vacate the rental unit on a specific date – no reason is required. The tenant’s must be at least the length of the periodic tenancy, such as one week or one month. For a landlord, a notice to vacate a periodic tenancy must be given at least 30 days in advance of the date to vacate or 60 days if the tenant has lived in the unit for more than one year. Although state law does not require a landlord to give a reason for the notice to vacate, other laws may require a valid reason, such as the rent control ordinance in California.
If a tenant fails to abide by the rental agreement, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate the unit. However, state law requires this notice to be conditional if the tenant’s failure is curable, such as not paying rent or repairing property damage. If the tenant performs within the three-day notice period, he does not have to vacate. However, if the tenant’s conduct is unlawful, such as dealing illegal drugs or stalking other tenants, the landlord’s notice does not have to be conditional and the tenant must vacate the unit. If the tenant fails to vacate within the three days, he can be sued for eviction.
A tenant cannot be evicted from a rental unit without a court order and a landlord’s notice to vacate is the first step in the eviction process. Before making an eviction order, the court must determine if the tenant was given proper notice by the landlord under all applicable laws. If the notice was defective in any way, the landlord’s eviction case will be dismissed. To evict the tenant, the landlord must restart the eviction process by giving the tenant a proper notice to vacate.
Written leases are often used by landlords and tenants to specify a length of time the tenant will rent the unit, such as one year. The type of notice, if any, required when the lease termination date approaches is a matter of agreement between the landlord and tenant. If no notice is required, the tenant simply needs to vacate the unit by the termination date. However, some leases require that the tenant give the landlord notice of his intention to vacate a specified number of days in advance of the termination date, such as 30 days. With such a notice requirement usually comes an automatic renewal provision – that is, if the tenant does not give a timely notice of intent to vacate, the lease is renewed for the same term or converted to a month-to-month tenancy. To avoid surprises at the end of a lease, both landlords and tenants should communicate their intentions about making a new lease at least 30 days before the old one ends.