How to Evict a Tenant

A Landlord's Guide to the Eviction Process

What is Eviction?

Eviction refers to the process of removing a tenant from a rental property. It is also known as repossession or unlawful detainer.

What is an Eviction Notice?

An eviction notice is an umbrella term for a number of specific eviction and lease notices. Generally, an eviction notice is served by a landlord to a tenant. It notifies them that their lease will be terminated and that they must vacate the property.
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What is a Notice Period?

A notice period is the length of time a landlord must give to a tenant before they must perform the action required in the notice form.
Notice periods depend on your state, the situation or request, and what is written in your lease agreement. The type of lease term (fixed or periodic) can also affect how much notice is required.

Eviction Laws

Eviction laws are primarily regulated and defined by each state, but can also be affected by local and federal governments. Many renting laws are based on the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
While local and state governments can supplement eviction regulations, the landlord can also add to these regulations in the lease agreement (such as specifying longer notice times) but the lease should not override mandatory minimum laws.

What Type of Eviction Notice do I Need?

Different circumstances call for different notice forms.
For instance, when you are simply ending a lease because you are planning renovations or hoping to sell the unit, you would use a different notice than if the tenant has violated the Lease Agreement.
Here is a list of eviction notices and what each is used for:
A Notice to Quit is used by a landlord to evict a tenant.
A Notice to Pay or Quit is used by a landlord to notify a tenant that he or she must pay any outstanding rent by a certain date or they must leave the property.
A Notice of Lease Violation is given to a tenant to notify them that they have breached the lease agreement. It also provides a time frame for when the issue must be remedied, and the consequences for not correcting the violation. This notice is primarily reserved for violations, such as smoking in a non-smoking rental unit, rather than for non-payment of rent, in which case a Notice to Pay or Quit is typically used.
A Notice of Termination is used by a landlord or a tenant to give notice to the other party that the lease won’t be renewed.
A Notice of Increase Rent is a written letter that is used by a landlord to inform the tenant that their rent will increase.
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Reasons for Evicting a Tenant

Like other aspects of eviction, each state has its own requirements for which notices to issue, as well as reasons for terminating a tenancy. There may also be municipal or county rules that affect when a tenant can be evicted. For instance, Seattle, Washington has a pre-determined list of reasons that landlords must use to evict tenants from certain types of leases.
Although not every situation will be universally applicable, these situations can often be grounds for eviction:
  • Tenant performs illegal activity on the property
  • Tenant causes significant damage to the rental
  • Tenant breaches lease agreement, such as having pets in a no-pet building
  • Tenant repeatedly does not pay rent within specified time frame
  • Tenant poses a threat to you or neighbors

The Eviction Process

The eviction process is typically made up of four steps in total, but only if the initial efforts are unsuccessful. Each state has different laws about how to evict tenants, so be sure to check with your jurisdiction before carrying out the eviction process.
Step 1: If you are experiencing issues with your tenant, you’ll need to determine your next course of action. Will you talk to them about it, issue a warning, or serve them with a notice? If you decide to issue a notice, proceed with the following steps.
Step 2: Next, you would deliver the written notice to the tenant. It should outline the reason for eviction, as well as how long the tenant has to correct the violation, if any, and when they must vacate the property. Some jurisdictions will always require that you go one step further and obtain a court order to evict a tenant.
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Step 3: If the tenant has not remedied the situation or vacated the property after you’ve laid out a timeline to do so in your eviction letter, you can then file a court order against the tenant to evict them and regain possession over your property.
Your tenant can build a case against you if they feel like they have substantial evidence to defend themselves.
Step 4. If, after involving the court, the tenant has still not left the property, a landlord can contact a law enforcement officer. The officer will give notice to the tenant that they will return on a specific day to escort them off the property if they have not already moved out.

How Does Eviction Affect a Landlord and Tenant?

Depending on the circumstances, eviction can be either a negative or positive experience for a landlord and tenant. If a tenant is evicted due to just cause reasons, such as not paying rent, this could be negative for the tenant in that they will have to find another space for rent.
As a landlord, evicting a tenant is negative in that they may be losing income during the process. It’s also stressful, time-consuming, and can be expensive if third parties are involved. However, it could also be a relief for a landlord to gain possession of their property if they have been unable to previously.
When a tenant or landlord willingly agree to part ways by terminating a lease at the end of the lease term, it may be a more positive experience for both parties.
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