What is an Eviction?
“Eviction” is the common name people use for the legal process that a landlord must use to make you leave your apartment or home. The legal name for this process is “Forcible Entry and Detainer” or “FED.” You may hear people use this phrase in court.
When Can I be Evicted? If you have a lease: The landlord can only evict you for specific reasons. For example, a landlord can ask the judge to evict you if:
You have not paid rent.
You have not followed the rules of your written lease or rental agreement. This includes being involved in criminal activity.
You have created a danger for other people who live in your building.
If you do not have a lease: The landlord can ask the judge to evict you without a reason. BUT the landlord must give you notice. If you pay your rent monthly, the landlord MUST give you a written 30-day notice telling you that you must move within 30 days.
Steps in the Eviction Process:
Notice – The landlord must give you written notice before filing an eviction with the court. After giving you the notice, you may have a certain amount of time to move out, pay rent owed, or fix a problem. The landlord can send written notice in two ways:
Post the notice on your door AND send you a copy by certified mail.
The landlord, a process server (a person hired to give you the notice), or the sheriff can give you the notice in person. Usually, the person handing you the notice will knock on your door and hand the notice to you directly.
Summons for Court – If the landlord decides to file an eviction in court, they must give you official notice when you have to go to court. This is called the “summons.” The summons will tell you when and where the court hearing will take place. If you receive a court summons, you MUST go to court or a “default judgment” will be entered against you. A default means that the landlord will automatically win the eviction case and you will be evicted.
Hearing – Most eviction cases take place in Small Claims Court. The landlord will likely ask the court for Possession, a Money Judgement, or both.
Possession: This is the return of the home to the landlord. Your lease would end and you have to move out of the home.
Money Judgment: The judge would “order”, or make you pay a certain amount of money to the landlord. This includes damage you have caused to the unit, any rent that you have not paid, court costs, and/or attorney’s fees. Before you speak to the judge, you may have an opportunity to talk to the landlord and try to work an agreement out. If you cannot make an agreement or if you would like to speak to the judge, you may ask for a hearing. The judge will listen to the landlord first, then you. After, the judge will make a decision, or “ruling”.
After Court – If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, you must move when the judge says. You may have as little as 48 hours to move. It is best to move on or before that move-out date. If you do not move in time, the landlord can go back to the court and ask for a “writ of execution.” The landlord can then ask law enforcement to post a 48-hour notice on your door. This is your final opportunity to move. After 48-hours, the sheriff will return to remove you and lock you out.
If you do not move on or before the move-out date or before law enforcement, you could lose your belongings.
Lockouts: ONLY the judge can order you to leave your home. Your landlord cannot lock you out of your home or turn off your water, heat, electricity, or gas without going to court first, even if you have not paid rent.
If your landlord locks you out of your home without an order from the judge or if they change the locks before law enforcement comes, contact an attorney for help.
What Else Should I Know? It is important that you take pictures of the unit before you move out so you can prove the condition you left it in.
As soon as you move, you should immediately send a written request for the return of your security deposit and any pre-paid rent, if applicable. It is important that you make this written request, even if you do not expect that your deposit will be returned. The landlord has 45 days to either return your deposit or give reasons why they are not returning the full deposit.
If your landlord received a judgment for rent, it may be sent to collections or reported on your credit. If you pay off the judgment, you should request that your landlord file a “Release and Satisfaction of Judgment”. This will prove that the debt has been paid