An eviction notice is a pre-trial letter given primarily by landlords to tenants when they have violated their lease such as not paying rent. The notice is given to the tenant with a specified number (#) of days to fix the issue or be required to vacate the property. This can be anywhere from 3 to 30 days depending on the State’s law where the property is located.
An eviction notice is sent to a tenant for any type of lease violation.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Notice to Pay or Quit – When a tenant is late on rent. This notice may be sent to the tenant the day after rent is late (unless there is a State Grace Period).
Notice to Comply or Quit (Violation of Lease) – Used when a tenant has violated their lease in any manner other than late rent. Examples include informing a tenant they have too many guests, their music was too loud, they parked in the wrong spot, and so on.
Notice to Quit (Illegal Activity) – For any activity that allows the landlord to terminate the lease immediately under State law. Typically requires the shortest amount of notice.
Lease Termination (for Month-to-Month Tenancies) – Allows the landlord or tenant to terminate by issuing notice in accordance with state law.
An eviction is a type of lawsuit (also called an “unlawful detainer”), whereby a tenant is legally removed from a rental property due to a breach of the lease. The keyword here is “legal”, as a landlord cannot evict a tenant unless they have a valid reason for doing so. Common reasons for eviction include:
- One (1) or more missed rental payments;
- Violating the lease (ex: unauthorized pets, loud noise);
- Purposeful damage to the rental or surrounding premises; and
- Illegal activities conducted in or near the rental.
- Step 1 – Understand State Eviction Laws
- Step 2 – Speak with the Tenant
- Step 3 – Deliver an Eviction Notice
- Step 4 – Wait the Necessary Time (The “Cure Period”)
- Step 5 – File the Eviction in Court
- Step 6 – Go to Court
- Step 7 – Move the Tenant Out + Recover Costs
Evicting a tenant is rarely easy. However, the more prepared a landlord is going into the situation, the better their odds in having the ordeal end in their favor. The following steps provide an overview of the eviction process:
Each state has its own unique eviction laws. While some go into greater detail than others, many of them cover the required notice-lengths that must be given in eviction letters before beginning the process with the courts.
More information on each state’s laws can be found below.
It’s very important the landlord knows that they have the legal grounds to evict the tenant. If the landlord is providing a rental that is uninhabitable, for example, many states permit the tenant to withhold rent payments until the problem is remedied.
In the majority of cases, heading to the second step and delivering an eviction notice is the recommended cause of action. However, for tenants that have routinely made rental payments on-time, treated the rental with respect, and followed all conditions of the lease until now, landlords should provide them with a chance to explain their situation. The landlord should understand why the tenant was late on rent, how soon they can make the payment, and the consequences (eviction notice) if they don’t make the payment soon.
Regardless of the tenant’s answer, the landlord needs to remain steadfast in their decision. During their conversation, they need to give the tenant two (2) options:
- Pay off the rent immediately, or
- Leave the rental ASAP.
The tenant needs to understand the consequences in the event they don’t comply with either option. An eviction would severely damage their credit score, cause them to be sued to collect rent and/or damages, and severely hamper their ability to enter into a lease in the future. If they leave or pay the rent, the process stops here. If they continue unjustly living in the rental, proceed to the next step.
If the tenant is hard-set in staying in the property after being told they will be evicted, the landlord will need to deliver an eviction notice to the tenant. To do this, select the state (above) that corresponds to the one where the property is located. Then, select the form-type that matches the situation. As an example, if the tenant is refusing to pay rent, the state may require landlords to provide a minimum of seven (7) days of notice prior to starting the process.
A major step in the eviction process is ensuring the landlord has proof that the tenant received the notice, or that a legitimate attempt was made to provide the tenant with notice of their lease violation. Landlords can (typically) use the following methods for delivering the notice:
- Certified Mail (Best Option) – A process provided by the USPS, certified mail provides landlords with proof that a delivery attempt was made to the tenant. This is done by providing the landlord with a mailing receipt, electronic verification, and (if requested) signature proof. After delivery has been made, landlords will be sent the receipt, which (if needed) they can later display to the judge to prove the adequate notice was provided.
- Hand-delivering to Tenant – Issuing the notice personally to the tenant by knocking on their door is a valid way of informing them of their breach of contract. The tenant should sign the notice in front of the landlord to serve as proof they received it.
- Posting to Front Door – Although some states provide landlords with this option, it should be avoided due to the difficulty in proving the tenant received it. Posting the notice to the front door in addition to sending it via certified mail is recommended, however.
Once the notice has been delivered, the situation falls into the tenant’s hands. So long the eviction is curable, the tenant has the number of days as stated on the notice letter to remedy the situation. The tenant can remedy the situation by making all outstanding payments (fees included), fixing damage, paying for missed utilities, or fixing another violation as stated by the notice. In the event the tenant ignores the notice and doesn’t comply with what is stated in the form, the landlord should proceed to the next step.
Note on curable and incurable leases: If the notice is incurable, the tenant cannot remedy the situation. They have no other option but to vacate the rental in the time provided. Landlords issue incurable evictions when the tenant has committed the same violation previously, broken the law on the premises, or committed a similar act.
If the tenant is still residing in the property and the issues have gone unfixed, a complaint will need to be filed in the local courthouse (filing fee included). Once the landlord has successfully filed, they will be given a summons to appear in court.
Where to File?
The nearest courthouse to where the rental property is located.
What to Bring?
The importance of being prepared can’t be understated. Landlords should bring the following documents/information with them to the courthouse:
- A signed copy of the lease agreement;
- Official notice(s);
- Any conversations that took place via SMS, Skype, WhatsApp, etc with the tenant;
- Statements from neighbors
Landlords may need to pay fees anywhere from $30 to $150 depending on the court in which they are filing for the eviction. Because court fees change frequently, landlords should head to the applicable court website to view the most up-to-date filing fees.
Prior to arriving to the courthouse, the landlord should ensure they have all necessary documentation necessary to prove that their eviction is justifiable. Generally speaking, the more information they have the better, although (at a minimum), the following should be brought:
- Any and all records of payment;
- A copy of the written notice sent or delivered to the tenant;
- Signed lease agreement;
- Any bounced checks;
- All records of communication between the tenant and landlord (texts, emails, messaging apps, etc.)
As an overview, landlords have two (2) main goals during the eviction process, which is to 1. prove the tenant violated the lease and 2. that they didn’t break any laws during the process.
Be prepared: The most common defenses tenants bring up during the eviction process are:
- Improper notice – a claim that the landlord did not give the tenant enough time to remedy the issue.
- A retaliatory eviction – states the landlord evicted the tenant to seek “revenge” for the tenant informing the government of violations the landlord was making (for example).
- Partial rent – if the landlord agreed to accept partial rent from the tenant, their right to eviction is commonly foregone.
- Unmaintained premises – landlords are legally required to provide a habitable rental (and surrounding premises) for tenants.
In the event the landlord wins the eviction, they will receive a writ of possession from the judge. This gives the landlord the legal right to acquire the property from the tenant in a certain number (#) of days. It’s during this time the tenant should be actively packing up and moving from the rental.
If the tenant still remains in the property after the deadline stated on the writ of possession, the landlord will need to receive a writ of restitution. This notice will be posted by the local Sheriff’s department giving the tenant anywhere from one (1) to a few additional days to vacate form the premises. The sheriff/police officer will physically remove the tenant if they remain in the property after exhausting the final deadline.
If the security deposit isn’t enough to cover the damages, the landlord can pursue the tenant in small claims court. If the judge sides in the landlord’s favor, they may be permitted to garnish the tenant’s wages, tax refund, or other means. Note that each state has its own eviction process, and the process may be slightly different than the steps provided here. For more information on the eviction process, select your state from the provided list.
Depending on the state in which the rental property is located, the landlord may need to provide no notice, upwards of thirty (30) days of notice informing tenants of their pending eviction (unless the problem is fixed). “Not specified” means the state does not explicitly cover notice periods regarding non-compliance, meaning landlords can provide any notice they deem is reasonable.
Grace periods and late fees come into play when a tenant hasn’t paid the rent by the agreed-upon due date. On one hand, grace periods are a landlord’s “enemy”, giving tenants a means of legally leaving rent unpaid until the end of the grace period. Late fees, on the other hand, are a tool used by landlords to motivate tenants to pay on time. Late fees should never be thought of as a means of getting extra income, but rather as a means of keeping tenants tied to their obligation as stated in the lease.
Note about late fees: In order for landlords to charge late fees legally, the fee must be stated in the signed lease agreement.
|STATE||GRACE PERIOD||LATE FEE||STATUTES|
|Alaska||N/A||N/A (specified by lease)||No statute|
|Arkansas||Five (5) days||N/A||§ 18-17-701(b)|
|California||N/A||Fee amount must be justifiable + included in the lease||California Tenants’ Guide (P.30)|
|Connecticut||Nine (9) days||N/A||§ 47a-15a|
|Delaware||Five (5) days||Cannot exceed 5% of monthly rent||§ 5501(d)|
|Hawaii||N/A||Cannot exceed 8% of monthly rent||§ 521-21(f)|
|Illinois||Five (5) days||$20 or 20% of the rent payment (whichever is greater)||770 ILCS 95/7.10(a & c)|
Rent is $700/month or less: Max of $12/day or $60/month
Greater than $700/month: Max of $20/day or $100/month
|Maine||Fifteen (15) days||Cannot exceed 4% of monthly rent||§ 6028(1 & 2)|
|Maryland||N/A||Cannot exceed 5% of monthly rent||§ 8-208(d)(3)(i)|
|Massachusetts||Thirty (30) days||N/A||§ 15B(1)(c)|
|Minnesota||N/A||Cannot exceed 8% of monthly rent||§ 504B.177(a)|
|Nevada||N/A||Cannot exceed 5% of periodic rent||§ 118A.210(4)(a)|
|New Hampshire||N/A||N/A||No statute|
|New Jersey||Five (5) days||N/A||§ 2A:42-6.1|
|New Mexico||N/A||Cannot exceed 10% of periodic rent||§ 47-8-15(D)|
|New York||N/A||N/A||No statute|
|North Carolina||Five (5) days||Cannot exceed 5% of monthly rent or $15 (whichever is greater)||§ 42-46(a)|
|North Dakota||N/A||N/A||No statute|
|Oregon||Four (4) days||5% of the periodic rent (can be charged every 5-day period rent goes unpaid)||§ 90.260(1 & 2)|
|Rhode Island||Fifteen (15) days||N/A||§ 34-18-35(a)|
|South Carolina||N/A||N/A||No statute|
|South Dakota||N/A||N/A||No statute|
|Tennessee||Five (5) days||Cannot exceed 10% of monthly rent||§ 66-28-201(d)|
|Texas||Two (2) days|| |
Building has 4 or fewer units: 12% of the rent due
Building has 4 or more units: 10% of the rent due
|Virginia||Oral agreements only: Five (5) days||N/A||§ 55.1-1204(C)(5)|
|West Virginia||N/A||N/A||No statute|
The To-Be Evicted Roommate is the Master Tenant
Whether or not a roommate can be evicted depends on the status the roommates have to one another. If the tenant (to be evicted) is the master tenant, which is the tenant that solely leased with the landlord and essentially “sublet” to the other tenants, they cannot be evicted by the other tenants. Having said, explaining the situation to the landlord can potentially have them file eviction proceedings against the master tenant and release to the subtenant in a separate agreement.
The To-Be Evicted Roommate is a Co-Tenant
If the to-be evicted tenant is a co-tenant of the other tenant, they cannot start the eviction proceedings themself. In this situation, they would need to inform the landlord of the situation and have them begin the eviction process. Important note: both tenant names would appear on records, even though only one tenant would be the cause of the eviction. The landlord can release the other tenant from liability in this situation.
The Roommate Looking to Evict is the Master Tenant
Finally, if the tenant looking to evict another roommate is the master tenant, they can proceed with proceedings as normal without the landlord’s involvement. In this situation, the eviction process will closely resemble the steps found above.
Requirements & Tips
- Ensure there is a good reason for eviction: Much like landlords can only evict if they have a legally valid reason, roommates can’t evict another roommate for any reason (such as not liking them). Check your local state laws to ensure the reason you intend to evict them for is backed up by landlord-tenant law.
- Always remain professional: Maintain composure at all times – while the process can evoke a lot of emotions, the more that is said to the other roommate in anger, the more that roommate can use it against you in a court. Additionally, ensure all digital communication is kept and hold onto any documents and other information that can later be used as evidence against the other tenant.
- Avoid eviction in the first place: Before starting the process, which can be costly and extremely time-consuming, roommates should have a serious conversation with the roommate and explain the problem(s) they have with them, and how they would like them to be solved (or why they should move-out).
The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the eviction process:
While the length can vary, evictions can stay on a person’s record for at least seven (7) years1. Evictions are reported as a “civil judgment”, which occurs after a landlord successfully sues the tenant for unpaid rent or damages. Until the eviction no longer appears in public records, it can make entering into a lease significantly difficult. A previous eviction is a major warning sign for landlords – once they see the previous eviction, the likelihood of them renting to a tenant is extremely slim. However, because seven (7) years is a long time and people can change, tenants that were going through a rough time when the eviction occurred should explain this to potential landlords. Better yet, if the tenant can get into contact with the landlord that evicted them, they may be able to make amends and have that landlord speak favorably of them on a rental application.
An eviction can take anywhere from two (2) weeks to two (2) months in length2. The length of time mainly depends on the cause for eviction and the state where the eviction would take place. Although many landlords may wish to speed up the process to minimize financial loss, the importance of strictly following the eviction process is mandatory, otherwise, the landlord may not side in favor of the landlord during the trial.
Evictions can be very costly for landlords; significantly more costly than by not receiving rent for the length of the eviction alone. The following are a rough breakdown of what a landlord may be required to pay for the course of the process3:
- Missed rent – Taking the average rent in the United States, which is roughly $1200, landlords can potentially lose up to $2400+ in lost rent alone.
- Filing costs – Can range anywhere from under $100 to $400+.
- Serving the notice – Having the sheriff’s office serve the notice can cost upwards of several hundred dollars, although around $50 is more common.
- Attorney fees – Assuming an attorney is only needed for an hour or two, fees will run between $200 to $400 for completing paperwork and appearing in court. If charged as a single fee, exceeding $400 would be more common.
- Moving out the tenant – Hiring a moving company to assist with physically removing the tenant’s belongings can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands.
In situations where the tenant isn’t being evicted due to non-payment of rent, the costs may total less than $1,000, although on the rarer side. Spending upwards of $1,000 in total should be expected.
Step 1 – Download
Step 2 – Tenant Name(s) + Premises
At the top of the first page, start off by writing the names of all tenant(s) being sent the notice. Then, write the full address of the rental property the tenant(s) are residing in (street, apt # (if any), city, state, and ZIP code). Below that, enter the date that the original lease agreement began, the state the property is located in, and the number (#) of days the tenant(s) have to comply with the notice.
Step 3 – Notice Type
The form can be used for violations of the lease (or law), missed rent payments (including late fees), or for terminating a short-term (month-to-month) lease. Additionally, the document includes a section, known as the “Certificate of Service”, that is used for proving the tenant(s) received the notice.
The landlord needs to place a checkmark next to ONE (1) of the five (5) total eviction options and complete the necessary information related to the option checked. The other four (4) notice types should be left blank. The following are the options:
- Non-payment of rent: If this is chosen, check the first box and enter the name of the person (typically the landlord) to whom the tenant(s) should make the late rent payment to. Then, select any combination of the checkboxes and enter the applicable dollar amount next to the checked options. Sum the values and place the amount in the “Total amount due” area.
- Lease / Law Violation: Here the landlord has two (2) options: 1) the tenant can remedy the problem (check the first box and include what the tenant has to do), or, 2) the tenant can be required to vacate the premises within the time provided (check the second box and describe the tenant’s illegal activity).
- Month-to-Month Tenancy Termination: Because monthly-based tenancies can be terminated by either party, this section can be completed by either the tenant or landlord. If the landlord is terminating the contract, check the first box, enter the start date of the lease, and the date the lease is officially terminated. For tenants, check the second box and enter the same information as what would be entered if the first box was selected.
Step 4 – Certificate of Service
This section serves as proof that the tenant (or landlord) received the notice or that a valid effort of delivery was made. The recommended method is using certified mail, which is the best form of delivery for providing proof that the other party received the notice (or that a valid effort was made). Stapling to the door in addition to sending it via certified mail is also suggested to ensure it is received.
Enter the date that the notice was sent or served and check the delivery method(s) that were utilized. The recipient of the notice should sign their name in the “Signature” field, if applicable.