Eviction Process & Law

Updated March 15, 2023
7 min read

Eviction of rent-paying tenants is a real problem often overshadowed by the equally disturbing problem of homeowner evictions. According to data from Eviction Lab at Princeton University, there was roughly 1 eviction filing for every 17 renter households between 2000 and 2016, with approximately 1 in 40 renter households evicted over the same period. This translates to roughly one million evictions every year. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. As of this writing, in the 6 states and 31 cities that Eviction Lab tracked, a total of 451,772 eviction claims have been filed by landlords against rent-paying tenants during the pandemic.

While more can be done by government policymakers to address this problem, one thing that individuals, both landlords and rent-payers alike, can do to protect their rights and interests is to familiarize themselves with how the eviction process works.

How Important are Eviction Process and Laws?

Eviction is a legal process where a landlord is entitled to prevent or stop a tenant from using or occupying a rental property owned by the landlord. The landlord who seeks an eviction will typically do so whenever the tenant in a rental agreement has failed to pay rent or has violated a material or important provision in their lease agreement.

Landlords may also evict renters for a slew of other legitimate reasons, such as taking additional sub-lessees without consent, causing damage to the landlord’s property, causing a disturbance, or simply conducting illegal activities within the leased premises.

The basis of any successful eviction process is a throughout drafted Rent Agreement. You can just fill out the Lawrina’s Rent Agreement Form with all the necessary details and download your legally binding agreement in a matter of seconds. If you have all the requirements and obligations written down, it will be easy to proceed with the eviction process.

What is the Eviction Process?

Under eviction laws across all states, a landlord is only entitled to legally evict a tenant through judicial means. Thus, states generally do not allow “self-help” evictions where the landlord “helps himself” in terminating the lease by physically entering the leased premises and causing the tenant to leave with the use of a “reasonable amount of force.”

The eviction process, which is a judicial process, was intended by state legislatures to avoid the negative effects of self-help eviction on tenants while at the same time ensuring the health of the rental market by allowing landlords to expeditiously remove tenants who “do not meet market expectations.” In order to evict a tenant, the landlord must sue the tenant in court. If the court decides to evict, then the landlord must allow a law enforcement officer to enforce the judgment.

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How Does the Eviction Process Work?

While eviction procedures vary from state to state – and sometimes even within states, depending on local municipality rules – the basic steps and requirements are substantially similar among these states. The two major phases of the eviction process, according to eviction laws by state, are as follows:

  1. A court must determine who is legally entitled to possession of the property – the landlord or the tenant.

  2. If the court grants a writ of possession to the landlord, a sheriff or marshal will execute the actual eviction.

How Long Does an Eviction Take?

Lauren A. Lindsey (2010) explains that the eviction process outlined above has been deliberately streamlined across most states. The typical timeline between the landlord’s initial issuance of a notice to the tenant and the landlord’s receipt of a writ of possession may range from a few days (if the tenant fails to appear) to a few months(if the tenant contests the eviction).

How to Prevent Evictions?

If the eviction is warranted, meaning the landlord is indeed within his rights to validly enforce eviction, there is typically no direct remedy available to the tenant to prevent an eviction other than to comply with all the conditions included in the Notice to Quit or Unconditional Quit Notice.

However, there are instances where the landlords wrongfully use the eviction process as a way to retaliate against the tenant for taking steps to enforce their own rights. This retaliation is typically known as “retaliatory eviction,” and in most states, statutes that prohibit retaliatory eviction are present to protect tenant rights. As Lindsey (2010) notes, tenant rights that are most commonly protected from retaliatory eviction include: 

  1. Reporting of any housing code violation that materially affects health and safety to a supervising governmental agency with the power to enforce the housing code against landlords;

  2. Complaining to the landlord for their failure to maintain the premises; and

  3. Forming or joining a tenants’ union or other tenants’ rights advocacy group.

Final Thoughts

With the problem of tenant eviction continuing unabated in the U.S., landlords and rent-paying tenants will be served well if they remain aware of their respective rights and obligations in a lease arrangement in order to ensure that no injustice is committed in eviction proceedings and eviction lawsuits.

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