How to legally evict a tenant


It can be a hard thing for a landlord to evict a tenant for cause such as not paying rent, damaging property, a lease violation, etc. The tenant may be down on his luck. If the tenant has done wrong, however, the landlord has the option to take action against him with eviction following proper legal procedures.

Procedures for eviction

Understanding the laws

Eviction laws aren’t the same in every state. The landlord must know the law when preparing a lease agreement, or it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer to draw it up. If a lease agreement is written correctly, landlords can avoid trouble with tenants. Some states have adopted laws that provide broad legal protections for tenants. Get insights into these laws before taking any legal step.

Have a genuine and valid reason for eviction

You can’t begin eviction procedures without having a genuine and valid reason. Most of the eviction process begins because of tenants’ inability to pay or because they pay the rent late. If they are late even once, a draconian landlord can legally evict. There are certain reasons for which landlords may legally evict:

  • Not paying rent
  • Breaking lease terms
  • Damaging property

There can be other reasons too, but for every reason, you must have documented proof against the tenant in case he refuses to move out upon receiving the eviction notice. If he refuses, you can take the case to court. Also, make sure that the reason you are providing is genuine.

Talk to the tenant

It’s a good idea to see if you can resolve the situation by talking to the tenant. Try to convince him about the need to pay or stop bad behaviors, and try to be understanding too if they are dealing with a tough time. If you are unrelenting, he may decide to leave as soon as possible. It is fine to be a little stern if you want to move them out, but you cannot force them out by cutting utilities or changing locks, for example. You can also prepare a 60-Day Notice to Quit in California.

Serve a formal notice

If the tenant does not cooperate, you may have to serve him with a formal notice to evict. The notice should state the reason behind eviction and how the tenant can remedy the situation, such as paying overdue rent. Moreover, some details need to be specified in the notice like:

Deadline to pay rent or vacate the property

Amount owed

Serve this notice exactly according to the laws of the state you live in or the tenant has legal grounds to contest the eviction. The notice may be served by a process server, or it can be taped to the tenant’s door as well as mailed via certified mail. Wait for the response. The tenant must leave immediately after getting notice. If he doesn’t, you may proceed to court.

Filing Eviction with the court

Reach out to the local court clerk and file an eviction by paying the required fee. Do it immediately after the waiting period ends. The clerk will provide you with the schedule of the court hearing and inform the tenant via a summons. If you gave time to the tenant for resolving the problem, then you may have to show proof of this.

Be ready for a court hearing

As the issue has come to court now, you have to show proof that the tenant did wrong. Take a copy of the lease agreement, rent payment record, communication records of meetings between both of you and other important documents needed to bolster your case.

Evicting the Tenant

The court provides a set amount of time to vacate the property. This period can vary from 48 hours to a week. It depends on the jurisdiction or state you live in. If the tenant still remains in your property after the expiration of the time limit, the judge will order sheriff’s deputies to remove the tenant and his belongings. Now you regain possession of your property and can get a new, paying tenant in the old tenant’s place. Congrats.

Some landlords commit the mistake of evicting tenants illegally. Locking the tenant out or throwing away the tenant’s belongings are two such acts. Most states give tenants the freedom to sue landlords if they try to do what is called a self-help eviction. The challenge is not in evicting the tenant, but doing it legally and lawfully.