The most common reason for a landlord to evict a tenant is if the tenant fails to pay rent. Another reason may be if the tenant stays in the property after the lease has run out. This is called a “holdover tenant.” But how exactly does a landlord evict a tenant?
1. Give notice to the tenant.
The landlord needs to make the tenants aware that they will try to evict them. The tenants also need to know why the landlord is trying to evict them. The landlord should look closely at the lease to see how to do this. It should give a specific method for notifying the tenants. Usually this method will ensure that the tenants have seen the notice, such as sending the notice return receipt requested.
It’s important for the landlord to keep a record of when she sent the notice to the tenant and abide by the rules in the lease. If the tenants can argue that the landlord did not give them proper notice, they may evade eviction.
2. File the Complaint for Summary Ejectment.
Once the landlord has given notice and waited the appropriate amount of time, they can file a Complaint for Summary Ejectment. In the Complaint, the tenant is called the defendant and the landlord is called the plaintiff.
The landlord can also ask for any rent the tenants owe in the Complaint. If that amount is over $10,000.00, though, she will may need to file a separate lawsuit. (In some jurisdictions, the limit is less than $10,000.00).
The Sheriff will serve the Complaint personally if requested for an additional fee. The Court will set a hearing date within 7 to 14 days of service. They will tell the landlord and the tenant the date and time of the hearing. The hearing will be in Small Claims Court in front of a Magistrate (a small claims judge). At the hearing, the landlord and the tenant will each be allowed to tell their side of the story. They can also present evidence at the hearing. It’s important for both parties to be prepared with any documents, photos, or other records they want to present.
3. The appeal.
If the landlord wins, the Magistrate will give her a Judgment for Summary Ejectment. But that doesn’t mean she can immediately evict the tenants. The tenants have 10 days to file an appeal. If they do so, this will move the case up from Small Claims to the District Court. It may take a few weeks for the District Court to set a date for the new hearing.
During this time, the tenants can continue to live in the property, but they must keep paying rent. They will be paying rent directly to the Court. The Court will hold the payments until the appeal is decided.
4. The Writ of Possession.
If the tenants file the appeal but lose, or if the landlord waits 10 days and the tenants don’t file an appeal, the landlord can move forward with the eviction. She will file a Writ of Possession with the Court. Just like with the Complaint, the Sheriff will serve this to the tenants directly.
The Sheriff will also need to tell the tenants when they will be evicted. This will be within 5 days of the Sheriff receiving the Writ of Possession from the landlord.
5. Padlocking the property.
Hopefully the tenants will move out on their own once they receive the Writ of Possession. But if they are still in the property on the day of the eviction, the Sheriff will go with the landlord and a locksmith and change the locks. The landlord will have to pay for the locksmith.
6. Personal property of the tenants
If the tenants left their belongings in the property, the landlord can’t just go in and sell it all or throw everything away. Instead, the Sheriff will remove their property to a storage facility. The landlord will have to advance the cost for the storage of the tenant’s possessions.
Once the property is removed to storage, the tenants have 7 days to request their property back. During that 7 days, the landlord has to keep the tenants’ property in storage. If the tenants do not request the property be returned, the landlord can do whatever they want with it. The costs of moving and storing the property will be taxed against the tenants.
If the landlord plans on selling the property, they will need to give the tenants notice at least 7 days before the sale. The proceeds of the sale will go towards paying off the costs of the eviction, storage, and court fees. The landlord also needs to tell the tenant that if they request it, they will give them any excess proceeds from the sale of the items within 7 days of the sale.
7. The eviction is complete!
As you can see, eviction can be a time-consuming and complicated process, but it can be done! If you are a landlord trying to evict a tenant and want help, a good lawyer can guide you through the process. Likewise, if you are a tenant and feel you are being wrongfully evicted, a lawyer can defend you. If you decide to proceed without a lawyer, the most important points to remember are to follow the law, even if it seems complicated or excessive.