For many tenants, the first response to a threatened eviction is one of concern, fear and even anger. There is no doubt that an eviction is a stressful event. However, tenants should know that they have certain rights and that state laws require certain procedures to be followed that may give them additional time to find a new place to live or even prevent an eviction.
Know Your Tenant Rights
It is important for tenants to understand that they have rights, even if they are being evicted because of late rent payments or damage to the rental unit. Each state has laws that require landlords to follow very specific steps in order to evict a tenant. While the laws differ among the states, most states require the landlord to provide the tenant with adequate written notice of the landlord’s intention to evict the tenant. The amount of notice that you must be given before being required to vacate the property differs both among the states and according to the reason for the eviction. For example, if you are being evicted for cause because of unpaid rent or a violation of your rental contract then you typically have only a few days to either pay the back rent and continue the tenancy or to vacate the rental unit. If, however, you are being evicted without cause then the landlord must usually give you 30 – 60 days notice, as required by state law.
If you do not vacate the property at the end of the term specified in the landlord’s written notice then the landlord must file a lawsuit in order to force you to leave the property. As with any lawsuit, you will be able to present defenses. Possible defenses may include that the landlord failed to maintain the property in a habitable condition or that the eviction was brought as a means of retaliating against you for requesting certain repairs that were the landlord’s responsibility pursuant to your lease.
If you have been served with written notice of an eviction then you might wish to negotiate the terms of the eviction with your landlord. Remember, an eviction costs your landlord money. The landlord must pay legal fees if you contest the eviction and secure a new tenant to begin collecting rent money again. Therefore, in some situations your landlord may be open to negotiating with you. For example, you could suggest that you give the landlord one half of the outstanding money immediately and one half at another date certain or you could request additional time to vacate the rental unit in exchange for continued rent payments during that period.
Seek the Advice of a Landlord Tenant Attorney
If your landlord is unresponsive to your attempts to negotiate or educate the landlord about your rights as a tenant then it is advisable to hire a landlord tenant attorney. Your attorney will help you deal with being evicted so that you can either remain in your current home or find a new home in a way that is minimally stressful.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.