What Is Eviction?

Whether or not a tenant's right to occupy a residential unit has ended, a landlord may not:

  • Shut off utilities
  • Change the locks to force the tenant from the unit
  • Seize the tenant's possessions to recover unpaid rent

A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has:

  • failed to pay rent on time
  • occupied the unit after the termination or expiration of the rental agreement.

To bring an eviction action, the landlord must first serve a 3­day notice to vacate the premises in person, by mail, or at the premises. If the tenant does not move within the 3­day period, then the landlord must file an action in Forcible Entry and Detainer at the court in the city where the property is located. The Court will schedule a hearing and the tenant will receive a summons and complaint at least 5 days before the hearing.

At the hearing, the landlord and tenant will present evidence in support and defense of the eviction action. A tenant may offer a defense of bad conditions and counterclaim at the eviction hearing (Order form: "Avoid Eviction ). If an eviction is ordered, the landlord will make arrangements with the Court to have the tenant's belongings removed from the unit if the tenant does not move.

Local procedures vary, check with your court or an attorney for specific information about eviction.

Eviction: Second Cause of Action

At the time of eviction, the landlord may also file a "second cause of action" to recover money damages. The tenant may answer the claim for money within 28 days of receiving the complaint in the mail. If a tenant fails to answer the complaint, the Court may issue a default judgment in the landlord's favor without holding a hearing. A default judgment will stop the tenant from later objecting to a landlord's claim.

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.

Additional Landlord Tenant Law Articles

Search LawInfo's Landlord Tenant Law Resources