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 May 19, 2018

Landlord Rights: How to Evict a Tenant Lawfully

Realtor handing keys to new homeowners

How to Evict Your Tenant Without Violating State Laws

As a landlord, you try to rent to the right people, but occasionally you find yourself in the midst of an unresolvable landlord-tenant dispute, and you have to evict.  But before you try to quickly remove your nightmare tenant, there is a legal process for eviction to follow.

Every state has specific procedures in place to protect a tenant’s right to stay in their property, and the formal eviction process involves the filing of an “unlawful detainer” action in court. Any termination notices and eviction papers for your tenant must be written and delivered in a lawful manner.

No matter what your tenant has done, you should avoid evicting a tenant with these unlawful methods:

  • Allowing utility companies to cut off service
  • Changing the locks on a tenant without notice
  • Removing the tenant’s property from the rental unit
  • Ordering or threatening the tenant to leave

Courts will view your unlawful actions as harassment, and a tenant is entitled to monetary damages for expenses resulting from illegal eviction.

Evict a Tenant in 3 Lawful Steps

1. Termination Notice

The first step in an eviction is to terminate the tenancy. As a landlord, you have the right to terminate with or without a reason, unless the tenancy is regulated by rent control ordinances. Your lease agreement with the tenant may dictate additional requirements. You’ll then serve your tenant with a 30-day or 60-day notice to vacate the property.

Another option is to serve an Unconditional Quit Notice. This notice allows you to order the tenant to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or to correct a lease/rental agreement violation. This is usually permitted if the tenant has repeatedly been late with rent; engaged in serious illegal activity on the premises; violated significant rental agreement clauses, or seriously damaged the property.

2. Eviction Lawsuit

Let’s say you’ve already tried other measures and attempted to work something out with your tenant. You went through the conciliatory steps of asking them to pay their rent within a set time, or to correct their violation of the rental agreement. You’ve done everything possible to fix the problem without an eviction notice.

With the exception of tenancy regulated by rent control laws, you don’t need to provide a cause to remove a tenant. If the tenant fails to fix the violation, pay their rent within the set time, or vacate the premises within the specified time, then it’s well within your rights to file that unlawful detainer action and have them lawfully removed from the property.

File a complaint with the court that contains facts justifying the eviction.
You will also serve a summons, which is a document informing the tenant of the lawsuit. The tenant can respond to the complaint within the time specified on the summons. This can include denying the allegations or submitting a defense. If there is no response, a default judgment is issued to you as the landlord.

3. Remove the Tenant

Although you are entitled to repossess the property, you can’t remove the tenant without the assistance of a law enforcement officer. Don’t take this part of the process into your own hands.

As a landlord, your job is to follow the steps above, and once the officer receives the judgment, they will notify the tenant of the lawful eviction. If the tenant still refuses to vacate the premises, let the officer physically remove the tenant for you.

Work with a LegalShield Attorney to Solve Your Problems

Sound like more trouble than it’s worth? A tenant may cause more problems than you have time for – it’s time for a business consultation to determine your options

Sign up to become a business plan member with LegalShield today and get unlimited free consultations to learn more about the eviction process.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.


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