Home Eviction Help
An eviction notice is the last thing any tenant wants to see. If you receive one, don't give up and don't panic. There are steps you can take to stay in your home, but you need to act right away.
If you're facing eviction, you may be dealing with a devastating array of emotions: fear of homelessness, anger over the situation, frustration and guilt over your responsibilities, and perhaps even shame if you have a family and children depending on you to keep a roof over their heads. It's easy to feel completely helpless in the situation. Do not surrender to these feelings, because you are not helpless.
There are laws in place to protect renters and prevent individuals and families from being put out on the street without cause or warning. Even if the action is warranted, you will still have legal protections in place, and your landlord will have to follow legal guidelines. You need to know your rights as a tenant.
What is Eviction?
Eviction is the legal recourse a property owner can use to break a lease and remove a tenant from a rental property or inform a renter that the landlord will not renew the lease. While the process can be costly for the landlord, they are common in the United States. According to the Real Estate Company Redfin, around 2.7 million Americans faced eviction in 2015.
When a tenant receives notice, the tenant has a certain amount of time to vacate the premises. Eviction is a legal recourse because the lease you signed with your landlord is a legal document. Your landlord cannot throw you out of your home without meeting your state's legal statutes that dictate when a property owner can terminate tenancy outside of the written contract.
Why Am I Being Evicted?
Laws vary by state. For the most accurate information regarding why your landlord can evict you, or under what circumstances your landlord could void your lease and issue the eviction notice, you should consult a website such as Landlord.com, which has a rundown for landlords regarding tenancy laws by state.
Although the site is for landlords, you can use the information to determine whether your landlord has followed proper legal procedures when issuing the notice.
Across all US states, there are three key reasons why a property owner may be in his or her legal right to evict a tenant:
Nonpayment of Rent
If you fail to pay rent for a certain amount of time (as determined by your state), your landlord may be within his or her rights to evict you.
Breach of Lease Other Than Rent
Most leases will contain certain criteria for renting the property or apartment. If your landlord decides that you were in breach of certain criteria (such as a no-pets requirement, or a rule against having a certain number of people living in your home), he or she may choose to evict you. Whether the action is legal will depend on your state's laws, but in most cases, as long as you signed the lease, you are assumed to have read and understood the criteria. Your landlord is also required to give you a copy of the contract, such that you will have the required criteria in your possession as well.
When a property owner issues a non-default termination, it is not directly related to any action you've currently taken or failed to do. This can be an unpleasant surprise to a tenant and appear to be unwarranted. However, there are certain conditions for which a property owner can do this, which changes state-to-state. In general, a landlord cannot terminate a lease. Instead, a non-default lease effectively informs the tenant that the landlord will not renew the lease. The property owner is not required to give a reason.
Other Termination Rules
Every state differs in whether there are additional rules that allow a property owner to terminate a lease. For example, in Colorado, a property owner may terminate a lease with only a 3-day advanced notice for a "substantial violation." In California, those renting in subsidized rental properties (such as those receiving Section 8 Housing Vouchers) cannot be evicted without a 90-day notice.
In many states, multiple missed rent payments or significant damage to the property can be legal reasons for the property owner to evict a tenant.
What Can I Do? (Continued)
There are steps you can take to stay in your home. It's important to consider your actions that may have violated your lease, as well as the legal rights you have as an evicted tenant.
Always Read the Eviction Notice
The first thing to do if you receive an eviction notice is to read the contents. In most states, the notice must have a statement explaining the reason for the notice. If you do not see an explanation on the notice, you may be able to contest the action.