What happens if a landlord loses the eviction lawsuit?
When the landlord loses an eviction lawsuit, the court usually makes a judgment denying the landlord's eviction request. This typically means the tenant gets to stay in the property. The court may also order the landlord to pay the tenant a certain amount of money, including the tenant's court costs, lawyer fees, and other fees related to the lawsuit.
If the lawsuit is dismissed due to a legal detail, such as the landlord failing to provide the right amount of time in the Eviction Notice, a landlord may be able to try again. This often means the landlord can start the eviction process over again from the beginning and re-file the lawsuit to evict the tenant. Even so, it will probably cost the landlord more time and money to file again. Because eviction is a complex process that is different in every state, if you are a landlord, it may be helpful to hire a landlord attorney who can help you get it right the first time.
What happens if the tenant loses the eviction lawsuit?
When the tenant loses in an eviction lawsuit, the court typically makes a judgment about the amount of money the tenant owes the landlord. This amount may include missed rent payments and late fees, money to repair property damage caused by the tenant, and the landlord's costs and fees for the eviction lawsuit.
The court's judgment usually also says that the landlord has the right to retake the property. In most cases, it orders the tenant to move themselves and their things out of the property by a certain date. Tenants who need more time to move out may ask the court for more time. If the court allows more time, it will issue a stay of execution to provide the tenant with more time. If the tenant fails to move out of the property by the court-ordered date, a landlord may hire the local police or sheriff to remove the tenant from the property, by force if necessary.
Some states, including New York, Virginia, and Maryland, have laws giving the tenant a right of redemption. This right lets the tenant avoid eviction by paying the landlord the amount ordered by the court before being removed from the property. Whether the tenant is evicted in the end or not, the landlord may collect what the court says the tenant owes. These kinds of court judgments last for different amounts of time in different states, but it is typically a long time. In New York, for example, a landlord may have up to 20 years to collect their payment. Once the tenant has paid the court-ordered amount, the landlord typically must file a notice of satisfaction with the court to show that the tenant has paid the debt.
Because losing an eviction lawsuit can lead to such big problems, if you are a tenant, you might want to hire a lawyer to defend yourself against an eviction lawsuit.
Does the losing party have to pay attorney fees, court costs, and other legal expenses?
In many cases, yes. The law on what a loser must pay varies from state to state, but many leases include terms to address this directly. Often, the losing party, either the landlord or the tenant, will be ordered to pay the winning side's legal expenses, including their lawyer fees.
Can I challenge the court's decision after the judgment?
Yes. Both landlords and tenants may appeal a final judgment in an eviction lawsuit. Appealing generally means asking the court to take a second look at the case. Some areas, such as Washington, D.C., also let both parties ask a landlord-tenant court to change its own judgment. Appealing an eviction is complicated. You may want to ask a lawyer about how to challenge an eviction judgment in your state before getting started.
If the eviction lawsuit is dismissed without prejudice because of a legal mistake that you made as a landlord, you are probably better off restarting the eviction process and following the right process rather than appealing the judgment. The one time when this might not be the best choice is if you think the court was wrong when it said you made a mistake. A lawyer can help you understand whether you or the court made the error.
Both landlords and tenants begin the appeals process by filing a Notice of Appeal in the court that gave the judgment. The time you have to file an appeal depends on your state. For example, in California, it is 40 days from the date of the court's judgment, while in New York it is only four days. You will likely also be charged a filing fee, which also varies by state. Nevada charges $97 to appeal an eviction judgment, North Carolina charges $150, and Georgia charges $198. The court may not make you pay the filing fee if you show that you cannot pay it due to financial trouble.
If you are a tenant, in most states, filing an appeal does not delay the eviction order. In other words, you can still be evicted from your home while the appeal is happening. Most states require tenants to pay some amount to delay the eviction order, if that's possible, during the appeal process. Again, this amount varies by state. Nevada charges a flat $250 fee, while in North Carolina and other states, it depends on how much money the tenant owes the landlord. Unlike with the filing fee, the court cannot let you avoid this payment due to financial trouble in most states.
Whether or not the eviction order is delayed during the appeal, the appealing party must still file a document with the appeals court explaining the errors they think the trial court made. The other party will also get a chance to explain why they think the trial court gave the right judgment. The appeals court will consider both arguments and either agree with the eviction order or change it.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney can answer your questions about your eviction case.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.