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How do I know that my Eviction Notice is legal?

An Eviction Notice is a document made by a landlord notifying a tenant that one or more terms of their lease have been broken. If you receive an eviction notice, your first step is to decide whether you agree with the facts in the notice and whether there is a clause in your lease that covers that situation. Some notices will allow tenants to fix or cure the problem, such as by paying overdue rent.

The law may also place limits on evictions. A Lease Agreement cannot contain illegal terms and an eviction based on an illegal term may not be enforceable. For example, some state laws do not allow landlords to evict after just one missed rent payment. If you live in one of those places, it does not matter if your lease says that the landlord can evict you after one missed payment, because that term in your lease would not be legal. If your landlord does not have a legal reason to evict under the law, the Eviction Notice is not legal.

You can review an Eviction Process Worksheet to get an idea of what steps a landlord needs to take to begin the process. However, the eviction process varies from state to state, and even county to county, so it is best to ask a lawyer for help that is specific to your location.

What can I do after receiving an Eviction Notice?

What you can do after receiving an Eviction Notice depends on whether or not you agree with the reason for eviction stated in the notice, and whether the notice provides options to avoid the eviction.

If you disagree with the reason for eviction, you can discuss the facts with your landlord or a lawyer. For example, maybe the landlord made a bookkeeping error and did not credit your rent payment. You could show them your canceled check so that they could correct your account. If there are less black-and-white issues, such as a barking dog, then saying, for example, that it was not your dog could cause them to investigate more before they continue the eviction process. If you discuss the matter with your landlord, be sure to document the conversation or take notes about what was said immediately after the conversation.

If you agree with the reason for eviction, you can still try to negotiate. If you missed a rent payment, some landlords will consent to a Late Rent Payment Agreement, or another payment plan, if you show proof of a temporary hardship. For example, you might have lost your job and had a delay in securing unemployment or new employment. It may also be to your advantage to consider agreeing to move out in exchange for the landlord waiving all back rent or simply to not have an official eviction on your record. In rent controlled areas, it is not uncommon for landlords to waive unpaid rent and pay tenants for move out costs and other expenses. 

Can I wait until my day in court to fight the eviction?

You have the right to go to court to fight an eviction. If a landlord tries to force you to move out or cuts services before receiving a judge's order, it is almost always illegal. Even after an eviction order from the court, the landlord cannot force a tenant out themselves. Typically, a landlord must request the sheriff or local authorities to enforce the court’s order. If a landlord forces a tenant out themselves, such as by changing the locks, a tenant may be entitled to civil damages against the landlord, and the landlord may have committed a crime.

Keep in mind that if you do go to court and lose, an eviction judgment will show up in future background checks and may cause many landlords to refuse to rent to you. If you owe money, it could harm your credit score and lead to separate legal actions to collect the money owed. Negotiating a resolution with your landlord instead of going to court can help avoid these consequences.

Additionally, before you go to court, you must prepare. Courts have very specific rules that must be followed, and those vary from state to state, and from courthouse to courthouse. There are several deadlines that must be met before the trial date. If you are considering fighting an eviction in court, ask a lawyer for help as early as possible.

How can I stop a retaliatory eviction?

A retaliatory eviction is when a landlord makes up a reason to evict you to get back at you for enforcing your rights, such as by submitting a complaint, requesting repairs or reporting a habitability issue. For example, you might have reported the landlord to the local rent board for not fixing your heat in the winter, so the landlord pretended they never got your next rent check and proceeded to try to evict you for not paying.

If you are having trouble with your landlord, keep as much documentation as possible about all payments, problems you have reported to them, conversations you had, and any other issues. It can also be a good idea to talk to a lawyer about how to protect yourself, even before your landlord tries to evict you, if you think a retaliatory eviction is a possibility.

Can I be evicted before my lease ends?

If your landlord wants to evict you before your lease is up, they can typically only do so if you have violated your lease. When there is no legal basis for an eviction, landlords may offer tenants a payment to move, and tenants may refuse. However, when a lease term ends, if a tenant refuses to leave, a landlord can evict so long as the proper notice was provided.

Some places have an exception that allows landlords to break the lease when the rental property is sold to someone who intends to live in it themselves. This usually requires a certain amount of notice and often a payment to cover moving expenses or more. Another exception involves “acts of god” or significant disasters. If a tenant has to move out because the unit was badly damaged by a disaster, such as by fire, the landlord may be able to cancel the lease.

Can I be evicted if there is no lease?

A tenant who does not have a lease is usually considered a month-to-month tenant. In most locations, either the landlord or the tenant can end the agreement by giving a written notice one or two months before ending a month-to-month agreement. If your landlord wants to evict you sooner or your area has strong legal protections for renters, such as a rent control ordinance, your landlord must follow the usual eviction process and may not be able to evict you except in very specific circumstances.

To learn more about how to stop an eviction or how to communicate with your landlord, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for legal advice.

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.


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