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Do I need to respond to an Eviction Notice?

If you are hoping to stop an eviction, then responding to an Eviction Notice can help. Before sending an Eviction Notice, your landlord might informally warn you that something is wrong. It might be in a letter, in an email, or simply by letting you know during a conversation. If you do not fix what is wrong, they may give you a written warning in the form of an Eviction Notice. If you do not fix the problem after getting this notice, they may file an eviction lawsuit. At any of these steps, you might be able to convince your landlord to stop the eviction process.

There are two things you need to know about an Eviction Notice. First, an Eviction Notice is not the same as an eviction order. You can agree to move out after receiving a notice, but you typically do not have to move out until a court says you do by issuing an order. You can try to work out another solution with your landlord, like getting caught up on rent with a Late Rent Payment Agreement. The important thing is that if you can convince your landlord they do not need to file an eviction lawsuit, it will not show up on your record. Your landlord might still give you a bad reference, but the court record of an eviction lawsuit will not show up on background checks.

The second thing to know about an Eviction Notice is that ignoring it will not make it go away. Your landlord can generally file for eviction a certain number of days after giving you an Eviction Notice. Most of the time, they do not need to wait for you to respond before they can file a lawsuit. It is usually in your best interests to reach out right away to work something out. Some laws say your landlord may need to prove that they told you they were planning to evict or to file a lawsuit. But a landlord can usually still prove that they legally let you know about it even if you do not respond.

How long do I have to answer a complaint?

If your landlord files an eviction lawsuit, you will generally get a written legal complaint delivered to you. A legal complaint for eviction is a court document that tells the court why the landlord wants to evict you. The paperwork you receive with the complaint may tell you when you need to send your answer to the court. Your answer sets forth your legal argument against the eviction. Depending on where you live and the reason for the eviction, you may only have a few days to a couple weeks to file your answer. Eviction cases generally move much more quickly than any other type of court case.

If you want to have a lawyer help you, it is a good idea to contact one as soon as possible. The deadline on the complaint is the deadline to answer the court, not the deadline to contact a lawyer. Your lawyer will need to understand your case with enough time to write an answer. It can often take a few days to find and hire a lawyer.

It can be hard to delay an eviction case, depending on where you live. You generally need a good reason to do so, such as needing more time to prepare your defense. Some courts may not allow delays in eviction cases without a compelling reason, especially if the eviction is for non-payment of rent. Depending on your financial situation, you might want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer because a bankruptcy may also delay an eviction in some cases.

If you do not think you can make it to the courthouse on your court date, you may want to talk to your lawyer or the court as soon as possible to request a continuance. If a tenant misses their court date, the landlord almost always automatically wins.

It is legal for a tenant to ask for and accept a payment from the landlord to move out. This is often called a cash-for-keys deal. Landlords may agree to such a deal because they think the tenant may not have enough money to pay what they owe. When a tenant cannot pay, the landlord often ends up spending more money and time going to court to get the tenant out. Many tenants use this money to cover moving expenses and pay their deposit on a new home. Landlords get to turn over the unit quicker and get a paying tenant in to start recouping their losses.

Here are several other common issues a tenant might discuss or negotiate with a landlord:

  • How much money does the tenant actually owe, if it was not agreed on?
  • Will the tenant get their deposit back or will the landlord keep it to cover late rent or property damage?
  • Can the tenant agree to pay a lower amount than what is owed?
  • Is it possible to work out a payment plan between the landlord and tenant to avoid having to pay what is owed all at once?
  • Can the landlord agree not to file an eviction lawsuit so the tenant avoids an eviction on their record?
  • Will the landlord send any debts to collections?

When you agree to any terms, it is usually best to make sure you get them in writing.

What can I do if I have nowhere to go?

Tenants often try to delay an eviction because they have nowhere to go.

Local charities, religious groups, or government programs may be able to help you stay in your current home or find a new place to live. You can often get details about these organizations at the local housing court, the housing authority, or the state bar association. You can also search online for eviction assistance programs, eviction prevention programs, and rental assistance programs near you.

These benefits can be time-consuming to navigate, so it is best to start exploring your options as soon as you learn that an eviction may be coming.

What will happen to my stuff if I have nowhere to go?

If you agree to move out, you generally need to get all your stuff out as part of your agreement. When you are working out a plan to move out, you can try asking the landlord whether you can use storage space on their property temporarily.

If the landlord formally evicts you, you typically need to move everything out by the date on the eviction order. In some places, once the landlord can legally retake their rental unit, they may be allowed to put your things on the curb. Other places require landlords to move the tenant's belongings into storage for a certain amount of time. You may owe the landlord for these storage costs or have to pay extra costs to store your things for longer. Typically, the landlord will rent a commercial storage unit at their standard rates in this kind of situation.

If you are unsure that the eviction is legal, you may need to act to fight it. To learn more about your rights as a tenant, find out whether an eviction is legal, or work out a problem with your landlord, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.

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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