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What should tenants know about the eviction process?

| Jan 11, 2021 | Landlord/Tenant Concerns |

When housing is a basic necessity, being forced to leave a home before the end of a lease is stressful. Eviction, also known as “unlawful detainer” is a legal method for landlords to have tenants removed from a home before the end of a lease term. Although eviction may sometimes be inevitable, tenants who are at risk of eviction could prevent it or reduce the consequences with a better understanding of the process.

Notice and filing with the court

The eviction process starts when a landlord notifies a tenant that the tenant must either fix a problem or move out. If a tenant does not fix the problem before the notice expires, the landlord may file the eviction case with the court. Once the case is filed, the landlord must serve the tenant the summons and complaint.

Response and default

After the case is filed, tenants may respond by filing an answer to the complaint. The answer is a tenant’s opportunity to describe defenses and explain personal situations impacting the lawsuit. A proper response requires serving the landlord, filing the answer with the court, and paying the filing fee.

Response deadlines vary, and missing them could lead to a default judgment entered against tenants. Default judgments typically lead to tenants’ eviction. Once a default judgment is entered, tenants lose the opportunity to respond.

Trial and post-judgement

Once a proper response is filed, either party can request a trial date. The landlord and tenant can settle, or come to a mutual agreement, at any point before the trial. Notably, eviction cases often avoid trial.

The judge will enter a judgment for one of the parties at the end of the trial. The decision becomes final unless an unhappy party wishes to appeal the decision. Appealing a case has its own deadlines.