Eviction or Unlawful Detainer

Once a landlord has issued the proper notices and the tenant has not complied by either moving out or fixing the problem cited, the landlord can start eviction proceedings. One unusual thing about eviction procedures is that the landlord can start an eviction proceeding before filing the eviction papers with the court.

Example: the landlord issued you a 20-day notice and you did not move out. The landlord then serves you with a summons and complaint for unlawful detainer (an eviction lawsuit), but has not filed the summons and complaint with the court. You have a very limited time in which you MUST reply in writing to the landlord or you will be found in default. If you do not reply, the landlord can then file the summons and complaint with the court, along with proof of having served the papers on you, and get a default judgment on the spot. And when landlords do this, they only have to pay a reduced court filing fee. So, if you receive a summons and compliant and you go to the court and find out that no case has been filed, you still must respond to the landlord (or the landlord’s attorney) in writing or face default judgment.

Once the Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer has been served on the tenant, the tenant must be given three days after the date of service to file a response. If the tenant has defenses to the eviction, the tenant should write those down as part of the response. Defenses can include proof that the landlord did not properly serve the pre-eviction notice, or did not allow sufficient time to cure the problem. If there is evidence that the landlord is retaliating against the tenant for asserting their legal rights, that can be another defense against eviction.

If the tenant does not respond, the landlord can file the Summons and Petition with the court on the fourth day after the papers were served and get an eviction order. The landlord cannot simply enter the rental unit and throw your stuff out or force you out himself. The landlord must take the eviction order from the court to the police of sheriff’s office to be served on the tenant. In most jurisdictions, the sheriff or police officer will be present when the landlord retakes possession of the rental unit. Most officers will not forcibly evict a tenant until at least 48 hours after the eviction order is served, to give the tenant time to move on their own.

All told, a tenant can be forcibly evicted from the rental unit in only eight days from the date of service of a 3-day notice to vacate, though 10 to 14 days is a more common timeline.

Effects and Collateral Damage From Eviction

There are serious negative effects for a tenant due to an eviction beyond the obvious problem of losing your dwelling.  If an eviction is filed with the court, that becomes a permanent public record. Even if you win in court and are not evicted, any future landlord can look at the court records and see that you were party to an eviction proceeding and may refuse to rent to you.

Credit scores are negatively affected by evictions, and insurance rates are based as much on your credit score as anything else!  Most insurance companies will charge you a higher premium for auto insurance if you have a bad credit score even if you have a perfect driving record.  Future landlords may also look at your credit score when you apply for a rental unit, so and eviction can have far-reaching negative consequences.  It is important to protect yourself against an eviction, and to defend yourself in court if an eviction proceeding is started against you.


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