TBelow you will find a rough outline of the steps a landlord has to go through to evict a tenant. ***add some conditional language***
Step 1: Landlord demands possession of the property.
The landlord has to demand possession of the property. They can do this orally in person but it is best if it is in writing, such as an email, text, or letter. There are no magic words, a simple, “Ms. Smith, you are late on the rent, please move out.” is enough.
Step 2: Landlord files a dispossessory action in court
If the tenant refuses to vacate the property, either by saying as much or by not vacating when the landlord requests it, the landlord may then file a dispossessory action in court. These are usually filed in the Magistrate Court, but can also be filed in other Courts in the county you live in.
The landlord will file papers with the court identifying itself, the tenants, the property, and the reason the landlord believes the tenant should be evicted. The landlord may also attached exhibits, like a contract or an account balance, to the papers.
Step 3: Service of the dispossessory action on the tenant
After the landlord has filed the dispossessory action the papers have to be served. To be served means delivered to the tenant. Service is made either by the Sheriff or by a private process server.
The server will knock on the door and hand the occupant the papers if the person answers the door. If no one is home the server will tape a copy of the papers to the front door and put a copy of the papers in the US Mail. If you think you are going to be evicted make sure you check your mail every day.
Step 4: Tenant Answer
The tenant has seven days from the date of service to file an answer. Failure to file an answer results in you losing the right to contest the eviction. It is very important that if you have any defense or counterclaim you file an answer within seven days.
The papers served on you should have the address of the Clerk of Court where you can go file an answer. You can also call the courthouse and ask them where to file an answer. Go to the Clerk’s office and ask for the Answer form for an eviction, they will have a form for you to use. Fill out the form truthfully and give it to the Clerk, then make sure you get a copy. I cannot stress enough that you must do this in seven days!
Some Courts now offer electronic answers through an app or web portal. These systems are prone to failure and can be difficult to use, even for lawyers who use them every day. The safest thing to do is file the answer in person at the Clerk’s office.
Step 6: Hearing
The court will schedule a hearing, which is a court date where you will get to present evidence to a judge. ***hyperlink click here for more information about what to bring to court***. It is very important that you attend the hearing and not be late. A notice will be mailed to you telling you when your court date is. You can also, in most counties, check online to see if your court date has been scheduled.
Step 7: Writ of Possession
If the court sides with the landlord the landlord will request that the tenant vacate after a period of seven days, and possibly pay overdue rent. In the event of tenant refusal to vacate within seven days then the landlord will ask the court for a Writ of Possession, a document giving the landlord the right to remove the tenant’s possessions out of the property and physically remove the tenant. If the landlord needs to enter the property and physically remove the tenant and the tenant’s property the police, usually the local Sheriff, will be present for the eviction.
You may be tempted to try to stay in the property as long as you can. I recommend against this; one morning you may be woken up by the police giving you an hour to get out. If you do not move out under your own terms you may find your personal property left on the sidewalk and nowhere to live. Better to leave on your own terms.
You do have the ability to appeal an eviction. The appeal process is complicated, you should hire an attorney if you plan to appeal.