Tenants who are failing to pay rent can be removed through the legal process of eviction. Landlords must follow a series of steps, including filing papers in a civil court, in order to successfully evict a client. The procedure varies in each state, where landlord/tenant law governs notices, evictions and appeals, as well as the deadlines associated with each step of the process.
Get a blank copy of a "Notice to Quit" from your local clerk of court; fill out the notice and deliver it to the tenant. The notice informs the tenant that rent is past due and must be paid within a certain amount of time before eviction proceedings will formally begin.
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File a complaint in civil court if the tenant fails to correct the non-payment of rent. The clerk of court may have blank forms available; alternatively, have an attorney prepare it. You must mail or bring in the form to the clerk of court. The clerk will date-stamp the form on the day he receives it; this is your date of filing. In most states, the complaint at a minimum must give the tenant name, the property address, the amount of rent past due and the period for which the rent is due. In effect, the complaint is a request to the court to cancel the lease and set a hearing on the matter so both sides can state their cases and have a formal judgment rendered. The complaint must be served on the tenant by a certified process server or by the sheriff's department.
Await an answer to the complaint from the tenant. The period of time for answering a complaint is fixed by the local jurisdiction. Alternatively, the tenant may pay the past-due rent and obtain a right of redemption, in which the lease remains in effect.
Appear at a hearing or mediation after the answer is filed (or if no answer is filed). The date of the hearing or mediation is set by the clerk of court. If the tenant does not appear, you will win a default judgment, which will be entered into the record by the clerk or the judge/mediator handling the case.
Obtain a writ of repossession from the court, which legally recognizes your right to have law enforcement officials seize the property and evict the tenant.
Deliver the writ of repossession to the local sheriff, who will post a notice at the property giving the tenant a short period of time to vacate. At the end of that period, the sheriff may physically remove the tenant and all of her possessions in and around the premises.
If eviction proceedings have previously been instituted, and the problem of non-payment continues, landlords can file a complaint "without right of redemption," meaning the court can terminate the lease despite any corrective action on the part of the tenant.
Eviction without legal process and without the agency of law enforcement is illegal in all states. This includes changing the locks or otherwise seizing the property.
Things You'll Need
Eviction documents and notices