Suppose you allowed someone to stay in your home in good faith. He's a friend or a friend of a friend, so you didn't ask him to sign a lease, but when you ask him to leave, he refuses. What can you do to remove him? The good news is that every state has legal procedures to help you evict a tenant, even if you didn't put anything in writing. You can't just throw him out, though — you'll have to get a court order forcing him to leave.
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Actually, There Is a Lease
It comes as a surprise to most people, but whether there's a lease or not, it really doesn't matter. In fact, you probably have created a lease — just not a written one. In most situations without a lease, the tenant pays rent on a monthly basis. Here, the law will imply a month-to-month tenancy, which means the tenant has the same rights and responsibilities as a month-to-month tenant with a written lease. You can't just throw a month-to-month tenant out since this would violate her right to occupy. But you can do a formal eviction.
You Might Need a Legal Reason
You can usually evict a month-to-month tenant at any time and for any reason as long as you follow the proper process. In most states, you can remove a month-to-month tenant just because you don't like her anymore. In other places, you'll need a legal reason to evict the tenant; some common reasons include failing to pay the rent on time, damaging the property or violating an agreed condition, for example, when the tenant has a pet when you told him that you don't allow pets. In these jurisdictions, you'll need proof of the tenant's poor behavior to win the case.
Serve a Notice to Quit
Before you can evict the tenant, you must notify him that you're ending the tenancy. To do this, you must serve a written notice called a "notice to quit." The notice tells the tenant that you are terminating for reasons related to non-payment, some other legal reason, or for no reason at all. For no-fault evictions, the notice period usually matches the rent period. So, if the tenant pays monthly, you'll have to give her 30 days' notice to quit. You typically can move much faster when the tenant has done something wrong — California's delinquent rent notice is just three days' long. Every state has its own rules so check with your attorney or a free legal advice clinic to make sure you get the notice right. You have to prove that you gave the proper notice or a judge won't give you an eviction order.
File Court Papers
Tenants generally leave without much fuss when they get a notice to quit. If your tenant stubbornly refuses to leave by the end of the notice period, you have no option but to start an eviction action in court. The county court clerk can tell you what papers you'll need to file, but usually, you'll write a summons, petition and service paperwork. You'll need to serve the papers on the tenant in person or via a process server. Some states let you "mail and nail" the summons, meaning you can tape it to the door and mail a certified copy to the tenant.
Getting the Tenant Out
The judge decides at the court hearing whether you should get an eviction order, so bring your documentation to show that you served all the notices properly and did everything correctly. Assuming you get an order, the tenant will have a little extra time — around five days or so — to pack up his things and move out. If he isn't gone by the court-ordered date, you can have the sheriff remove the tenant and change the locks. Don't try to do this yourself. If you get the procedure wrong, you could wind up assaulting the tenant, trespassing or performing an illegal lockout. If this happens, you'll be the one who's suddenly standing on the wrong side of a lawsuit.