If you tenant is behind rent payments, you may be worried about your rights as a landlord. Will be able to recoup your costs? If they don’t pay what are your options?

How Do I Evict a Tenant?

If you need to proceed with an eviction, there are a few steps that have to be taken. As the landlord, you must first terminate tenancy (and notify the tenant) before proceeding with an eviction.

Each state has laws and procedures that must be followed in the case of an eviction. Eviction papers must be drawn up and served (delivered) to the tenant, and the procedures and rules must be followed strictly.

The tenant must be given proper warnings and opportunity to remedy the situation and you can then file an eviction lawsuit (sometimes also called and “unlawful detainer” or UD lawsuit). You must then prove the tenant has done something wrong that necessitates eviction.

Notice of Termination for Cause

There are essentially three ways to file an eviction lawsuit, depending on the reasons it is being filed:

  1. Pay Rent or Quit Notice: If the rent has not been paid, you may serve this type of eviction notice. The tenant will typically be given 3-5 days to respond by paying the rent, or move out.
  2. Cure or Quit Notice: If a condition or term of the rental agreement or lease is violated, this type of notice may be served. This may include clauses that do not allow pets or a promise not to make a lot of noise.
  3. Unconditional Quit Notice: The harshest notice of all, there may be no request to remedy the situation. It is an order to leave the premises and there are no allowances to stay. This type of notice may be given if a clause of the rental or lease agreement was repeatedly violated, the rent was not paid on time more than once, the property has been seriously damaged or some illegal activity was conducted on the premises.

Notice of Termination without Cause

If you there is not a current lease with a fixed end date, you as the landlord can generally request a tenant vacate the premises, but you must give adequate notice. Most states allow for a 30-day or 60-day Notice to Vacate without cause.

If you live in a rent control city, you may also need to prove a legally valid reason for termination of a lease or rental agreement, which is called “just cause eviction protection.”


If the situation isn’t remedied after the notice is served, you must then file an eviction lawsuit and serve the tenant with a summons and complaint for eviction.

Your Possible Defenses

Simply serving an eviction notice, and even initiating an eviction lawsuit does not guarantee your eviction will be successful, however. The tenant may find several possible defenses, including inadequate paper preparation, illegal behavior (like not maintaining the rental property according to standards), or a claim that the lawsuit is in retaliation for requests by the tenant of needed repairs.

If you win the eviction lawsuit, the court judgment must then be given to local law enforcement. The tenant will then receive a notice from the sherriff’s or marshal’s office that they will come to escort the tenant out within a few days.

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