Understanding Your Rights as a Tenant in an Eviction

When it comes to being evicted, a landlord must first give proper notice to a tenant. He or she cannot simply stop by one day, enter the home and carry all of the tenant's belongings out on the street. If proper notice is given and the tenant does not take appropriate action, such as paying off any past due rent, the landlord then has the right to take the matter to court. It is during a court hearing that the landlord must prove there is good reason for the tenant to be evicted, such as for not having paid rent for the past several months.

It should be noted that every state has its own guidelines in relation to how an eviction can be carried out. If the landlord fails to comply with all legal stipulations, he or she may end up with a tenant living rent free in one of his or her rental properties for an extended period of time. He or she may also face harsh fines if all legal stipulations aren't followed.

When landlord-tenant disputes take place, it is very important for both parties to know their rights. For tenants, one of the best ways to understand their rights is by contacting an experienced and professional renter’s (tenant) attorney. Let's take a close look at several rights that all tenants have during the eviction process.

Can the landlord change the locks?

The landlord can only come to the rental property and change the locks if he or she has followed all legal procedures beforehand. This includes filing an eviction case with the court and having a sheriff serve a summons to inform the tenant that he or she is to leave the premises within a certain amount of time. If a tenant notices that his or her locks have been changed, or that any utilities have been shut off, without the landlord going through a proper eviction process, it will be the landlord who ends up in trouble.

Do all landlords have to have an exact reason as to why they want to evict tenants?

If a tenant signs a contract with a landlord, then yes, an exact reason has to be given. If there is no written lease, no reason typically has to be given. He or she does however have to follow all eviction legal processes, including giving the tenant anywhere from a seven to 30 day notice. In many states, there are lots of stipulations that apply in regards to a landlord evicting tenants for no reason.

What happens when a tenant doesn't move out after being given an eviction notice?

All tenants have the right to stay living in a rental property even after they have been given notice of eviction. If this happens, the landlord will then have to take the case to court, asking for permission from a judge to have the tenants removed by the local sheriff's office. The landlord will also have to pay a fee to have the tenants removed by the sheriff's department. Many times, it takes up to 30 days for the case to be approved and the sheriff's office to remove the tenants.

What happens when the landlord doesn't follow all notice rules?

If a landlord fails to give proper notice to a tenant that he or she wants to evict, then the tenant can choose to stay living in the rental property. Upon being taken to court by the landlord, the tenant then needs to explain to the judge why he or she feels that proper notice was not given by the landlord. If the judge sides with the tenant, the landlord will then be required to start the entire eviction process over.

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