An eviction proceeding is usually a complex and unpleasant experience involving time, energy, and money. It is an inconvenience to both tenant and landlord. The best way to avoid the experience is to choose a suitable apartment, negotiate an acceptable lease, and fulfill your legal obligations. Evictions can only occur as follows:
- A petition must be served to the tenant stating the date, time, and place of the hearing. This petition may be served in person, or left affixed to the dwelling door or with a person of suitable age as long as a copy is sent by certified mail. Failing to show up in court for the hearing, you lose automatically. You don't need a lawyer, but having one might be helpful.
- If the eviction proceedings are based on nonpayment of rent, the landlord must first demand the rent from the tenant. If, after three days, the rent is not paid, the landlord can begin proceedings. The tenant can raise defenses to the effect that he or she doesn't owe rent. This may be due to the tenant's entitlement to rent abatement, withholding of rent due to a lack of repairs, or debts which would cancel out the landlord's claim. If the amount of rent is in dispute, or if the rent is withheld, the court may require that it be paid into the court or put in escrow. If the landlord delays for about six months in bringing a non-payment proceeding, the tenant can argue that the landlord can sue for only the past three or four months (again, consult a lawyer).
- If the court makes a judgment for eviction, it can include a judgment for the tenants to pay rent owed as well as any attorney fees, and for the cost of repairs if the lease provides for these charges to be considered. If the lease provides that the landlord would be entitled to attorney's fees and the tenant wins the hearing, the tenant is entitled to attorney's fees from the landlord.
- If an eviction judgment is granted, the court will issue a Warrant of Eviction which can be given to the sheriff or marshall to serve. The tenant must vacate within 72 hours. If not, the tenant's belongings will be removed and put into storage with the tenant responsible for the cost.