What is an Eviction?
An eviction is a legal action a landlord can take to end your lease and insist that you move out of the rental property. An eviction notice may come in the mail, by delivery service or it may be handed to you in person. If you are evicted, it will have a negative effect on future rental applications.
Reasons for Eviction and How to Avoid Being Evicted
Nonpayment of rent is the most common cause for eviction. In most states, if you are late with your rent, by law, your landlord must give you written notice that you have a specific number of days to pay the rent you owe or move out of the rental property. If you do neither, the landlord can then file for eviction. In a few states, no written notice from the landlord is required by law to start an eviction process. Whatever state you live in, it is important to pay your rent by the due date written in the lease. It is also important to communicate regularly with your landlord. If your rent is going to be late but you can pay it soon, let your landlord know immediately. A landlord does not have to agree to the payment arrangement, but they may be willing to work with you. However, if you pay your rent late more than one or two times, you are putting yourself at risk of being evicted.
It is important that you fully understand the rules written in your lease. If you break the rules or ignore any tenant responsibilities outlined in the lease, you are at risk of eviction. For example, if the lease does not allow pets, do not keep a pet. Or, do not have more people living at the property than the lease permits. If you receive a verbal or written warning from the landlord stating that you have broken any rules in the lease, take immediate action to resolve the issue.
You can be evicted if you participate in any illegal activities. If you are unsure of the legality of something you are asked to do — to earn money, for example — ask a resettlement agency staff member.
What Should I Do if I Receive an Eviction Notice?
Do not ignore it! Act immediately and take the following actions:
- Communicate directly with your landlord and find out if there is a way you can avoid being evicted.
- If you cannot work out an arrangement with your landlord, immediately seek legal aid. If you have been working with a resettlement agency, they should be able to refer you to local groups that can help you find low-cost or free legal assistance. If you are not connected with a resettlement agency, these resources can help you find low-cost or free legal services:
-The State Side Legal organization lists legal services organizations by state where you may find free legal help if you meet the financial requirements. You can also use the map to locate organizations near you.
-Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is a nonprofit organization established by the U.S. government that provides funds for legal aid to low-income Americans. On the organization’s website, enter your address to find an LSC-funded legal aid organization near you.
Remember, as a responsible tenant, you also have rights. You cannot be evicted if you pay your rent on time and follow the rules written in the lease. And your landlord cannot evict you for complaining or filing complaints about illegal or unsafe conditions at the rental property. If you feel that you are being evicted without just cause, a lawyer can help you dispute the eviction and may make it possible for you to remain in the rental property until the lease ends.
Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions. Refugee Housing Solutions is a project of Church World Service under an agreement paid for by the U.S. Department of State.