It’s a sad reality every landlord will face at one point or another.
The dreaded eviction process.
Occasionally, evictions are initiated because the property is being sold, or because the landlord needs to raise the rent and the tenant can no longer afford it. Albeit rare, sometimes it is even because the tenant knows they are going to fall behind on rent and is seeking some sort of assistance, but they cannot proceed without an eviction order. Most often, evictions occur as a result of nonpayment of rent. So many things can lead a tenant to stop paying rent: illness, injury, death of a roommate/spouse, loss of job, and even sometimes just because they don’t feel like paying. As understanding as a landlord wants to be, their bills don’t stop when tenants cannot pay their rent.
Many try to work things out amicably, and many even offer their tenants solutions for repayment, but that doesn’t always work. When you have a tenant who refuses to pay, what do you do?
“Trial is NOT what you see on TV. There is no jury. Just landlord, tenant, attorneys and the judge.”
In a nonpayment of rent case, the first step is to send the tenant a 14 day Notice to Quit for Nonpayment of rent. This notice must contain specific language and must properly name all parties. If it doesn’t, it could be deemed invalid and you need to restart the process. The 14 day Notice must be served upon the tenant, but it is not required that a constable serve. Simply delivering in hand or taping it to the unit’s door is enough. I recommend taking pictures or videos with a date and time stamp to show when it is delivered in the event the tenant contests service. At the end of 14 days, the tenant has likely not left, and you will need to request a Summons from the housing court. I recommend filing in housing court if the municipality is in a designated housing court area. It is faster, and the judges in housing court only hear housing-related matters. The Summons will have a service day of the following Monday, with an “entry day” the Monday after. On Entry Day, the $135 filing fee must be paid, and the case is assigned a docket number. On the Monday after Entry Day, we have “Answer Day”. This is the day in which the tenant must respond to the complaint or lose defenses. Depending on the housing court region, the hearing date will be either the same week or a week or so after.
On your hearing date, you will check in with clerks and be assigned to a housing specialist to see if they can reach an agreement with the parties and avoid going before the judge. If an agreement is reached, the parties sign an agreement for judgment, and the date set for moveout and past rent is submitted to the court for judge’s signature. Virtually all cases get resolved with the housing specialist, but those that don’t are held for trial. Trial is NOT what you see on TV. There is no jury. Just landlord, tenant, attorneys and the judge. Testimony on both sides generally takes about a half hour or so, and a decision is rendered. Decisions may be made on the spot or taken under advisement.
After the hearing date, if the tenant still refuses to move out, you can request an execution. This is the court’s order allowing you to forcibly move the tenant out. You will be required to contact a constable and a moving company, and you will have to store their belongings for 6 months. This is all at the cost of the landlord, but the total costs get added to the judgment against the tenant.
Housing court is no picnic, and it is a difficult course to navigate as a layperson. There are pitfalls I have not been able to go into detail about here, which is why it is so important have competent counsel on each of these matters.
Nothing Contained in this post creates an attorney/client relationship, and should not be construed as legal advice. Each scenario is different, and you should contact counsel for advice on your potential claim.
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