Eviction Law - A Complete Guide to Eviction Law in 2024

Eviction Laws: An Overview

Eviction is the legal process a landlord must follow to remove a tenant from a rental property and regain possession of the unit. It involves several steps, including providing proper notice to the tenant, filing a lawsuit, obtaining a court order, and having authorities remove the tenant if they fail to leave voluntarily. 

The key parties in an eviction are the landlord and the tenant. The landlord owns the rental property and rents it out to a tenant in exchange for the payment of rent and following the terms of the lease agreement. If the tenant violates the lease, doesn't pay rent, or the landlord wants the property back for other legal reasons, the landlord can start the eviction process to remove the tenant.

There are a variety of valid reasons a landlord can evict a tenant, including:

  • Non-payment of rent - If the tenant fails to pay rent on time as required by the lease, this is grounds for eviction. The tenant will receive a notice to pay or vacate within a certain timeframe.
  • Lease violations - If the tenant violates any term of the written lease agreement, such as having unauthorized guests or pets, the landlord can evict for breach of contract. 
  • Property damage - Causing excessive damage beyond normal wear and tear can lead a landlord to evict a destructive tenant.
  • Illegal activities - Engaging in illegal activities like selling drugs on the premises provides grounds for immediate eviction.
  • Landlord personal use - If the owner wants to move into the unit or give it to a family member, tenants may be evicted in some jurisdictions.

The laws governing valid reasons for eviction, as well as the proper procedures a landlord must follow, vary by state and municipality. But in general, the eviction process involves notice to the tenant, court proceedings, and removal from the property if the tenant fails to leave voluntarily.

Grounds for Eviction

Landlords can legally evict tenants for a variety of reasons, known as grounds for eviction. The most common grounds for eviction include:

Non-Payment of Rent

The most common reason landlords evict tenants is for failure to pay rent on time and in full. If a tenant misses a rent payment or pays only part of what they owe, the landlord can begin the eviction process. The specific laws vary by state, but generally the landlord must provide written notice giving the tenant a few days (such as 3-5 days) to pay the rent or move out. If the tenant still doesn't pay after the notice period ends, the landlord can file for eviction.

Lease Violations  

If a tenant violates the terms of their lease agreement, the landlord can evict for breach of contract. Common lease violations include having an unauthorized pet, extra roommate, or making changes to the unit without permission. The landlord typically must provide written notice of the violation and give the tenant an opportunity to fix the issue before proceeding with eviction.

Damage to Property

Tenants are responsible for properly maintaining the rental unit and may face eviction if they or their guests damage the property. This includes physical damage beyond normal wear and tear. The landlord must show the tenant caused the damage intentionally, negligently, or through irresponsible behavior.

Illegal Activities 

Landlords can immediately begin the eviction process if the tenants are using the property for illegal activity, such as selling drugs, prostitution, or other criminal behavior. Proof is required showing the tenant knew about the illegal activity.

Landlord Personal Use 

Some state laws allow landlords to evict tenants if they want to repossess the property for personal use, such as moving into the unit themselves or a close family member. Proper advance notice is still required, often 60-90 days.

Eviction Notice Requirements

Before a landlord can legally evict a tenant, they must provide proper written notice explaining the reason for eviction and give the tenant an opportunity to fix the issue or vacate the property. The notice requirements and timeline vary by state, but generally the eviction notice must:

  • Be in writing: The notice must be an official eviction notice document stating the landlord's intent to start eviction proceedings if the issue is not resolved. In most states, the notice cannot just be a letter or email. 
  • State a valid reason for eviction: The notice must cite one of the legally allowed reasons for eviction in that state, such as nonpayment of rent, violating the lease, or causing property damage.
  • Provide a timeline to comply or vacate: The notice will give the tenant a certain number of days to either fix the issue (such as paying past due rent) or vacate the property. This is usually 3-14 days but can vary. 
  • Follow proper service of notice rules: The landlord must properly deliver the notice to the tenant in accordance with state laws, usually by posting it on the rental unit or handing directly to the tenant. Mailing or emailing may not be valid service methods.

If the tenant fails to comply within the notice period, the landlord can then proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit. It's important for tenants to read the notice carefully and respond within the timeline, or the landlord gains the right to legally evict. Proper notice is required for the eviction case to hold up in court.

Eviction Laws by State

Eviction laws can vary significantly between states. Each state has its own regulations and procedures that landlords must follow when removing tenants from a rental property. Some key differences between states include:

Notice Requirements

The amount of notice a landlord must give a tenant before starting the eviction process differs by state. Some states only require 3 days notice for nonpayment of rent, while others require 30 days or more. For lease violations, some states need as little as 7 days notice while others require 30+ days. 

Allowable Reasons for Eviction 

While nonpayment of rent is a universal cause for eviction, other reasons a landlord can terminate a lease vary. Some states allow evictions for illegal activity, property damage, lease expiration, or no cause at all. Others restrict eviction to only a handful of reasons like nonpayment or lease violations.

Tenant Protections

Some states have enacted laws that give tenants facing eviction more rights and protections. For example, New Jersey requires "good cause" for evictions. Cities like Seattle ban winter evictions. Some states prohibit retaliation evictions if a tenant makes a complaint. Others limit evictions based on COVID-19 hardships.

Differences in Process

The legal process and timeline for evictions differs between states. Some states have expedited eviction procedures that can remove tenants quickly, while others have more tenant protections that prolong the process. The appeals process and ability to halt evictions also varies.

Tenants should research the specific eviction laws in their state to understand their rights. While the process differs everywhere, basic tenant protections tend to include proper notice, good cause, and due process. But the nuances around these protections are not universal.

The Eviction Process

The eviction process typically involves the following steps:

Notice to Tenant

The eviction process starts with the landlord providing written notice to the tenant that they are in violation of the lease. Common reasons include nonpayment of rent, excessive property damage, or engaging in illegal activity on the premises. 

The notice will state the reason for eviction and give the tenant a specific number of days to either fix the lease violation or move out of the property. This notice period ranges from 3-30 days depending on the state and violation.

Filing Lawsuit 

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict the tenant. This involves submitting eviction paperwork, called an Unlawful Detainer, with the local court and paying a filing fee.

The court will schedule a hearing date and provide a summons ordering the tenant to appear in court to defend against the eviction. The summons is typically served on the tenant by a sheriff, process server, or taped to the property's front door.

Court Hearing

On the court date, the tenant and landlord will appear before a judge. Both parties will be able to present evidence and call witnesses. 

Common tenant defenses against eviction include improper notice, landlord retaliation, uninhabitable living conditions, or rent was paid in full. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a judgment of possession.

Eviction Order

If the tenant loses, the judge will issue an eviction order directing the tenant to vacate the property within a certain timeframe, typically 2-7 days. The order is delivered by the sheriff's department.

Removal from Property

If the tenant does not move out by the deadline, the sheriff will return to forcibly remove the tenant and lock them out of the property. Any belongings left behind will be placed on the curb or put in storage at the tenant's expense.

The entire eviction process can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks depending on the local courts. Tenants who lose an eviction case will have an eviction record on their credit report for 7 years, impacting their ability to rent in the future.

Defenses Against Eviction

If a landlord files for eviction, a tenant has several possible defenses to fight the eviction in court and avoid losing their home. Some common defenses include:

Invalid Reason for Eviction

If a landlord's stated reason for eviction is not valid under state laws, this can be used to successfully defend against eviction. For example, if a landlord tries to evict solely for complaining about needed repairs, but the state prohibits retaliation evictions, the eviction could be dismissed.  

Improper Notice Given

Landlords must strictly comply with notice requirements when filing for eviction. If the landlord did not properly serve notice, provide enough time, or include all required info, this procedural defect can defeat the eviction case. Tenants should compare the notice to state laws to identify any errors.

Rent Paid Before Court Hearing

Paying all rent due plus any late fees before the eviction hearing date can stop the eviction. The court will dismiss the case if there is no remaining basis for eviction after past due rent is paid. However, tenants should get receipts as proof of payment.

Landlord Retaliation

Most states prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for complaining about unsafe or unsanitary conditions, organizing other tenants, or exercising other legal rights. If the eviction appears to be in retaliation for asserting these rights, tenants can raise this defense. Evidence like past complaints, timing of notice, and disparate treatment of tenants can prove retaliation.

Tenants facing eviction should seek legal help to understand all possible defenses in their state and situation. While preventing eviction through a legal defense takes some effort, it allows the tenant to remain in their home versus having an eviction on their record.

Eviction and Credit Reports

An eviction filing will show up on your credit report even if you weren't formally evicted from the property. This can severely impact your ability to qualify for a new rental in the future.

When a landlord files for eviction, it is considered a public record. The major credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all collect public record information from courthouses and add any eviction filings to credit reports. 

So even if the eviction case is dropped or you come to an agreement with your landlord, that initial filing will still appear on your credit report. Most rental applications ask if you have ever been party to an eviction proceeding. Landlords typically check applicant credit reports and will see the eviction filing.

An eviction record essentially signals to future landlords that you are high risk. Even if you were able to come to a resolution with your previous landlord, the eviction filing means you technically broke the lease agreement even though you weren't forcibly removed. Because of this, landlords often deny applicants with any eviction history.

The eviction can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years before automatically dropping off. You can submit disputes to the credit bureaus to potentially have it removed earlier, but there is no guarantee this will work since it is considered public record. 

The bottom line is that an eviction filing makes it exponentially harder to find housing in the future. Doing whatever it takes to avoid eviction or come to an agreement with your landlord is critical to maintaining your rental history. If you do end up with an eviction filing on your record, expect that you may need a co-signer on your next lease or have to pay significantly higher rent or security deposits.

If you are facing eviction, it is important to know your rights and explore your options. Seeking legal help can provide guidance on the eviction laws and defenses available in your state. Here are some resources to find legal assistance:

Every state has legal aid organizations that provide free or low-cost legal help to qualifying low-income individuals. They can advise you on the eviction process and represent you in court if needed. To find a legal aid office in your state, use the Legal Services Corporation's online search tool.

Tenant Rights Groups

Many cities and states have nonprofit tenant rights organizations dedicated to supporting renters. These groups can explain the eviction process, help you understand notices, refer you to lawyers, and advocate on your behalf. Search for "tenant rights [your city/state]" to find local groups.

Lawyer Referral Services

Your state or local bar association likely has a lawyer referral service that can connect you with real estate and landlord-tenant attorneys for a low consultation fee. They may offer sliding scale fees or payment plans if you cannot afford their regular rates.

Law Schools

If you live near a law school, check to see if they have a housing law clinic that provides free legal services for tenants while giving students practical experience. 

Private Attorneys

You can also search online directories like Avvo or Lawyers.com to find local landlord-tenant lawyers. Be sure to ask about their experience with eviction cases and typical fees. Some may offer flat rates or be willing to negotiate costs.

Having professional legal guidance can help you understand your rights, navigate the eviction process, and explore defenses that could allow you to avoid losing your home. Don't hesitate to reach out for help.


What is the new eviction law in California?

In California, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 provides protections against eviction for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19 financial hardship. Tenants must declare in writing within 15 days of receiving a notice to pay rent or quit that they have suffered COVID-related financial distress. This law has been extended multiple times and currently expires on June 30, 2022. 

What is the new eviction law in NY?

New York's Tenant Safe Harbor Act prevents evictions of tenants facing COVID-related financial hardship. Tenants can raise financial hardship as a defense in eviction court. This law protects tenants from eviction for unpaid rent accrued between March 7, 2020 and January 15, 2022.

What are the rules for eviction in Ohio?

In Ohio, landlords must provide a 3-day notice to vacate before filing for eviction. Tenants are entitled to a court hearing before eviction. Ohio law does not require landlords to state a reason for ending a month-to-month tenancy in the notice. During COVID, tenants can provide a CDC declaration form to prevent eviction for non-payment of rent.

Do I have 30 days to move after an eviction in Nevada?

In Nevada, tenants have 5 judicial days (weekdays excluding holidays) to file an appeal after receiving a summary eviction order. If no appeal is filed, a lockout can occur. So the entire eviction process from notice to lockout can happen in as little as 2-3 weeks in Nevada.

Tips to Avoid Eviction

Paying rent on time every month is the most important tip to avoid eviction. Make rent your top financial priority and get it to your landlord by the due date in your lease. Set up automatic payments or recurring reminders to ensure rent doesn't slip your mind. 

Carefully follow all the terms in your lease agreement to avoid lease violations. These include properly maintaining the unit, avoiding damage, not having unauthorized occupants, and other rules. If you need to make any changes, get written approval from your landlord first.

Maintain open communication with your landlord if any issues come up that may impact rent payment or lease compliance. Immediately inform them if you lose your job or have another hardship. Work constructively together on solutions, like a payment plan.

Seek out rental assistance programs in your area if you are struggling financially. Many nonprofits and government agencies offer grants and loans to cover rent, security deposits, and utilities. This can help you get back on your feet and prevent falling behind on payments.

Taking proactive steps like these can help tenants stay in their rental home, avoid disruptive displacement, and prevent eviction from marring future housing applications.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools