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No matter how horrible a tenant might be, a landlord must follow the procedures in the state where the rental property is located in order to evict him. It is illegal for a landlord to resort to self-help remedies such as changing locks or shutting off utilities or to do anything else to circumvent the legal eviction process.
It is critical that a landlord know and understand the landlord-tenant laws in his state. If a landlord wrongfully evicts a tenant, he may be subject to very severe penalties. Moreover, if he doesn't follow all legal requirements to the letter, an eviction case will be dismissed.
Eviction Notices and Letters
There are generally three types of eviction notices or letters which are commonly used in residential evictions: 1) the pay or quit notice, 2) the cure or quit notice, and 3) the unconditional quit notice.
- Pay or Quit Notices - Pay or quit notices are used when
a tenant has not paid his rent. A pay or
quit notice states that the tenant must pay the past due rent and any late fees
or other fees within a specified period of time, often prescribed by law and
usually only a few days, or face eviction.
- Cure or Quit Notices - A cure or quit notice is used when
a tenant is current on the rent but has violated some other provision of the
lease. A cure or quit notice must
include a date by which the tenant must cure or correct the violation to avoid
being evicted. The time a tenant has to
cure a lease violation may be governed by state or local law.
- Unconditional Quit Notices - An unconditional quit notice is the harshest type of eviction notice because it does not give the tenant an opportunity to bring the rent current or otherwise correct the lease violation. Unconditional quit notices give the tenant a specified number of days, often established by state or local law, to vacate the premises in order to avoid being evicted.
State and local law also governs the form eviction notices must take and the type of information which must be included. Other information which a landlord may be required to place in an eviction notice includes:
The name of each tenant who signed the lease;
- The address of the property;
- The county in which the property is located; and
- The number of the paragraph in the lease which has been violated
Additionally, state law may require that certain recitals be included in an eviction notice. If the eviction notice does not include all the required information and language, the eviction case will most likely be dismissed.
In many states, an eviction notice may be served on the tenant by nailing or tacking it to the front door. You should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney to determine what the proper procedure is in your state.
Help Drafting an Eviction Notice
Drafting eviction notices is one service a landlord-tenant attorney can perform for a landlord. By having an experienced landlord-tenant attorney handle drafting eviction notices rather than doing it yourself or using DIY forms found on the Internet or in office supply stores, you eliminate the possibility that the forms are incomplete, incorrect or outdated.
Rather than having the attorney draft each and every eviction notice, a landlord can take the eviction notices drafted by the landlord-tenant attorney and use them as masters, simply filling in the blanks with the required information. If you choose to take this route, you should have your attorney review the masters each year and amend them if there have been any changes in the law.
Although having an attorney draft and periodically review your eviction notices will cost you some money, it's an investment in your landlord business you really can't afford not to make. And it will cost you a lot less than having one eviction case dismissed because you unused an improper eviction notice.