Receiving eviction notices can be very unsettling, especially if you believe you are being wrongfully evicted and you feel your eviction rights are being violated. As a tenant, it's important that you know and understand your rights and obligations.
When you sign a rental agreement contract, you are agreeing to the terms set forth in it and you are legally obligated to abide by those terms. If you don't pay your rent on time or if you violate other lease terms, your landlord has a legal right to break rental contract and evict you, but not without a notice to evict.
Eviction Notice Requirements
Each state has laws governing the notice requirements a landlord must follow in order to evict a tenant. Typically, the eviction process begins when the landlord serves an eviction notice on the tenant. The eviction notice must contain certain information including:
- The reason for the eviction;
- The paragraph of the lease which has been violated;
- The amount of rent, late fees, and other fees due if the basis for the eviction is non-payment of rent; and
- The cure date (the date by which the violation must be corrected in order to avoid eviction).
Some states may require that other information be included in an eviction notice. Therefore, if you have been served with an eviction notice, don't ignore it. You should have a tenant's rights attorney review your lease and the eviction notice because you may be able to fight the eviction.
Thousands of tenants are wrongfully evicted each year. Many of these tenants simply don't know what their rights are or how to protect themselves from unscrupulous landlords. Others fail to appear at the eviction hearing and lose by default.
There are a number of things landlords do which may constitute a wrongful eviction including:
- Failing to comply with notice and other legal requirements;
- Filing an eviction complaint against a tenant who has lodged complaints about the condition of the property, questioned the legality of lease provisions, or started a tenant's union;
- Harassing a tenant until she moves out;
- Entering the premises without notice to or the consent of the tenant and evicting the tenant based on what the landlord saw during the unauthorized entry;
- Changing locks or shutting off utilities because a tenant is behind on his rent;
- Ignoring repair issues which constitute a risk to the tenant's health or safety;
- Ignoring repair issues which make the property uninhabitable; and
- Evicting the tenant and moving into the premises (known as an owner move-in eviction)
Other actions by landlords may also be considered a wrongful eviction. You should speak with a tenant's rights attorney about your situation to determine if you have a wrongful eviction claim.
There are several things you should do to protect yourself from being wrongfully evicted. Make sure to read your lease and keep it in a safe place so that you have access to it if any issues or disputes arise between you and your landlord. You should also pay your rent by check or money order so that you have a record of the payments. If you must pay in cash, make sure to get a receipt. Finally, keep all correspondence between you and your landlord and document any conversations you have with him about the property or your tenancy.
If you have already been evicted, you may have a very limited time to file a wrongful eviction claim. The statute of limitations on such a claim may be one year or less. A tenant's rights attorney can tell you what the statute of limitations is on a wrongful eviction claim in your state.
A landlord who wrongfully evicts a tenant may be subject to very stiff penalties. If a tenant wins a wrongful eviction case, the judge may award him damages. The court may even order the landlord to allow the tenant to move back into the property.
If you believe you are being or have been wrongfully convicted, contact an experienced tenant's rights attorney. Although the Internet may contain a lot of information on this subject, you should not rely on it because it may be incorrect or outdated. A knowledgeable tenant's rights attorney will review your lease, eviction notice, and any other documentation you have, assess your case, and give you his legal opinion about the strength of the case.