How to Evict a Tenant Who Has Never Paid

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Eviction is the legal procedure to remove a tenant from the landlord’s property. A landlord can evict a tenant for breaking the terms of the lease or failing to pay rent. However, the landlord must follow the state’s procedure for evicting a tenant and cannot resort to self-help measures such as forcibly removing the tenant. If the landlord does not follow the state’s procedure, the landlord can be liable for damages to the tenant.

Step 1

Send a notice in writing requesting the amount owed and informing the tenant that you will be initiating eviction procedures if the tenant does not catch up on the past due rent. Keep a copy of the notice to show to the court, if necessary.

Step 2

File an unlawful detainer lawsuit with the court in your county. An unlawful detainer lawsuit is the legal name for an eviction procedure. Complete the appropriate court form for your state, in addition to paying a filing fee. You must provide a reason for the requested eviction on the form.

Step 3

Provide notice to the tenant of the pending unlawful detainer action. A landlord can accomplish proper service by posting a copy of the filed unlawful detainer complaint on the tenant’s door or sending a copy of the complaint through the mail. The tenant has a statutory period according to state law in which to file an answer to the unlawful detainer complaint.

Step 4

Appear at the unlawful detainer hearing and explain to the judge why she should grant the eviction request. It is very common to ask for an eviction order after a tenant fails to pay rent. Rarely, a tenant appears at the hearing and explains to the judge the reason the tenant did not pay rent. However, the tenant must have a valid reason or the court will grant the eviction request.

Step 5

Contact the sheriff to serve the eviction order on the tenant. If the tenant is not present to receive the eviction order, the sheriff attaches the order to the front door of the residence. The amount of time the tenant has to vacate the property after receiving the eviction order varies by state.


About the Author

Elizabeth Stock began writing professionally in 2010. Before pursuing a career as a freelance writer, Stock was an editor and note writer for the "Thomas Jefferson Law Review" while attending Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Stock recently graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson earning a Juris Doctor.

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  • David Hiller/Valueline/Getty Images