How to Start Eviction Process for Non-Payment of Rent

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Under the ancient traditions of the common law, a landlord could forcibly evict a tenant who had violated his or her lease. Now, this self-help remedy has been expressly forbidden by most states as a guest peaceful public policy. Today, states require landlords to use the statutory eviction process to remove a tenant for non-payment of rent.

Draft an eviction notice. State landlord tenant laws will describe precisely what information must be included in an eviction notice to a tenant. Usually, the parties and premises involved must be clearly identified, as well as the reason for the eviction. For failure to pay rent, the notice should include the exact amount due and provide for three to five days for the tenant can pay the past-due amount and avoid eviction.

Deliver or post the notice. In most states, the notice must be delivered personally to the tenant or someone living in the same household. If there is no one home, the notice must be posted in a conspicuous place, such as on the front door. Some states may allow for mailing the notice via certified mail.

File a complaint. If the tenant does not comply with the terms of the eviction notice and pay rent by the specified date, the landlord's next step is to file a complaint in small claims or any other appropriate local court. It may be useful to consult an attorney for assistance in drafting and filing the complaint. The complaint will have to be served on the tenant and the matter will come to a hearing, which usually takes place within a few weeks.


  • Each state has its own landlord tenant laws, and the eviction process may vary by state. Other common names for eviction that may be used in state laws include unlawful detainer, repossession, summary possession, forcible detainer and ejectment.


  • In some states, if a tenant has been late with the rent on more than one occasion, the landlord may be able to post an unconditional quit notice which requires the tenant to vacate the premises without a chance to pay the rent and stay. Even if the tenant has not failed to pay the rent or violated the lease, most states allow a landlord to terminate the lease for any reason with notice equal to one payment period, unless expressly forbidden by the terms of the lease.



About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.

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