How Long Does It Take To Evict a Tenant From an Apartment or House?
Whether you’re a landlord or tenant, knowing what to expect in the eviction process is essential
on June 2, 2022
Eviction is the legal process for a landlord or property manager to remove a tenant from a rental property, such as an apartment or house. There are many reasons why a landlord might want to evict a tenant, including nonpayment of rent or other violations of a lease agreement.
Depending on the specific situation and state, the eviction process can range from several days to several months. This article helps both landlords and tenants know what to expect in the eviction process and when seeking legal assistance may be necessary.
How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
How long the eviction process takes depends on several factors.
Before a landlord can even bring an eviction lawsuit against a renter, they must first legally terminate the tenancy by giving written notice.
The amount of time that a renter has to move out once they get a written notice varies by state law and the specific facts of the situation. One major factor in how long you have is whether your landlord had good cause for the notice.
Eviction Notices With Cause
Generally speaking, landlords have three types of causes for terminating a tenancy:
- Nonpayment of rent. If a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord can give the tenant notice that they must pay or “quit” the premises. How long a tenant has to pay rent or vacate varies by state law and can range anywhere from 3 to 14 days.
- Lease violations. Suppose a tenant has violated a term of the lease, such as excessive noise rules, adding someone to the lease, or having a pet. The landlord can give the tenant a notice with the option to “cure” or correct the problem or else vacate. The period that a tenant has to cure the problem or move out varies by state law, ranging from as little as 3 days up to 30 days.
- Unconditional quit notice. This most severe type of notice orders the tenant to move without the option to pay late rent or fix a lease violation. A landlord could give quit notice if a tenant has repeatedly missed rent or violated significant parts of the rental agreement, seriously damaged the rental unit, or engaged in illegal activity on the premises. Some states set different deadlines depending on the problem. For example, a tenant might have to leave immediately if they’ve engaged in illegal activity or have up to 30 days for repeated lease violations.
Eviction Notices Without Cause
A landlord’s options are more limited if they do not have a good cause and simply want the tenant to move out.
If the lease agreement has a fixed term, the landlord will need to wait until the end of the lease and then not renew it. If the landlord tries to terminate a fixed-term lease early, they risk breaching the agreement and facing legal action.
Suppose the lease is month-to-month instead of a fixed term. In that case, the landlord could legally evict the tenant without cause if they give proper notice (typically a 30-day notice).
What Happens After an Eviction Notice?
Once a landlord gives proper notice of eviction, the tenant must either fix the violation or move out. If a tenant addresses the problem or moves out within the notice period, the eviction process could be as brief as a few days.
However, if a tenant fails to move out or fix the problem within the notice period, the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings by filing a lawsuit in civil court. Depending on your state, an eviction lawsuit might also be called an “unlawful detainer” lawsuit. The process of filing a lawsuit, notifying the tenant, and setting a court date can take several days or weeks, depending on your state’s procedures.
How Long Does Eviction Court Take?
Compared to many civil cases, eviction lawsuits tend to be relatively quick at around a few weeks. However, how long an eviction lawsuit takes can vary, extending to several months or more if there is a jury trial or any appeals.
A lawsuit can end quickly if the tenant doesn’t appear for the court hearing to defend against eviction charges. If this happens, the judge will give the landlord a default judgment, and the tenant will have to move out. It is therefore essential to show up for any court dates.
The lawsuit could take longer depending on how complex the case is and the defenses that a tenant might raise. For example, a tenant might:
- Challenge the landlord for not following the correct eviction procedures
- Point out that the notice didn’t meet legal requirements or wasn’t delivered correctly
- Show that they addressed the problem alleged in the notice
- Argue that the landlord breached the lease agreement by failing to maintain the property or by terminating a lease early
All of these defenses and others would have to be considered by the court. The more complicated the lawsuit, the more time it can take to sort things out. Whether you are a landlord or tenant involved in legal action, it is crucial to have legal assistance from a qualified lawyer.
How Long After an Eviction Judgment Do You Have To Move Out?
Suppose you have gone through the eviction lawsuit and the court ruled for the landlord. The court then gives the landlord a writ of possession, a court order authorizing the removal of the tenant. At this point, how long does the tenant have to move out?
As with each step of the eviction process, the timeframe for removal varies by state law and circumstances. In some cases, the tenant must move out immediately. In others, the tenant could have up to 14 days to move out. Some states do not specify the exact timeframe for tenant removal once a court gives judgment. In this case, the court determines the timeframe.
Regardless of exactly how long it takes, there are two important points to bear in mind once you have a judgment:
- No landlord “self-help.” First, at no point in the eviction process can a landlord take matters into their own hands by locking a tenant out of their home or turning off utilities like water or heat. If a landlord takes actions like this or tries to intimidate the tenant, they are liable to be sued. The landlord must stick to the legal eviction process to avoid trouble.
- Properly enforcing a court order. Second, a landlord cannot personally come into a tenant’s home and start removing their possessions or force them out once they have a judgment. Instead, the landlord typically must give the local sheriff or law enforcement the court order. Once the landlord pays the sheriff or officer a fee (charged to the tenant in the lawsuit), the sheriff will enforce the order by notifying the tenant of how much time they have to leave. If the tenant does not move out in that time, the sheriff will return and physically remove the tenant.
Questions for an Attorney
The eviction process can be complex and challenging. The specific grounds for eviction, defenses to an eviction, and the timelines involved vary by state and circumstances. Therefore, it is important to have good legal advice when navigating the eviction process, whether you are a landlord thinking about evicting a tenant or a tenant facing possible eviction.
Many attorneys provide initial free consultations to prospective clients. These meetings are a great resource for both attorney and client because it allows the attorney to hear the facts of the case while the client can determine if the attorney meets their needs.
The best way to decide whether an attorney is the right fit is by asking informed questions. Here are some good questions to ask during your initial conversations:
- What is your fee in an eviction case, and what billing options do you offer?
- Have you represented clients in this kind of dispute before?
- What do my chances of success look like, given the facts?
Finding the Right Attorney For Your Needs
It is essential to approach the right type of attorney—someone who can give you legal help through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.
For legal advice in an eviction, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who practices landlord-tenant law.