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Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent
If you rent your home, you must pay rent for it. How much rent and when it is due must be stated in your lease. If you don’t have a written lease, your landlord should tell you how much rent you must pay and when it is due.
If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord has the right to start the eviction process. Your landlord must go to court to legally evict you. A landlord can’t do anything to personally remove you from the property. To learn more about the general eviction process, read Eviction: What Is it and How Does it start?
Eviction is a serious matter. You may want to contact a lawyer. Use Find a Lawyer find legal help in your area.
Demand for Possession
Before your landlord can evict you for not paying your rent, your landlord must give you a “Demand for Possession, Nonpayment of Rent.” This is the first step in the eviction process. The demand must:
- Be in writing
- Be addressed to the tenant
- Describe the rental property, usually by giving the address
- Say how much rent you owe
- Say that you have seven days to pay the rent or move out
- Include the landlord’s address and the date of the notice
Your landlord must properly serve you with the demand for possession for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can serve the demand in one of three ways:
- By giving it to you in person (personal service)
- By giving it to a member of your household who is old enough and responsible enough to accept it, with a request that it be given to you (substitute service)
- By mailing it to you via first class mail
Starting the Court Case
Once you get a demand for possession, you have seven days to pay the rent or move out. If you don’t do either one, your landlord can start an eviction case against you.
A landlord starts an eviction case by filing a summons and complaint with your local district court. A copy of your lease, a copy of the demand for possession that the landlord served on you, and a “certificate of service” stating how the landlord served you must be attached to the summons and complaint.
To learn more about eviction cases in court, read Going to Court in Eviction Cases.
Going to Court
In court your landlord must prove all of the following to obtain a judgment of eviction for non-payment of rent:
- You did not pay your rent;
- You were properly served with a demand for possession for nonpayment of rent;
- You did not pay your rent or move out within seven days of the notice.
If your landlord does not prove all of these things, the court should find in your favor and you should not be evicted.
Defending Against Eviction for Non-payment
If you paid your rent, you should not be evicted for non-payment of rent. You should tell your landlord you disagree and show proof of your payments. You should never give your landlord your original rent receipts; give him or her copies. If your landlord ignores your proof of payment and files an eviction case in court, bring your original rent receipts to show the judge.
In exchange for rent your landlord must keep your home and common areas in reasonable repair. If your landlord has not done this, you may ask the judge to reduce your rent for the period of time you were living in those conditions. This is called a “ rent abatement.” Bring any proof you have of these conditions to court with you. Examples of proof can be pictures and inspection reports.
If you spent money repairing your home or dealing with damage to it, you can also file a counterclaim asking the judge or jury to order your landlord to pay those expenses. However, you must not have caused the damage and your landlord must know about it.
If you did not pay your rent because your landlord did not keep your home and common areas in reasonable repair, or you deducted money from your rent to pay for repairs to your home, read Common Defenses and Counterclaims in Eviction Cases. When you're defending a case in court you may want to have a lawyer. A lawyer can help you raise these and other more complicated defenses to eviction. Use Find A Lawyer to find lawyers and legal services in your area.
Paying Rent after a Judgment
If you’ve been to court and the judge or jury has decided against you for non-payment of rent, the judgment should state how much you owe your landlord. This amount may include late fees (as allowed by your lease), as well as fixed court costs and filing fees.
The judgment should also tell you that you must either pay the amount owed or move out of your home. In most cases, you will have 10 days to pay or move out. You may ask for more time if you need it. If you do not pay or move out by the deadline, your landlord can get the local police or sheriff to force you to leave.
The amount of time you have to move is different if you’re being evicted from a mobile home park. Read Mobile Home Park Evictions - Special Rules to learn more about the time you have to move if you’re evicted from a mobile home park.
It’s also possible you and your landlord could come to an agreement to avoid eviction during this time. If so, make sure you get a written agreement signed by your landlord.
If you pay the full amount owed on judgment before the deadline, you must be allowed to stay your home. Be careful about paying less than the full amount owed on the judgment because your landlord may still be able to evict you.