Federal eviction update September 4, 2020: Currently, the CDC has released an official no eviction order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If tenants are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 related reasons, a landlord cannot pursue eviction until December 31, 2020.
This does not exempt or absolve a tenant from paying rent. Tenants must still try their best to pay their rent, and must also pay any additional fees or fines that involve late payments. There are more restrictions to this non-eviction order, which can affect a tenant’s eligibility. To learn more about the COVID-19 no-eviction order, read our full article.
Tenant Eviction Rights
Landlords have the right to evict tenants from their property. However, if you’re a tenant being evicted, this could mean facing homelessness. Evictions can ruin a tenant’s chance of finding future rentals, and seriously damages their credit score. Being evicted can haunt a tenant even years after absolving it. As a tenant, you have as many rights as your landlord, yet they’re rarely exercised when a tenant is evicted.
If you’re being evicted, you should know about your tenant rights. Your legal tenant rights will protect you, and could even stop the eviction from happening. When landlords are caught evicting tenants without just cause, they can be taken to court and can even face criminal charges. Here are 7 rights tenants have even upon eviction.
You Can Only Be Served 3 Kinds Of Eviction Notices
There are lots of reasons why a landlord might want to get rid of a tenant. However, there are only 3 notices that a landlord can legally use to evict a tenant.
Pay Rent Notices
When a tenants fail to pay rent, they are given this notice. These notices give tenants only a few days to either pay the rent they owe, or move out. If tenants are unable to pay rent, they still have a few options to work out a payment method.
Also Read: What To Do If You Can’t Pay Rent
Cure or Quit Notices
If a tenant violates the leasing or rental agreement in some way, they’re given a cure or quit notice. This allows the tenant to resolve the issue by either “curing” or “quitting” the violation.
For example, let’s say you got a cat, but your tenant agreement says the property does not allow pets. A cure or quit notice will tell you how long you have to rehome the cat before your landlord sends another notice.
Go over your tenant or leasing agreement to see what kind of restrictions you have as a tenant. Next, have a lawyer check the lease to ensure that all details are legal in your state.
Unconditional Quit Notices
These are strictest notices. An unconditional notice forces the tenants to vacate the property with no chance of payment or cure to a violation. To be served an unconditional quit notice, a tenant would have had to:
- Repeatedly violate the leasing agreement
- Failed to pay rent, or was late on multiple occasions
- Seriously damaged the property in a way that diminishes its value
- Participated in illegal activity on the premises
Your Landlord Has To Have An Official Eviction Notice
Landlord must file for an official eviction with a court. They are not the party who decides to evict a tenant. The eviction notice must be approved by a judge before the landlord can evict a tenant.
Even if a tenant has not violated the leasing agreement, the tenant can still be asked to leave if they don’t have a fixed-term lease. The landlord will have to serve the tenant a 30 or 60 day notice to terminate the tenancy. Various states may have more specifications on this notice. Be sure to check your state’s laws on terminating tenancies.
If a tenant does have a fixed-term lease, or a lease with a specific end-date, the landlord needs “just cause” to evict the tenant before the end date.
What If I Don’t Have A Lease?
A landlord can evict you if you do not have a lease. If there is no official written agreement, an oral agreement based on your mutual understanding still counts. In this agreement, all the terms and conditions are still legally valid for one year or less.
Therefore, not only can you be evicted at any time for any reason, you must still follow your landlord’s terms. To prevent any kind of confusion, always have a paper trail. Either you or your landlord can draft a written agreement, or you can call a lawyer to help you draft one.
You Can’t Be Evicted Because Your Landlord Wants To Increase Rent
In order for rent control to work effectively, there are some restrictions on what grounds a landlord can evict a tenant. A landlord can increase your rent when your lease renews. But, the increase needs to coincide with your jurisdiction’s rent control laws and policies.
If a landlord wants to evict a tenant because they want to increase the rent, the landlord still must have “just cause” for the eviction. This can be on the grounds of a normal eviction such as a failure to pay rent, or another breach of contract.
Rent control laws protect tenants from eviction just because a landlord wishes to increase rent. Check your local rent control laws to see your jurisdiction’s specifications.
The only other justifications a landlord has to evict a tenant to increase rent is because:
- They want to rent the property to an immediate family member
- They want to drastically renovate the property and can’t have residents on the premises
Your Landlord Cannot Physically Force You Out Of The Home
Even if a tenant is being evicted, a landlord cannot physically force the tenant out of the home. The only person who is allowed to physically evict a tenant is a sheriff. If a landlord does attempt to physically remove a tenant from the property, it is considered assault.
Your Landlord Has To Respect Your Personal Property
A landlord cannot damage, steal, or sell any personal property. Landlords need to respect all personal property, even during an eviction. If tenants leave personal property after they’ve officially left the premises, the property is considered abandoned. Landlords can remove or dispose of abandoned property.
Your Landlord Has To Return Your Security Deposit In A Timely Manner
Depending on where you live, your landlord has anywhere between a few days to a month after you vacate the premises to return your deposits. If a tenant leaves the property in pristine condition upon vacating, the landlord must return all deposits in a timely manner.
If a tenant is being evicted because they have failed to pay rent, a landlord can keep the security deposits. When the security deposit does not cover the damages or the unpaid rent, a landlord can sue a tenant. However, if a landlord is withholding security deposits for any other reason, they must return the security deposits within 30 days or less.
You Can Sue Your Landlord For Injuries and Damages
A landlord is legally required to provide a safe, hospitable space for their tenants. If a landlord fails to make repairs, causes disturbances in an attempt to make a tenant move, or discriminates against their tenant, a tenant can sue their landlord. You can sue your landlord in small claims court for your pain and suffering.
If you want to take your landlord to court, remember to always have a record of all interactions and contracts. This includes:
- Emails, texts, and phone calls between a landlord and tenant
- Leasing agreements, rental contracts, and notices
- Transactions, receipts, and records of all payments
- Receipts of any home improvements done by the tenants
- Pictures and videos of the property’s condition upon moving in
How To Legally Protect Yourself From Your Landlord
It’s shocking what landlords believe they can get away with. Even if you’ve made mistakes with your landlord and are currently being evicted, you still have rights. Knowing what your landlord can legally evict you for can prevent innocent tenants from ending up homeless. If you’re currently having rental disputes with your landlord, and want free tenant advice, call My Case Helper to talk to a lawyer.