How should you respond to an eviction notice?
By Barbara Craig, Attorney at Law
Landlords must begin the eviction process legally through means of a written eviction notice for several reasons. First, the law requires landlords to provide tenants with a reasonable time frame to make other arrangements for shelter. Plus, warnings, notices, or agreements made verbally between landlord and tenant are not honored or considered legally binding to the court.
A written notice to vacate, also called an eviction notice, may take one of several forms. The requirements, format, and language of a valid eviction notice varies by jurisdiction. The time period specified by the eviction notice is set by prevailing law. In some jurisdictions, as much as 60 days of notice are required. But more typically, eviction notice periods are seven days or less, with the shortest period being just three days, which is the minimum permitted by California law.
Being unaware, unsure and/or misinformed as to your legal rights as a tenant can catch you off guard in the event you’re suddenly confronted with a written notice to vacate your home.
Why you might get an eviction notice
An eviction notice is quite simple. It is the lawful way for a landlord to formally bring to your attention that you are in violation of the lease/rental agreement in some way, such as:
- Failure to pay rent as per the terms of your lease
- Being a nuisance to other tenants
- Violent, abusive, or illegal behavior
- Using weapons unlawfully inside the property
- Distributing or cultivating narcotics
- Damaging or destroying property
- Violation of other terms and conditions (i.e. pets, guests not on the lease living with you, etc.)
- Using the property for illegal activities
You’ve received an eviction notice: what are your options?
The eviction notice should state the reasons why the landlord has issued an eviction notice to you. If it is for something correctable like being behind on rent, you should immediately contact the landlord and make arrangements to pay the amount past due. If it is due to not leashing your pet, guests staying with you, or disturbing your neighbors, these issues can also potentially be corrected, but you need to contact the landlord and ask if he or she will allow you to take care of the problem and continue to stay.
If the issue is serious or criminal in nature, your landlord might not permit you to stay. Typically, a landlord will warn you verbally before finally issuing an eviction notice as a last resort. If you do not leave the premises by the end of the eviction notice period, the landlord has the option to seek a court order to evict you. Only a court of law may cause you to be forcibly evicted from your home – the landlord may not take such action himself, whether or not he has issued an eviction notice. Doing so is considered constructive eviction, which is always unlawful.
If you cannot get current on your rent or work out payment arrangements with your landlord, or the cause for the eviction notice is a serious violation of the lease terms, you should begin making other arrangements for shelter as soon as possible, or immediately seek out a qualified attorney to advise you of your rights and options in your particular circumstances.
To contact experienced landlord-tenant law attorney Barbara Craig about eviction matters, please click here.
Photo courtesy Jeroen van Oostrom