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What Is an Eviction Notice?

A 30 day notice of eviction posted on an apartment door.
Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from the rented property until an official eviction notice has been served.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2014
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Eviction is a legal process, not a single unilateral decision. As long as a tenant is not in violation of the terms of a lease, a landlord cannot physically force him or his personal belongings off a rented property. A landlord can, however, pursue certain actions to have a tenant evicted legally. The first step in this legal process is the delivery of an official notification to quit, commonly known as an eviction notice.

A proper notice should inform the tenant of the conditions that have been violated and the amount of time he or she has to make restitution. In the case of missed rent payments, this amount of time can be a week or less. Depending on local landlord/tenant laws, other violations such as property damage or abandonment may take longer to correct, so the document may specify 30 days or longer before further action may be taken. The notice is not necessarily a legally enforceable document, however, so it cannot be used to justify physically removing an unwanted or non-compliant tenant.

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Once an eviction notice has been served to a tenant, the landlord has several legal options to consider. The tenant could pay all of the back rent or remove an unauthorized pet or otherwise satisfy the terms of the lease, which means the landlord can simply tear up the notice and stop the process. If the landlord does not want the tenant to remain on the property regardless of restitution, then he can file a specific request for an eviction without consideration, meaning the tenant cannot do anything to rectify the violations outlined in the eviction notice.

To comply with the law, notices must be served to the tenant in the prescribed manner, and the language must be unambiguous. This is why many landlords purchase generic eviction forms from an office supply store or have professional attorneys create a draft. During future court actions, a tenant may argue that the landlord failed to deliver the notice to the proper recipient or the language contained in it was too vague to be considered legally binding.

Many landlords use eviction notices as stronger warnings for delinquent or non-compliant tenants. Legal evictions cannot begin without the official receipt of this document, but quite often, the tenant and landlord will reach an informal agreement before any further action is taken. If the landlord attempts to physically remove the tenant himself during eviction proceedings, he can be penalized for "constructive eviction." Only a duly authorized officer of the court, often a sheriff's deputy, has the legal right to remove or evict a tenant from the property after an eviction order has been finalized by a judge.

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pollick
Post 2

First of all, keep in mind I am not a legal expert on landlord/tenant law. You may have to consult with an experienced attorney if your landlord decides to take “constructive eviction” action such as changing the locks, turning off utilities or leaving the property unsecured. Proper eviction is a lengthy legal process, not generally an immediate “get your property out of my apartment building by the end of the month or I’ll throw it all away” situation. You’re breaking the terms of a lease, and a landlord does have certain rights when it comes to finding new tenants and recovering as much lost revenue as he or she can.

You may want to check your original lease to see if there are any exceptions that would allow you to break the lease early. Some leases specifically allow tenants to break the lease if they become employed a certain distance from the property, often 50 miles or more. In your case, you have little choice but to appear at an immigration facility located out of the country. If the landlord does take you to court over the unpaid rent or the breaking of a lease, you or a legal representative could present your immigration situation as evidence and the judge may decide the landlord cannot legally evict you based on circumstances beyond your control.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the judge may find in favor of the landlord based on a strict interpretation of the lease agreement, but the solution may be financial, not a forced and immediate eviction. Generally, tenants have three months or so from the beginning of the eviction process to mount a defense for court or pack up their belongings and vacate the premises voluntarily.

anon170012
Post 1

I live in houston tx and I am renting a house but i had to leave houston for an interview with immigration in the caribbean. My visa was declined by immigration, so i am filing a "Waiver".

I spoke with my landlord in early April and told him that i cannot rent his house anymore because my process will take me at least six months. He will keep the deposit to cover the month of april but he wants me out of the house by the end of April and he will evict me and will take this matter to court. I had to break the lease not by choice. If the rent is covered until the end of april, can he change the locks before and not give me time for someone to remove my belongings?

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