What is Summary Possession?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 February 2020
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Summary possession is a legal term that means eviction. It typically occurs in rental situations in which a landlord wants to have a tenant physically removed from his property. In many places, there are legal processes a landlord must go through in order to evict a tenant, which often involves going to court to get an official order for summary possession. The procedure a landlord must follow typically depends on the laws in the jurisdiction as well as whether or not the landlord and tenant signed a lease.

In most cases of summary possession, a landlord works to have a tenant removed from the property he owns. Often, a tenant is given a court date to defend against a summary possession notice. If the tenant doesn't win his case or fails to show up in court, a judge typically grants an eviction order. In many jurisdictions, this allows the landlord to evict the tenant, but also gives the tenant a certain number of days to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to vacate the premises in the required amount of time, the landlord may have the right to change the locks and lock the tenant out.


There are many reasons a landlord might seek summary possession, but the most frequent is an act on a tenant's part that breaks a lease. For example, a tenant may fail to pay his rent as agreed, or he may allow another party to live in the rental property without the landlord's permission. A landlord may also want to evict a tenant for doing serious damage to the rental or interfering with other tenants' enjoyment of the property. In some cases, a landlord may even seek summary possession because the tenant has committed an illegal act on the property, such as possessing or selling drugs. Additionally, a landlord may want to evict a tenant because a rental lease has ended and the tenant refuses to move out.

While an eviction notice is a serious document, it doesn't necessarily mean a tenant will be evicted. A tenant may go to court and demonstrate to a judge that he should be permitted to maintain possession of the rental property. Likewise, a tenant may negotiate an agreement for staying in the property, and the landlord may withdraw his summary possession petition. In such a case, a tenant will typically have to get the agreement in writing to ensure its validity.


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