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What to Do if You're Evicted

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Being evicted may seem devastating and embarrassing, but it happens frequently to many renters. Whether you accept fault for believe the landlord is unfairly evicting you, it's important to handle the situation by doing the proper research, knowing your rights, and following the rules.

Reasons for Eviction

There are many reasons a landlord may choose to evict you, including:

  • Nonpayment of rent

     

  • Violation of lease (owning a pet, excessive noise)

     

  • Property damage

If you are currently being evicted, don't stress out. Here's how to get through the daunting process a little easier:

Attempt to resolve the problem

Unless the accusations against you are false, you may be able to resolve the matter with your landlord. If you owe back rent, you may be able to work out a payment plan. You can usually avoid an eviction by paying even a small portion of owed rent--your landlord may have to halt the proceedings and begin again if you continue to miss rent. However, you may only have several days to make a payment, so contact your landlord as soon as you receive your notice.

If you have violated the lease, you may be able to reach a compromise. For example, if you own a pet against the regulations outlined in your lease, you may offer to pay an extra fee each month to cover any cleaning costs or potential damage to the property.

If you have caused extreme damage to the rental or posed a safety hazard, your landlord may not be willing to negotiate your eviction. Repairing the damage or cleaning up the hazard may slow down the eviction process, but the landlord will likely continue with the proceedings.

Gather records

If you feel you are being wrongfully evicted, it is imperative to collect evidence and documents to prove your case. Make a file of all notices you received from your landlord and receipts for paid rent. Make notes of any important dates and times--conversations you had with your landlord regarding any and all problems with your tenancy. Take photos of the property if your landlord has failed to make necessary repairs--or has wrongfully accused you of property damage.

Know the law

The Landlord and Tenant Act varies by state and outlines all of the legal guidelines for the landlord-tenant relationship. If you are evicted, be sure to read and understand what the act says about the eviction process in your state to ensure what your landlord is doing is permissible. You can usually obtain a copy of this act at your local courthouse or on the website for the attorney general.

Some examples of an illegal eviction include:

  • Not providing you proper notice for eviction

     

  • Not giving you sufficient time to correct the action

     

  • Changing the locks on the property without notifying you

     

  • Removing your belongings from the rental without authorization

     

  • Retaliatory eviction as a result of tenant complaints to government agencies regarding housing violations

Talk to a lawyer

While it is not essential to acquire a lawyer for the eviction process, it can be helpful. Consulting an attorney can help you get a better understanding of the eviction laws on your state, offer you realistic expectations for the outcome, and help you construct a strategy in your best interests. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can receive assistance from organizations such as LegalAid and ProBono.net.

Make preparations

Before the eviction hearing, you should make advance arrangements if the judge rules against you. The landlord must give you time to vacate the property, the window is typically no longer than 48 hours. As soon as you learn you may be evicted, try to plan a temporary place to stay while you seek a new apartment. You may also need to seek storage for your belongings.

Attend the hearing

If you are being evicted, it is not in your best interest to simply move out and ignore the matter. If your landlord attends the court hearing without you present, the judge will automatically rule in favor of your landlord and uphold the eviction. Without the chance to provide your side of the story, the landlord can claim undue rent, property damage, and other lease violations to may not have committed. Be sure to have all of your necessary documents (as well as copies of the documents) and a prepared statement when you attend the hearing. An attorney can also help you build an effective defense against the landlord and the eviction.

Finding a new place

Most landlords will not notify the credit bureau of your eviction. However, prospective landlords may receive your rental history through a tenant association or request your former landlord's contact information on an apartment application. It is usually better to be upfront about the situation when meeting with the property owner and offering an honest explanation--without badmouthing your former landlord or denying blame. You can also offer to a larger deposit on the apartment, rent with a roommate and place the apartment under his or her name, or get a co-signer on your lease.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on January 10, 2014

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