So you’re being evicted? Being evicted can be like getting a root canal. It’s usually painful. If you know your tenant rights you will save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress. Most states have similar tenant protection laws, but they do differ from state to state so check with your local housing authority if you are being evicted. They can provide you with pamphlets, online information, and legal resources.
To avoid being evicted, completely read and sign your housing contract. If you don’t understand something in the contract ask questions. There are no stupid questions. Your landlord should welcome questions because an educated renter is less of a liability. Also, pay your rent on time and pay it every month. If you can’t pay your rent speak with your landlord about making adjusted payments until you are able to make regular payments. If you just ignore paying the rent you will run into worse problems later.
Generally, in most states the laws for eviction are the same. Your landlord must give you sufficient notice of eviction before taking legal action in a court of law. It is never okay for a landlord to take the law into his or her own hands. Landlords that use threats or other unlawful means of eviction are breaking the law in most states. Landlords cannot lock you out of your apartment, remove tenant possessions, or stop supplying essential needs like heat and water. In some states electricity is also included as a necessity, but not all. Usually heat and water are defined as essential needs. Check with your local housing authority to find out the regulations for your state or township. It is also illegal in most states for landlords to remove tenant possessions from a residence. Landlords cannot confiscate property like boats or cars for non payment of rent, unless there was a prior agreement between you and the landlord.
If you discover you have been locked out or forcibly thrown out of your apartment it is wise to seek legal representation right away. In some states the legal statute of limitations is as little as 3 days, and in other states as many as 30 days. In all states landlords have to give prior sufficient notice of eviction. Their eviction request should give you at least 3 days to move, or state the owners intentions. If you are able to comply do it. This will help you avoid having to go to court later. Landlords have to give you prior notice before they can take legal action against you.
If you didn’t receive an eviction notice but instead received a court summons, that means your landlord has decided to take legal action without notifying you. If this is the case seek legal help immediately. If you wait you may loose your right to sue for damages. If your landlord takes legal action without first notifying you, generally they have broken the law and you can sue. If you were unable to meet the terms of eviction or received a summons than the next step is to take legal action in a court of law. Hire a lawyer right away and refrain from contact with your landlord.
There are certain legalities that can stop a landlord from evicting you and/or taking legal action. In most states, if you were evicted by force, use of threats, or any other unlawful means you have the right to sue your landlord for damages. In some states you can sue for triple and double damages. If landlords fail to make necessary repairs in attempt to make you leave, lock you out, remove your possessions from the rental residence, or failure to give you adequate notice of eviction then it is likely they will loose their case in court.
Some ways that you can protect yourself are to make a checklist of things that need to be fixed. When you first move into your apartment, before you move anything in, take an inventory of your apartment. Check for broken outlets, exposed wires, dark walkways, broken stairs, paint needed, broken or not working fixtures, structural issues, holes in walls, and the sort. Note these things and the condition of the apartment when you move in. Sign and date it. Make a copy for your landlord and keep the original. If you have proof repairs were purposely not done you have a much better chance of winning in court. It is wise to notify your landlord of repairs by mail. As with the move in check list keep the original and make a copy for the landlord, that way you have proof he or she was notified and did nothing. If repairs were made, also make a note of it.
Other ways to protect yourself are to pay the rent with by check or credit card. This leaves a paper trail that can be traced back many months. If you always pay your rent and pay it on time this will serve as proof in court in case the landlord tries to say otherwise. Also, sign a contract for housing. If you don’t sign a contract you are leaving yourself open to liability. If you have proof of payment each month a contract is not that important, but if you pay with cash or money orders getting a contract is quite important. Either way it is just better if you get a contract so you know what your rights are, and what the landlord’s rights are.
If you lost your job, had an accident, or just can’t make rent payments for whatever reason it is better if you talk to your landlord. Open lines of communication will help solve many problems like non-payment of rent, maintenance of property and home, as well as your safety and security. Use your best judgment when renting apartment. First impressions usually ring true. If you don’t like your landlord when you meet him or her, then don’t rent from them. Protect yourself by being prepared and keeping all documents and contracts in a water and fire safe place. Seek legal representation only when absolutely necessary. Good luck!