How to Evict a Non-Paying Tenant


An eviction is the legal process of terminating a tenant's tenancy when the tenant refuses to move. In most states, the law does not allow a landlord to remove a tenant by turning off the electricity, removing the tenant's property from the rental or physically removing the tenant. To lawfully remove a tenant for the non-payment of rent, a landlord must file an unlawful detainer action in the appropriate state court. The following is the general procedure for evicting a tenant, but check with the court in your area to determine whether other requirements are necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • Notice to Quit
  • Complaint
  • Summons
  • Filing fee
  • File a Notice to Quit with the court. The name of the form may differ in your state, but it will have the same purpose. You will need to include the name or names of the tenants and the property location. Make a copy of the Notice to Quit for yourself and enough copies to distribute to all of your tenants. The tenant will normally have 30 days to move. Pay the applicable filing fee, which will vary according to the state in which it is filed.

  • Serve the Notice to Quit on your tenant. Under the law, your tenant must receive notice of the unlawful detainer action. State laws vary regarding the requirement for serving notice, but the methods include in-person delivery by a sheriff or state marshal, delivery via mail (certified or regular first-class) or posting the notice in an obvious place on the rental property.

  • If the tenant does not leave the rental unit, return to court and file a complaint. In the complaint, you must state that you are evicting the tenant for the non-payment of rent and provide information about the rental agreement, such as the term of the tenancy and the date the tenancy began. Pay the filing fee.

  • Serve the complaint and a summons on your tenant. While the complaint states the reason for the lawsuit, the summons notifies the tenant that a legal action has been filed against him and informs him of the date he must come to court. The clerk will determine the date of the hearing. Refer to your state's service requirement to determine whether the sheriff or state marshal must serve the tenant or whether service-by-mail is appropriate.

  • Appear for your hearing. The judge will enter a default judgment if the tenant fails to show up on the hearing date. If the tenant appears, you and the tenant will have the opportunity to present your case. If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, you may not evict the tenant. If the judge rules in your favor, you may have the tenant lawfully removed.

  • If you prevail, ask a law enforcement officer, such as a sheriff, to enforce the judgment. You may not physically remove the tenant yourself. The officer will notify the tenant that he has a certain number of days, such as five days, to leave the rental. If the tenant still refuses to leave by the deadline, the officer may physically remove the tenant.


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