How to Respond to a Notice of Unlawful Detainer in an Eviction


Getting an eviction notice is scary and frustrating, especially if you didn't do anything wrong. A landlord uses eviction to remove a tenant from a rental property legally. The unlawful detainer notice is the first court notice the renter receives about the eviction, and the paper states the reason for the action and the tenant's deadline to respond. You must respond to the notice by the deadline or the landlord can evict you, even if his reason is invalid.

Read the unlawful detainer notice. Write down the reasons the landlord is giving for the eviction. Note the date you must answer by. Check for a blank answer form. Contact the court of jurisdiction immediately if you need an answer form.

Gather evidence to disprove the landlord's reasoning. Locate signed receipts, money order stubs, canceled checks and bank statements if you paid rent and the eviction is for nonpayment. Gather pictures and video evidence if rent is being withheld because of poor living conditions in the rental unit. Check state landlord-tenant laws to verify that withholding rent because of living conditions is a legal eviction defense.

Contact local tenant housing assistance or legal aid centers. Ask if help with evictions is available. Some centers offer eviction advice and help for free or at a minimal cost.

Talk to any witnesses who can help your case. For example, if the landlord is trying to evict you because of personal reasons and other people witnessed harassment and know the rental unit, a signed statement can help prove you did not violate lease conditions. Get statements from the witnesses.

Complete the unlawful detainer answer form. Follow all instructions. Exact forms vary by area, but you're typically required to state your defense against the eviction with supporting facts. Write clear, specific facts and avoid personal insults aimed at the landlord.

File the answer in court. Attach copies of supporting evidence and witness statements, but keep the originals in case you need them for a trial. Wait for the court to send you the trial date if you do not receive a date when you file.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact the court before filing the answer to find out the filing fee and if you qualify for a waiver.
  • Do not miss the trial date.

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