As a tenant, you must abide by the terms of the lease and generally treat the property with care. If you do not comply with the lease, your landlord may issue you a three-day notice to pay or leave the property. State landlord-tenant laws govern the circumstances under which a landlord can issue a three-day notice to quit; often this notice is available for nonpayment or rent or when the tenant has destroyed or severely damaged the property.
The three-day notice to quit must provide you with instructions on how to proceed. In a pay or quit notice, you either must pay a specific amount within three days or otherwise vacate the property. If you fail to do so, the landlord can then file a motion in court. After filing an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must arrange for the legal papers (the complaint and summons) to be delivered to the tenant; these papers cannot be delivered by the landlord himself.
Answer and Defenses
If you receive notice of a lawsuit, you have a chance to answer the claims and raise any defenses. The time you must file an answer by will be written on the summons form. Specific defenses depend on individual facts and circumstances. Common defenses include challenging the basis for the notice (by arguing, for example, that you were not in violation of the lease agreement or that you did pay the rent) or that the landlord did not follow proper procedure in initiating the eviction process, such as initiating a lawsuit before the three-day period expired.
If you answer the eviction complaint and raise defenses, the court will schedule a hearing to resolve the matter. You will be able to present evidence and otherwise defend against the eviction claim. If you do not answer the complaint, the court may hold you in default. If the court finds in favor of the landlord or enters a default judgment against you, the landlord can then seek assistance from the local sheriff's department to physically oust you from the property.
Seeking Legal Assistance
Being served with a three-day notice to quit is an indication that you are facing a serious legal matter. If you fail to comply or otherwise defend against the claim, you may face significant legal issues, including having to pay attorney fees and punitive damages. Because of the legal nature of an eviction action and the potential defenses that could be available to you, you should seek legal assistance for advice and counsel on how to proceed after receiving a three-day notice to pay or quit.
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