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How does a landlord legally evict a tenant?

A landlord must file an eviction action in court to legally evict a tenant from their home or apartment. A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has:

  • Failed to pay rent on time;
  • Violated the lease agreement; or
  • Not moved from the unit after the rental agreement ended.

To start an eviction action, the landlord must first give the tenant a 3-day notice to vacate. The landlord can give the notice to the tenant in person, by leaving it at the rental property, or by certified mail.

If the tenant does not move within the 3-day period, the landlord then files an eviction complaint with the court in the city where the property is located. Eviction actions are sometimes called “Forcible Entry and Detainer” cases.

After the complaint is filed, the Court schedules a hearing and sends the tenant a copy of the complaint, with a summons, about seven days before the hearing. The complaint tells the tenant the specific allegations the landlord is making against them. It usually includes the reason for the eviction.

The landlord may sue the tenant for a money judgment in the same complaint. This could be for back rent, property damage, or other money owed. These allegations also will be in the complaint, and are usually called the “second cause of action.”

The summons tells the tenant where and when the eviction hearing will be held, and gives the tenant some information about their rights and how to dispute the landlord’s claims.

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