Landlord & Tenant: How long does it take to evict a tenant?

As previously discussed, “eviction” is a discrete legal concept that refers only to a forcible removal of a tenant’s property or person from a rented premises by a court officer. Nevertheless, as the term is used here “eviction” will refer to the entire process that leads up to the actual forcible removal.

I have to correct people who think the process of eviction takes several months. I hear this repeated often, but it is without any real basis in fact. The reasons for these mistaken view, as near as I can tell, fall into one of the following categories:

  • A mistaken belief that the law “favors” tenants; or,
  • A mistaken belief that it is more difficult to evict someone if they have no place to go, or would become homeless, or have a large family.

In the average case, if someone hasn’t paid their rent you can get them out of premises within a month depending on the court’s docket (that is, how many cases it must hear). The time it takes to get an eviction also depends on how well you’ve prepared your case; if you fail to follow the substantial law or the procedures set out in the law and court rules (or properly complete court forms), you open yourself to losing the case and having to start from scratch, including paying the filing fees again.

If you haven’t kept the premises in good repair, or if there are unresolved problems at the premises (such as bug infestation, leaky plumbing, no heat or utilities, etc), then the tenant may have some success in hiring an attorney, or through their own wits, using these issues to slow down or stop the eviction process. However, even if the court does adjourn (i.e., delay) the hearing date, the tenant can be required to deposit rent with the court as it becomes due. If they fail to pay, they lose their right to a trial by jury and a hearing must be held within approximately 14 days.

However, in the best case a landlord can remove a tenant for failure to pay rent within the space of (3) weeks. In the worst case scenario… well, I have personally known a few scenarios where it has taken a couple months. Why? The primary reasons are

  • court/judge timing difficulties
  • landlord/attorney error in notice requirements or initial pleadings
  • complex counterclaims and defenses, such as:
    • failure of the landlord to deal honestly with the tenant
    • failure to make necessary repairs
    • failure to follow the law regulating written leases and security deposits
    • failure of the landlord to keep adequate receipts for rent

What is the best thing to do? If you’re a landlord then you should hire a firm to do your evictions for you on a flat fee basis. Get the notices of termination and notices to quit for non-payment of rent out as soon as the rent is not paid. I repeat, as soon as the rent is paid and not a day longer. Otherwise, people will take advantage of you; if they seem like good people, remember that even good people can go bad. Don’t believe promises of future money to come.

By Jason Wapiennik

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