How to Evict a Tenant – The Eviction Process in 8 Easy Steps

Written on August 13, 2016 by , updated on December 3, 2019

A Landlord's Guide to EvictionThis article will guide you through the general eviction process and should help you with removing delinquent or deadbeat tenants from your rental property.

Eviction: It’s Just Business

Being a great landlord doesn’t mean that you’re immune from having bad tenants. Yes, tenant screening is important, but even under the best of circumstances, it’s not unusual for a well-intentioned tenant to struggle to pay rent from time to time.

So even if you have a “good” relationship with your tenant, sometimes they just won’t be able to pay you. When that’s the case, you simply can’t let them stay free of charge, especially when there are others who will have no trouble paying you consistently.

Eviction seems harsh, but it’s the business of rental properties. If a tenant can’t pay, you have to remove them from your property.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking them to leave.  Other times, you will have to go through the formal eviction process.

Regardless of the situation, before starting the eviction process, you need to know the proper rules and procedures.  This process can be summarized into 7 steps.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Eviction Laws
  2. Have a Valid Reason for Eviction
  3. Try to Reason with Your Tenants
  4. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction
  5. File Your Eviction with the Courts
  6. Prepare for and Attend the Court Hearing
  7. Evicting the Tenant
  8. Collecting Past-Due Rent
  9. Bonus Video: An Overview of the Eviction Process
  10. Protecting Yourself in the Future

Step 1: Understanding the Eviction Laws

The eviction laws are different from state to state, and it’s smart to know and consider them while writing up your lease agreement, so that both parties know that such a document carries authority with it.

I recommend using a lease agreement that is written by lawyers, and specifically designed for your state.  US Legal Forms has some great lease options that will keep you safe, legally.

If your lease agreement wasn’t been based off of the state laws, or if you’re unsure, you’ll want to spend some time researching your current situation, and see if you can win an eviction case.

Be Familiar with the Landlord and Tenant Act

The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) provides a more detailed explanation of the legal side of the eviction process. At least 21 states have adopted the URLTA as the foundation for their state-specific landlord-tenant laws.

Don’t Take Matters into Your Own Hands.  

“Self-help” evictions are illegal in every state.  Even if the tenant is a deadbeat, a liar, and causing physical damage to your property, you CANNOT do any of the following actions without a court order:

  • Remove the tenant’s stuff from the property.
  • Remove the tenant (i.e. hire Hulk Hogan to physically carry the tenant out)
  • Change the locks or lock-out the tenant.
  • Shut off essential utilities (electric, gas, water, etc)
  • Unleash a family of skunks in the tenant’s basement (aka, harassment)

In order for the courts to be on your side, you’ll need to follow these rules closely, and make sure that you do not to give a judge any reason to doubt that you are an outstanding law-abiding citizen.

In some cases, a tenant will make it easier for a landlord to evict them by breaking laws, destroying property, or violating the lease agreement.

Say Goodbye to Your Friendship

Keep in mind, eviction will always sour the relationship between a landlord and tenant, but if they break laws in the process, the courts are more likely to rule in your favor. However, don’t expect to remain friends with any tenant that you are forced to evict.  Landlord Tip #21, describes why you should never rent to friends.

Step 2: Have a Valid Reason for Eviction

You don’t want to start the process if you don’t have a good and lawful reason to. Typically, the following reasons (given fair notice to the tenant) will be sufficient for an eviction:

  • Failing to pay rent
  • Violating the lease/agreement (pets, subletting, illegal use, etc)
  • Causing significant damage to property
  • Breaking noise, occupancy, or health ordinances
  • Health or safety hazards caused by the tenant

Remember, you’ll need documented proof of any claim against your tenant.  “Innocent until proven guilty” is still overarching rule in the U.S. court system.

Step 3: Try to Reason with Your Tenants

If it doesn’t look like the law is entirely on your side, or if you just don’t want to spend the time and energy on an eviction case, try reasoning with them.

My suggestion would be to take your tenant to a public coffee shop and have a heart-to-heart chat about the situation.  Often times, if you are “understanding but stern”, the tenant will agree to leave on their own accord.  I prefer to have this conversation in a public location because the tenant is less likely to make a scene.

Be Understanding but Stern

Use this “script” when talking to your tenant:

I realize that you’re having trouble paying your rent, and I feel for your situation.  The fact is that I need someone in my rental that can pay rent, and if that’s not you, then you need to leave.  Because I respect you, I wanted to give you a chance to leave on your own before I file an eviction lawsuit.

If I have to go through the eviction process, it will ruin your credit score, and you won’t be able to get a mortgage, car loan, or any loan for a very long time.

When I win the case, I will also need to sue you for any back-due rent, in which I will eventually be able to use that judgement to garnish your wages.  If I have to do that, it will involve your employer, and will be very embarrassing for you.

I don’t want to do that to you.  How would you like to proceed?  Will you pay your rent immediately in full, or will you vacate the property ASAP?

Step 4: Give a Formal Notice of Eviction

If your tenant has chosen to be uncooperative, and you’ve established that you have the right to evict your tenant, you will need to make sure you follow the set legal procedures exactly.

One of the most important steps is to provide adequate “notice of eviction”.  This is usually a simple document or form that gives an ultimatum – telling your tenant why they are being evicted and what they can do to avoid that eviction; pay rent, clean up the house, etc.

Tips for the Eviction Notice

  • It should include a deadline (date) to “pay-rent or move out”.
  • It should include the amount owed (including all fees)
  • You are typically required to post this notice within X number of days before filing the eviction paperwork with your local court.
  • This document should be taped to their front door, as well as sent via Certified Mail / Return Receipt Requested with the United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Make it easy on yourself – use a state-specific eviction form template.

At this point, it’s their move…

Congratulations, your tenant now knows that you’ve done your research, and that you’re serious about the situation. Usually, a formal eviction notice is enough to whip them into shape.

Otherwise, if the set amount of time (usually a week) goes by and nothing has changed, it’s time to file the eviction with the courts.

Step 5: File Your Eviction with the Courts

Visit your local courthouse to file your eviction and pay a fee (try not to think about all the money, time, and energy that your tenant is costing you), at which point the clerk will schedule your hearing and will eventually notify the tenant on your behalf – via a summons.

You will probably have to show proof (via receipt from certified mail) that you have given the proper amount of time that your state requires for an eviction notice.

Step 6: Prepare for and Attend the Court Hearing

Gather all related documentation and proof of your claim. You’ll want to have the following items at a minimum:

  • lease agreements
  • bounced checks
  • records of payment of any kind
  • records of the communication between you and your tenant (phone and email records).
  • a copy of the written notice that you provided your tenant
  • dated proof that the tenant received the notice (a signature from the tenant, or receipt from the Post Office).

Since a tenant won’t be able to lie about not paying their rent (since they can’t fabricate real rent payment records), their most likely defense will be to claim that you didn’t properly inform them of the eviction.  Be prepared.

From the courts perspective, you will have the benefit of doubt on your side (some landlords might disagree with me).  Besides, why would a landlord go through the trouble to evict someone for no reason?

Even with that working in your favor, you need to step up to the plate, armed with all the right information. Do your homework before your hearing.

Remember to get some sleep the night before your scheduled court date so that you are attentive and confident during the hearing. Always be honest and let your documentation/evidence speak for itself.

Step 7: Evicting the Tenant

If all goes well in court (and it probably will), then your tenant will have a set amount of time to leave, which is anywhere from 48 hours to a week, depending on where you live.

If your tenant doesn’t leave on time, you have the right to get someone from the Sheriff’s department to escort them out and place their possessions on the curb. It’s definitely not a favorable outcome, but it does happen.

Step 8: Collecting Past-Due Rent


Small Claims Court

Some courts allow you to combine eviction and small claims lawsuits if they are related and involve the same individuals.  If this is the case, you can sue for any back-due rent at the same time as the eviction case.

If your local court does not allow this, you’ll have to file a separate small claims lawsuit to pursue the owed rent money.

Garnish their Wages

If the judge determines that the tenant does owe you the past-due rent, you will receive a “judgement” in your favor.  This judgement will be delivered in the form of a court order, which you can give to the tenant’s employer.

This will force the employer to garnish the tenant’s wages, and then pay you before the tenant gets paid.

Related Article: eHow: How to Garnish Wages for Back Rent

Garnish their Tax Refund

Believe it or not, you can actually garnish their tax refund!  RentPrep does a fantastic job of explaining this process in the article: How to Execute Tax Refund Garnishments for Past Due Rent.

Wouldn’t that be a surprise when the tenant is expecting a $1,000 refund from the government, and it all goes to you instead.

Use a Private Debt Collector

Debt collection companies, like Rent Recovery Service, will help you collect the debt and will report it to the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). It is important to let the credit bureaus know about this dead-beat tenant so that future landlords will know to avoid him/her.

Bonus Video: An Overview of the Eviction Process

Protecting Yourself in the Future

Evictions can be costly and time-consuming, so hopefully you can avoid ever needing to perform one. You can protect yourself by gathering as much information as you can about potential tenants before they move in.

Cozy offers robust tenant screening tools that can help give you a more complete picture of your rental applicants. Best of all, they’re free for landlords, and just $34.95 for your applicants.

Tenant credit reports can give you a good sense of an applicant’s personal financial situation, and whether or not they’ll be able to pay rent reliably, on-time, every month. Meanwhile, background and eviction checks can help ensure you’re renting to a tenant that doesn’t have a criminal history and hasn’t been evicted in the past.

Step-by-Step Infographic

The folks at put together a clear infographic that makes it easy to understand the eviction process. While the steps don’t match the article above exactly, it’s still the same process and completely accurate.

Eviction Process Infographic

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292 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Judy Mooney

    I had renters that moved out in feb. 2019. they are living with relatives and have not moved their furniture out. how do I go about getting them to move their belongings out. Thank you

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  • Larry C Winstel

    The law does not work (for landlords). It gives the tenant (squatter) unlimited time to not answer
    the door and receive summons. If you have had to file for possession you are not dealing with a
    normal adult. You might try to petition the court for emergency action. This process is obviously
    flawed and can drag on months.

  • Jerry Austry

    I want to know what happens to my guest belonging when I evict her and move her items to the street

  • Micheal campbell

    I rented an apartment from a guy sometime last october. In march i got gome from work and found a letter under the door with a name on it and it says. Your case worker was here and you are not home .I noticed that the name on the mail was a total different name than the one i had on the receipt so i called the guy that rented from. He then told me it was probably a former tenant so i left it alone. One day i was getting ready for work i heard a knock on the door . I didn’t answer then i saw a mail under the door. I opened the door but no one was there. The mail said, your case worker and you are not home. It was the same name on the mail as the one before so i called the guy and told him .

  • Micheal campbell

    Continues. I called the guy and he was behaving historical and said he’s on probation and he shouldn’t have rented the aparrment and if the probabtion officer finds out he rented the apartment he will go back to jail. Also they will coming to visit the apartment and i can’t let them know i live there. I’ve been living there since october last year. Never been late on my rent. I’m tryimg to get an aprtment so i can move but it’s so hard. I dont know what to do. Can they evict me?

  • kranthi gurajapu

    My rental property has been on fire and now its not livable, also I am not able to reach my tenant after the incident from early July 2019 so what is the best thing I can do to take out his belongings and start the renovations. Any help is highly appreciated.

  • Eva Saenz

    My daughter lives on our garage apartment. Her boyfriend moved in with her in April as he had no where to stay. They are no longer together and he is still in the garage apartment and she is now in our home, giving him time to move out. That’s been about 2 weeks now. She has informed him that her father wants him out ASAP. His reply was he must be given a 30 day notice In written form . Now my question is if he never paid rent , there was no lease agreement and nothing in his name what do we do to legally get him out. He states since he gets his mail there he has rights

    • Patty Marquardt

      Interested in reply. Have similar situation. Boyfriend will not leave and has been asked multiple times. No lease. He has done much damage to the home. Is abusive to owner of home.

      • Dwayne Rothrock

        If someone’s being abusive/threatening that you fear for your safety you should be able to go through the local courts for a protection from abuse/restraining order which would be a great start for help. That would usually remove them from the property immediately. Then just follow up through the court system to have them removed the rest of the way.

    • Sandirawiley

      How to evict a non paying friend ?

    • Sunny

      Check state laws.Most states have a time limit after that they are considered residents.Actually a non paying tenent is how they are normally referred to.The procedures are somewhat the same though.Check your state law, some are more forgiving than others, both to the landlord ,as well as renter resident.They may be more lenient to the renter resident ,as its very common in domestic violence situations, for the aggressor to beat their victim ,then throw them in the street.

  • David Fackleman

    I live in PA. I had a friend and her 18 year old son move into my home back in October. Her boyfriend threw her out of his house and I took them in…temporarily which she has said many times. I do charge her $100 per month for heating, electric etc. It has been almost 3 months now and i want my home back. Is that a good enough reason to get her out of my house? I am planning to have a talk with her this week. She does live paycheck to paycheck and tells me she in on “a list” for low income housing. As far as i know she is not looking for another place. So I am going to give her 2 months to find another place. I think that is more than fair. I do believe it could turn into a problem and she is not going to go easily. I hope I am wrong.

    • Diane Clark

      I have a similar situation with a previous boyfriend I moved into my home in Tucson, Az.
      I have asked him several times to move out since he has no respect for me or my home. He has been living there rent free while his workmen’s comp. is getting sorted out. He calls me names and brakes my things when he doesn’t get his own way. He is getting snap food assistance from government under the guise of redoing a damaged bathroom in my home. He moved in over one and a half years ago and the bathroom is still unfinished. I am at my wits end with him and his childish behavior and when I tell him I want him out of my house before he brakes anything else he says he is trying the best he can to do exactly that. He doesn’t get his way and throws a fit.

    • Sunny

      If she has applied for low income housing and doesn’t have an emergency good luck to both of you.,
      The list is so long most of the people I know found a place far quicker on their own.I understand wanting your place back.Y’all haven’t been together very long.Would it work if her son moved out?Could she find a place if he moved out? Its a lot easier to rent a room as a single person.Well if you can find a room.Some places even that is backed up and hard to find.Suggest she move somewhere its cheaper if possible.Just do it gently.

  • berenice fraser

    My friend was kicked out and was going to be homeless, she had had 6 months warning and still wasnt leaving, I took her in and then her and another friend talked me into signing a 8 month lease form, then my house sold but they would not leave or pay any rent. They have moved in more people who are all ganging up on e I am scared, I have filed this with the courts but they keep sendng me away due to paperwork mistakes, I am now over 5 thousand dollars mortgage arrears and soon the bank will take my home. Im running out of time and thepolice or tennancy tribunal are no help at all.

  • berenice fraser

    My friend was kicked out and was going to be homeless, she had had 6 months warning and still wasnt leaving, I took her in and then her and another friend talked me into signing a 8 month lease form, then my house sold but they would not leave or pay any rent. They have moved in more people who are all ganging up on me I am scared, I have filed this with the courts but they keep sendng me away due to paperwork mistakes, I am now over 5 thousand dollars mortgage arrears and soon the bank will take my home. Im running out of time and the police or tennancy tribunal are no help at all.

  • berenice fraser

    My friend was kicked out and was going to be homeless, she had had 6 months warning and still wasnt leaving, I took her in and then her and another friend talked me into signing a 8 month lease form, then my house sold but they would not leave or pay any rent. They have moved in more people who are all ganging up on me I am scared, I have filed this with the courts but they keep sendng me away due to paperwork mistakes, I am now over 5 thousand dollars mortgage arrears and soon the bank will take my home. Im running out of time and the police or tennancy tribunal are in no hurry

  • berenice fraser

    My friend was kicked out and was going to be homeless, she had had 6 months warning and still wasnt leaving, I took her and moved out,
    in now she will not leave or pay any rent. They have moved in more people who are all ganging up on me I am scared, I have filed this with the courts but they keep sendng me away due to paperwork mistakes, I am now over 5 thousand dollars mortgage arrears and soon the bank will take my home. Im running out of time and the police or tennancy tribunal are in no hurry

  • berenice fraser

    M tennants wont leave or pay rent and the police or tennancy keep putting off meetng, the bank is about to take my home , in what world is this ok?

  • berenice fraser

    This site will not let me write one sentance with out telling me I am repeating myself

  • Emma

    I moved into a trailer home that I thought belonged to my grandmother but she neglected to get it under her name after she paid for it so now I have the real owner showing up at random times with two thug looking blokes basically threatening us that we need to move out or sell it back to her. She went to my mobilehome park manager and is getting them to evict us even though I pay my rent on time always and had no prior knowledge of anything else she claims since I only moved in 3 months prior. Is there anything I can do to stop her? We tried getting her to sign the papers to transfer ownership to me but now she won’t sign the papers.

  • Henry Killingsworth

    You made an interesting point when you explained that landlords should know the local laws and regulations when they are creating a rental lease. I would think that it would be a good idea to have an attorney present while doing this. That way you could follow all of the laws and not miss anything while writing a lease.

  • Veronique Ellis

    Please be patient with my comment i have a tenant who is gainfully employed on March of 2020 she stopped paying rent and moved in her daughter and grandson have photos of rooms used by them It’s April no rent payment she is using due to the virus law of no eviction she stopped payment in March before that law was enforced showing no intentions of paying I served her the legal form 5 day pay or quit April 5 Had a witness with me willing to go to court. My big problem is never before but now I have lost my lease to her. I am 72 and a widow, this is my income have looked everywhere. How will that affect my case. I am so very worried. Should I continue a pay or quit for every month? Please advise thank you.

  • Cruz Jimenez

    I’ve been giving an eviction notice on the six of next month to move out if my son that’s been here for a while that doesn’t want to leave and I don’t know how to get him out if he doesn’t leave by the six then I will be evicted and I can’t do that and he won’t listen to me what can I do to get him out

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