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

Written on August 13, 2016 by , updated on January 4, 2018

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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267 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Patricia Loner

    I rented my house to a friend.He had a chainsaw accident at my own property.I rented to him 10/01/2014.He has only paid 1725.00 Till this date.The rent is 550.00 a month plus utilities.. I have already placed notice on front door. It was all documented by video. I hope you have a suggestion for me. Thank You.

  • Carol

    We would like to move back into our home. The renter’s have stopped paying rent as they feel the security deposit is going to cover the last 2 months. They are currently 4 days past due and we can’t afford to also pay rent and pay for them to stay there.
    What do we need to do?

    • Dawn sarles

      I’m having same problem my tenants since day one & they have only 4 Months ago moved in, they are either not paying or
      Late. They aren’t even not staying in home according to neighbors either i have sent several notices ,calls texts they are not communicating at all with me I don’t know if they are still there and I’m paying for them to live there is this fair. Sent notice to cease violations also they have stored municple trash inside my home & shed I’ve sent texted after inspection no response when is it legal to just get them out if they won’t answr my calls or texts I have no other avenue to reach them? Help

      • carlos

        Carlos Padilla

      • Angela Casanova

        We just evicted a hard core violent relative. (!) You must fill out an eviction Notice and take it and tape it where the renter can see it, we did that. (2) Get an eviction blank from the internet , fill it out and take it to the Judge in your District , we paid $ 100.00 to evict. ” Relative and occupants.”
        The Judge will have a Sheriff deliver the Notice to Tenant. then there there is a hearing in 2 weeks. ” The Judge rules in our favor. So good luck.

    • Mark Gallagher

      Same kind of story for myself but this guy has even been in trouble with the law for quite some time and i’m just finding out more details. Can you give me any insite on how your doing things at this point. I have been threatened by this guy that he will have me arrested and in court because this is not his first time at this and he has learned how to work the system. I could use the help on any information you could share on what to do at this point. Also i am disabled and been threatened to have that brought up in his favor. Thanks bunches

    • Lorijean Hiller

      I am a tenant.. I emailed my landlord presented my financial situation… I’m on unemployment only getting $600 every 2 weeks…I had my car pymnt u had to pay phone and electric. All to keep looking for job..asked if I could be two weeks late or or give her half rent . and then halfagain but that would make me 2_weeks behind ..sheput a7 day summons on my door on the 3 days after my rent was due. Now I’m scared I only have 7 days to get out. But I was told she has to give me another notice if eviction with a court date..but i have an just scared because I can’t get her any $ until 23 rent was due on5th. Can I be on the streets without having a court date? Can she evict me in the 7 day notice.. I’m trying to work with her but she don’t

  • Owen

    I would like some information on your services if you can please shoot me an email at this address

  • Tay

    Adult child living at home needs to move out. The child is a freeloader.
    Also stealing from my home.
    How do I get them out ?

    • Terri Tillery

      Adult child living in home free of charge, Will not work,possible drug use,violent and has long criminal record for assault/domestic violence. History of breaking items in the home. Son is awhere of the law for 30 day notice requirement. Have asked him to leave and offered $ to leave. Do I leave during notice time or stay to watch over home? I work from home also. Mother afraid and unable to control 6’4″ 275 pound son. Advice needed.

  • Dennis Block

    Evicting a tenant isn’t hard, the basics are easy. Here in California, the vast majority of evictions go unanswered. But in Los Angeles we have to deal with non-profit organizations like BASTA that will demand a jury trial for any unlawful detainer. A jury trial for an eviction? Yep! No longer can the landlord represent themselves, in a jury trial you better have a lawyer and that will cost. If your tenant demands a jury trial settle. If not you’re in for $5-10K in legal fees. If you win, the tenant will never pay anyway. If you lose, they’ll get you for attorneys fees and put a lien on your property. It almost always makes sense to settle.

  • Debra

    I have signed a year’s lease in my name and a pushy, abusive boyfriend came too with his 75 # dog. He is on the lease because the landlord said if he was living there, he had to be. I have moved way across the state of NC to get away from him. He followed. He has no job. His car has no legal tag on it . I work. I pay for everything. I don’t know how to get rid of him permanently without the possibility of getting hurt myself. He has been to anger management before and I have been punched in the face and he has pushed me around so many times, things have broken. I don’t know how to get rid of him I stay nice so as to not make him angry. MA


    i lived in a condo where the owner had me clean there house and pet sit along with paying $825.00 for rent in california. now they want to sell the condo. when i moved in 4 years ago i always paid on time and did the duties assigned. i am on ssi which they were aware before this started.. they gave me a 60 days notice even though verbally they said i could live there forever.. i need more time as i only receive 800 a month and when the originally told me they said i could stay while it was being repaired. also
    the 60 day notice came from the condo’s association who i never had an agreement with, it was with the owner only… do i have any rights?

    thank you

  • lisa

    I have tenant live in my apt for ten years without lease and increase one time rent only
    now I want to sell it but she refuse to move out and don’t want to talk to me anymore. I am very sad
    what should I do?

    • Angel

      Pull her hair!!! Hahahahah
      Just kidding!!!
      Do eviction right away!!!
      Hire a professional!!!

    • luchmee

      your tenant thinks you are alone and helpless ,he will evacuate when the new buyer will come along with a group of friends. old trick remove the gate

  • Heather

    I went to my house to a family that was guaranteed 1500 a month. We rented the house for 950 a month plus utilities they have yet to pay in full on time they have also had 2 bounce checks and they are a month to month tenant. It states in the lease cash or money order only no checks I do write a receipt every time they pay.
    My husband and I would like to move back into the home what can I do?

  • Rossana

    I rented a commercial space for a Daycare and after go for a variance in the town for a change of use and after I did all the the remodeling, I found out that was a really bad air contamination, that stop me to get the Daycare certification. A ventilation system have yo be installed to clean the air before children or any other person be inside and landlord instead is trying to evict me , because she wants that I clean her building for her, the cost is 10,000. And I improved her building already, adding 2 bathrooms and and emergency exits for her tenants in the second floor . Please help me ! What I can do?

  • Ro Desiderio

    We rented an apartment to a man that gave us a different name then he goes by. He is a convicted felony and may go to jail again. Can we have him evicted based on false information. He is living in the home of our 95 year old mom and we are so concerned

  • Donte Marsh

    I have a tenant who stuck his female freind in the apartment the lease states one person in the apartment Then we agree that she pays 300 a month she paid for 2 months and stop My tenant kept paying his porsion The next 4 months no rent from his freind and he now wants her out what do I do ????

  • Donte Marsh

    I have a tenant who snuck his female freind in the apartment the lease states one person in the apartment Then we agree that she pays 300 a month she paid for 2 months and stop My tenant kept paying his porsion The next 4 months no rent from his freind and he now wants her out what do I do ????

  • Maria Barboza

    I have a tenant that decided to pay me 30.00 dollars less of his total rent every month, his lease is due in 3 weeks, and I gave him a letter to move out. I’m not going to renew his lease, buy he said that he wants to stay. What I can do. Should I cash the check even do he pay me 30.00 dollars less or file for eviction.

  • Ernestine Vaughn

    Needletter to notify. Tenent to move.

  • Felisa R

    I helped a homeless family that are friends of my neighbor temporarily. They gave some money but are very inconsistent month to month. I ended their “tenancy” under the lodger law in CA in writing. They have a hostile and toxic relationship and scream and fight creating a nuisance all the time. I never gave them exclusive rights to any one area but let them sleep in my home office. Since I have given them notice, they have taken full possession of my office and are delusional and acting as if they are renting tenants (no lease) in my home where I live!! I have given them 3 notices. They are harassing and intimidating me. I am filing for a restraining order and want them removed and they are using tenant laws to hide behind. HELP!

  • Michael

    Im having trouble getting the woman living in my RV to move out. She once was considered my roommate. She has made it extremely difficult to live with her. So I moved out. Now I want my RV back. It’s been 4 years that she has lived there. Not once has she has ever paid rent. I continue to pay rent to the park. But am not able to live in my own home. Is there something I can do to get her out. What kind of rights does she have, if any, to keep on living there? Rent-free, Responsibility-free? Thank you in advance*

  • Kelley

    I allowed my kids to move into our home, we wrote up an agreement, we signed, they signed, had a witness. It stated our two adult boys could live there rent free for one year, as long as they kept up the property,and there were to be NO other people to live there without our approval.. WEll after a few months we found out that Shayne(oldest) had moved in his jobless girlfriend (Alyssa) we were not happy and voiced our displeasure but didn’t do anything. We did tell them it breached the contract and we could kick them out. The contract stated that it was good for a year which would take it to Sept 2017 and than we would renegotiate. Well we wanted them to pay rent and they refused. We told them to be out by 30 days.Theytrasheditwhatodo?

  • lisa

    After four months later finally we got the warren of eviction from the court and have Marshal evict the tenant but a months later it still in the air no result yet I don’t know why it take so long ? what kind of law is it? I feel so helpless. can somebody tell me how to get it done sooner? thanks.

  • Angela Jones

    I have been renting a home for 9 years paying a 1000 a month for rent had a verbal agreement with the owner to lease to purchase we would sign a lease every 2 years, after 9 years he file bankruptcy and the house went in foreclosure. the house was sold on 9/7/17 I got a notice to vacate in 10 days the same day the house was sold.
    what is my rights a tenant we just sign a lease in Jan.2017-jan2019

  • sanjib bhowmick

    i have a tenant, he is not giving rent for last 6 months. The electricity meter is in my name but the landlord is my father. I want to disconnect the electricity of the same premises. can i do it? is this legal or illegal.

  • Court

    My landlord threatened eviction over the phone and wouldn’t wait a week for back payment. I came home to find a sheriff 5day eviction notice with no notice of court date. I live in Wisconsin, is this legal?

  • Judy Scott

    I have been renting a. Home for the past 2 years last year I moved my ex-boyfriend up into the house without informing my landlord on June 24th of this year he physically attacked me and I went to jail because I bloodied his nose analyst charged with aggravated battery of course this resulted in myself having to leave the premises my case was dismissed in court now I find myself back up in the house again which he has taken over and moved in his new girlfriend I have contacted the landlord to let him know the situation this man is a violent abusive drunk and is not on the existing lease what can be done to remove him from this property I am sending the eviction paperwork to the landlord who lives in Tennessee

  • Suki

    My children are back in the house and I need to have renovations completed in the rented basement, can i evict the tenant in my basement?
    His lease ends in six months, but i need him to move out now.

    • Dave

      Too bad for you. The lease is a written legal document. You can’t kick him out until the lease is over, then when it is, 30th days before, write a letter that you’re NOT renewing

  • Jo Martinez


    I currently rent a home in Hlwd FL. We have been here for 3 years now.
    We have been given a 45 day notice to move due to the landlord selling the property. When I called my landlord to ask why I have to leave in such a short time she told me that since she never renewed my lease after the first year that I have no choice but to move out on the 45th day due to the buyers request. I do not have the funds to move on such short notice and also I have my handicap father living with me so that makes it even harder. Finding a rental that can accommodate him takes time.
    What can I do to have more time, what are my rights as a tenant?

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