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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282 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jo Martinez

    I found this Fl statue but don’t really understand it:
    83.04 Holding over after term, tenancy at sufferance, etc.—When any tenancy created by an instrument in writing, the term of which is limited, has expired and the tenant holds over in the possession of said premises without renewing the lease by some further instrument in writing then such holding over shall be construed to be a tenancy at sufferance. The mere payment or acceptance of rent shall not be construed to be a renewal of the term, but if the holding over be continued with the written consent of the lessor then the tenancy shall become a tenancy at will under the provisions of this law.
    History.—s. 4, ch. 5441, 1905; RGS 3570; CGL 5434; s. 3, ch. 15057, 1931; s. 34, ch. 67-254

    • Mattie Wayne

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  • Kat

    I have a tenant at will never had a lease and I have them a 34 day notice to leave I need the first flr and I am remolding the house and they don’t want to sign a lease or pay the rent increase they ripped the paperwork up in my face and told me they are not moving or paying me more rent they threaten me and is acting like he own my house I don’t know what to do

  • Lovely Yeasmin

    My name is Lovely Yeasmin. I own a three family house in Brooklyn New York since 2006. Unfortunately for a family member I am behind my mortgage payments for many years. But I am also fight with my bank to get the house back. But recently I actually got fed up and decided to short sell the house if I have to because I became hopeless and depressed. Anyway my question is can I evict my tenants for this reason without facing any legal problem? Because one of my tenant is currently pregnant and she is due next month. I let them stay even before when she was pregnant with her first baby. But I already gave them two months notice to vacate the apartment. They have some major problem about getting offened for small reasons. On the other hand they act like I am the one who is renting the house not them. I have one another who has 6 months lease thats why I can’t give a notice to vacate right until next month. But these tenant went and asked her if I have her a notice too or not which I think is totally wrong when they don’t even have the lease. I even get violations because them by the city for recycling. Please tell me what can I do. Thank you.

  • Mary

    Tenant had lease agreement with previous owner. New owner…how do I evict?

  • Jon Waldrop

    I have been waiting 4 weeks for court officers to contact me to remove renters they wont leave. They have damaged my house i call court everyday i het the same story i don”t know what to do

  • Nancy Pack

    The first tenant on lease let another get on lease. The first tenant had multiple problems with the second lessee. He decides to break lease and leave , he turned off power in his name and left. The second lessee has never paid rent and just thinks she can stay. We informed her she needs to be gone by the first but feel she will give us problems. What can we do?

  • Mary Lu

    I have a tenant that has been consecutively late for over six months with bounced checks and through out our tenant/landlord relationship I have been extremely generous as I understand we as humans can go through difficult times. however our one year contract ended two-three months ago and I have decided to sell the home and now that I need her to cooperate she’s being very difficult and un-cooperative and has yet to pay January’s full month deposit. She has provided less than 20% of the rent. I have served her with a 30 day termination tenancy notice. Can I also serve her with a 3 day eviction notice or non cooperation eviction as she has not made ends meet for the January 2018. What legal rights do I have as a landlord?

  • V C henriques

    How do I recover my overdue from a tenant who has left d premises without handling over d keys to d owner I.e me

  • Deisy

    Can I evict my tenant in my basement ? I’m in Queens Ny

  • Greg

    Hi to everyone I’m working on purchasing a duplex styled home for my wife and I and to rent out the other side, the catch is there is two long term renters at the property will I be able to kick one of the attendant for my wife and I to move in to one of the side because I am the current new owner or will I have to give a 30 day notice that will allow one of the attendants to remain.

  • Kathy Pawlowicz

    I want my son-in-law out of my house he does pay is rent my daughter also lives with us she can stay but I cannot stand this man. Do I have reason to properly evict him from my house please let me know what I can possibly do.

    • Sandra

      I have a duplex I made a big mistake my nephew lives on the other side with his wife that doesn’t work and always fussing at him I want her out but I don’t know how to go about it good luck

  • Stephen

    Hello, we manage properties as a company but we have a tenant who have never paid us for the last three months, we have written to her a letter informing her to leave the premises within the next three months after paying all the amount we demand her, unfortunately she refused to sign the letter and she is denying that she didn’t see the letter now she is requesting for more time, what should we do?

  • Gouri Sur

    Hi ,i have a tenant for year without lease,he doesn’t pay the rent in time n I don’t like because his daughter is problematic n he always calls the police ,I don’t know the the matter ,i always told to vacant but he he misbehave with men now he asked about the receipt,tell me how to vacant

  • Gouri Sur

    Hi ,i have a tenant for year without lease,hedoesn’t pay the rent in time n I don’t like because his daughter is problematic n he always calls the police ,I don’t know the matter ,i always told vacant but he misbehave with me now he asked about the receipt,tell me how to vacant

  • Gouri Sur

    Hi ,i have a tenant for year without lease,hedoesn’t pay the rent in time n I don’t like because his daughter is problematic n he always calls the police ,I don’t know the matter ,i always told vacant but he misbehave with me now he asked about the receipt but paid me cash,how to vacade him

  • Gouri Sur

    Hi ,i have a tenant for year without lease,hedoesn’t pay the rent in time n I don’t like because his daughter is problematic n he always calls the police ,I don’t know the matter ,i always told vacant but he misbehave with me now he asked about the receipt but paid me cash,

  • Gouri Sur

    Hi ,i have a tenant for year without lease,hedoesn’t pay the rent in time how to vacant

  • Angel contreras

    I gave to my tenant half of a month rent ($500) to make some repairaitions in our condo , this was in the month of December last year , he never rapired anything and now he dost want to return the money to us, I have everything on texts , can I get him evicted for that reason ? I really don’t want him in our property any longer….
    Thank you ,

  • Salvatoregandolfo

    I live in a trailer park the only one in NYC the land is rented j own the trailer I lived in it for years then when day I. Decided to. Take in a roommate e has no lease with me I moved out but he. He played me. Rent he is a violent felon whothreaenedme he not. Payed since October quant out of there what are. My options to get him out asap

  • Brad ray

    I’m in rent to own and I have 2 people staying with me .and there super messy and argue a lot. Also there not on any agreement . And they don’t don’t get any mail . What do I need to do

  • Jackie

    Pls when a tenant breaches a contract by not paying previous rent and then he forges a document to register your land behind your back what can you do . also as there is a summons from the court does he have the right to challenge u

  • Misty Mathews

    I own a Mobile home and have it in a park. I done a lease to purchase agreement with tenant in 2008. He has paid me 2 payments since 2008. What is my rights in Alabama??

  • Charles payne

    I live in a senior living and I have a friend that live me and she should not be cause it for 50 and up and she is 48 what can I do to get she out of here without me getting evected??

  • Claudia

    I’ve been living and taking care of an elderly man and his for two years. The son passed away last May and his Dad who was 93 passed away last Saturday. All I want is a fair amount of time to find a place to live but the step daughter who’s daughter was named in will and now owns the house wants us out in two weeks. What do I do?

  • Peter

    Hello, if someone do not pay lease and my property , and I sue and win that case, but the person build a house and my land do I of fto pay them for that house for them to leave .my property.

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