Ways to stop an eviction
There are many circumstances that may cause a landlord to file an eviction against a tenant. Some of these may be financial, and some may be due to the tenant damaging the property. Although every case is different, the process for filing an eviction is the same. Most landlords get an attorney to handle these situations, but knowing how everything works can help when attempting to stop the eviction.
A tenant does not have to have an attorney present, but getting advice from the landlord-tenant clerk’s office can help answer any questions and draft the response to the complaint. Doing things properly and in order shows the court that you are willing to resolve the situation and comply with the law. If you feel you need the assistance of an attorney, you may consult the local Bar Association.
Steps in the Eviction Process
Landlords cannot just tell tenants they have to leave the next day -- the landlords must have just cause or think they have cause. They must also follow the rules of the state in which the property is located. The eviction must be legal and documented for it to have merit. Here are the initial steps:
1. The landlord serves the tenant with an eviction notice, giving the tenant a certain day to vacate the premises.
2. After the date to vacate has passed, the landlord or his representative files a complaint with the court with the reasons why the tenant is being evicted.
3. The tenant is served with the complaint and has a certain number of days to respond in writing to the court.
4. There is a court hearing to determine what happens with the tenant and the property.
How to Prevent an Eviction
Although landlords have every right to claim their property, a process must be followed. Tenants have recourse to fight an eviction, especially if the landlords have not done their part in making sure the property is habitable. Here are the ways in which a tenant can fight and/or prevent the eviction:
1 Ask for an Order to Show Cause from the Clerk’s office, which will hold the eviction proceedings until you can appear before a judge.
2. Respond to the complaint with a compelling defense. If the landlord is evicting you for reasons that are not related to nonpayment, you can explain. Additionally, when a landlord chooses not to renew a lease or if tenants are not given 60 days notice, they can fight the eviction. When responding to the complaint, be truthful and explain the circumstances thoroughly. A judge cannot assist you without adequate information. Some valid defenses are:
- The property needs major repairs that have been reported to the landlord but have not been fixed.
- The landlord is not honoring the rental agreement.
- The property is uninhabitable.
- The money is being held because the landlord has not fixed the property.
- The money for the rent was used to fix items on the property.
3. Place the funds in escrow. If you are fighting your eviction but have put the money owed in an account with the court, the decision can sway in your favor. The judge will investigate why you are able to pay but have not done so, forcing the landlord to respond to your allegations.
The best course of action to stop an eviction prior to it becoming a legal issue is to speak to the landlord about the issues at hand. If a resolution can be reached before the situation balloons, it will save both the landlord and tenant money in the long run. Being proactive in times of financial distress or if the property need repairs can make a difference in how everything concludes. Once the court makes a decision, there are still protocols to follow to make sure everyone is in compliance. If the judgment is in the favor of the tenant, the landlord must honor the judgment.