What if my landlord wants to evict me?
Your landlord can try to evict you, but there must be a court judgment first. Unless your landlord wins in court, he or she must not take your things or evict you, even if you owe back rent.
Can my landlord evict me?
Yes, but your landlord must get the court’s permission first. Unless the court agrees with the eviction, your landlord must not
- lock you out of your home,
- shut off your heat or lights, or
- make you leave before the court decides your case.
If you don't want to leave, follow the steps below to try to stop the eviction.
How would I know if my landlord wants to evict me?
If your landlord wants to evict you, you may get a Kapa Notice or a Notice to Quit.
A Kapa Notice is an informal warning letter that
- explains what you did wrong, and
- tells you to stop or to pay for damages you caused within 15 days.
If you fixed the problem within fifteen days, make sure to get as much proof as you can. For example, if you hired someone to fix damage or you bought the parts to fix damage yourself, keep the receipts. If the landlord says you allowed someone to live with you who was not allowed to live there, get proof that the person lived somewhere else.
If the problem is not solved within 15 days, your landlord may send you a Notice to Quit.
A Notice to Quit is a court form that asks you to leave by a certain date because
- you did not pay your rent;
- your landlord did not agree that you could live there;
- you broke your lease or the law (for example, you sold drugs there or damaged the apartment); or
- your landlord wants to end your month-to-month lease or your lease has ended. (Your landlord must not make you leave if your lease has not ended.)
Important! You do not have to leave on the date listed on the Notice to Quit. The Notice to Quit looks like this.
What should I do if I get a Kapa Notice or a Notice to Quit?
Note: If a housing authority wants to evict you, send a letter to the manager or director asking for a hearing. Keep a copy of the letter.
What happens if I can't work things out with my landlord?
If the problem is not solved and you don't leave, your landlord may ask the court to evict you. If this happens, a marshal will give you a Summons and a Complaint.
If you get a Summons and a Complaint, call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
If you can't get a lawyer to help you, you must follow these steps:
1. Fill out these court forms: Appearance (#JD-CL-12) and Answer (#JD-HM-5).
2. Make 2 copies of the completed forms.
3. Take the original forms to the court clerk within 2 business days of the Return Date on the Summons.
4. Give (or mail) a copy to your landlord or the landlord’s lawyer.
If you have questions or need help, call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
Warning! If you don't fill your forms out completely, correctly, and on time, you could lose your case.
Where can I get the court forms I need?
The forms are free, and you do not have to pay to file your completed forms at court. You can get the forms at:
What happens after I give my forms to the court?
The court will mail you a letter with the time and date of your trial. If you don't go to court for your trial, your landlord will probably win and you will be evicted. If this happens, a marshal can make you move out with as few as 24 hours' notice.
Can I ask the court for another trial date?
If you have a very good reason for needing a different court date, you must ask for a Continuance at least 3 days before your court date. To do that, fill out and file a Motion for Continuance (#JD-CV-21).
If you missed your court date but have a very good reason (like being in the hospital), you have 5 days to ask the court to open your case again by fill out and filing a Motion to Open (#JD-CV-51). It will help your case if you have proof of the reason why you had to miss court. Ask someone at the Court Service Center for help with these forms.
You will have a better chance of winning your case if you do these things:
- Get a lawyer to speak for you in court. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
- Organize and make copies of all the papers you need to prove your story (rent receipts, letters, lease, etc.).
- If you have witnesses, ask them to go to court to say what they know about your case.
- Try to take the day off of work, and get a babysitter if you have children. You may be in court for 2 to 5 hours.
How can I get ready for my trial?
- Get to court early.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Have your papers and witnesses ready.
- Be polite to everyone and follow all instructions.
- Stand up when you speak to the judge, and call the judge “Your Honor.”
- Do not chew gum, use earphones, or read in the courtroom.
- Wear your best clothes.
Will my trial start right away?
You and your landlord will speak to a mediation specialist first. The mediation specialist will try to help you and the landlord make an agreement (also called a stipulation) instead of having a trial. If you can come to an agreement, it will be put in writing and will be signed by you, the landlord, and the judge. You will each get a signed copy of the agreement.
You can also make an agreement on your own with the landlord, but talk to the housing specialist before you sign it.
Warning! Do not sign an agreement if you cannot do what it says. If you disobey the agreement, you can be evicted very quickly.
What if the landlord and I cannot make an agreement?
You will have a trial and a judge will decide your case. Your trial will probably take about an hour.
- The judge will call your case. The landlord will speak first. He or she will explain why you should be evicted. He may show the judge papers or other evidence.
- The judge will ask you to tell your side of the case. You must explain why you should not be evicted. You can also show the judge papers, photos, and other evidence.
- The judge may ask you, the landlord, or any witness questions. You can also ask questions when it is your turn.
- The judge will decide, and the court will mail its decision (called an Order or a Judgment) to you and the landlord.
What happens if I win?
If you win, you get possession, which means you can stay in your apartment.
What happens if I lose?
If you lose your case, you will have to move out in as few as five days. Your landlord will get permission from the court to hire a marshal. A marshal must tell you at least 24 hours before he or she comes to remove you and your things from the apartment.
If you don't move out before the marshal comes, the marshal will take your belongings from the apartment (even if you are not there), and the landlord can lock you out.
Warning! You can be evicted even if you have small children, a subsidy, or it is the middle of the winter. Pack your things as fast as you can before the marshal comes back. Start with your medications and important legal documents, like birth certificates and ID cards.
What if I get evicted and lose my belongings?
- Call 2-1-1. Ask about programs that can help you find a place to live.
- You can get your belongings back from your town if you ask for them within 15 days. They will charge you moving and storing costs, but you can ask them to reduce or eliminate these costs. After 15 days, the town will sell your things at a public auction. You can try to buy them back at auction if you want to. This may cost less than paying for moving and storage.
- If you get welfare, contact your DSS worker right away. DSS sometimes helps with housing and moving costs, or they may pay for the security deposit for your next apartment.
Can I ask for more time to move?
You will automatically get 5 extra days to move out if you are evicted because
- you broke the law or the rules in your lease, or
- your landlord did not agree that you could live there.
Note: You must file something with the court within five days of the judgment if you want
- more time to move,
- to appeal the judgment, or
- the judge to reopen the case.
You can ask your landlord for more time, but he or she does not have to give it to you.
You can get 3 extra months to move out if you are evicted because you did not pay the rent, but you must fill out a Stay of Execution (JD-HM-21) form and pay the court all of the rent you owe within 5 days of the judgment. You must be prepared to pay for each month that you stay.
If you are evicted for a reason not listed above, you may ask the court if you can stay up to 6 months by filling out a Stay of Execution Application. The court does not have to let you stay at your apartment, so think about your other options in case the court says no.
The law says some people must not be evicted
A special law called good cause can protect you from eviction in some cases. Get legal help right away so you can tell the court that you are protected by good cause.
Who qualifies for good cause?
To qualify for good cause, you must
- live in a rental unit that has at least 5 units in all, and
- have a physical or mental disability or be a senior (62 or over).
Do all disabilities qualify?
No. The disability must be physical or mental and it must be expected to last at least 12 months.
Does the law protect anyone else from eviction?
Yes. There are additional requirements that a landlord must comply with before starting an eviction case against
- owners of mobile homes,
- tenants in apartments that the landlord wants to convert to condominiums, and
- tenants living in units where the landlord lost ownership due to foreclosure.
Does everyone in my home have to be a senior?
No. You qualify if your spouse, brother, sister, parent, or grandparent lives with you and is 62 or older.
Important! You may have to prove your disability or age. You can use a medical report or proof of Social Security income.
If I qualify for good cause, does that mean my landlord can never evict me?
No. Your landlord can still evict you if
- you don't pay the rent;
- you don't agree to a fair and equitable rent increase;
- you don't keep your unit clean and safe;
- you don't follow your lease, your landlord’s rules for the building, and state law;
- the landlord wants to stop renting the apartment altogether; or
- the landlord wants to move into the unit.
How do I know if a rent increase is fair and equitable?
Some towns have a Fair Rent Commission that can decide if a rent increase is fair. You can search the Internet or the government pages of your town’s phonebook to see if there is a Fair Rent Commission in your town.