Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. In some jurisdictions it may also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgagee (often, the prior owners who defaulted on a mortgage).

Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, eviction may also be known as unlawful detainer, summary possession, summary dispossess, summary process, forcible detainer, ejectment, and repossession, among other terms. Nevertheless, the term eviction is the most commonly used in communications between the landlord and tenant. Depending on the jurisdiction involved, before a tenant can be evicted, a landlord must win an eviction lawsuit or prevail in another step in the legal process. It should be borne in mind that eviction, as with ejectment and certain other related terms, has precise meanings only in certain historical contexts (e.g., under the English common law of past centuries), or with respect to specific jurisdictions. In present-day practice and procedure, there has come to be a wide variation in the content of these terms from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.[1]

The legal aspects, procedures, and provisions for eviction, by whatever name, vary even between countries or states with similar legal structures.

The eviction process

Most jurisdictions do not permit the landlord to evict a tenant without first taking legal action to do so (commonly referred to as a "self-help" eviction; such actions include changing locks, removing items from the premises, or terminating utility services). Such evictions are generally illegal at any time during the process (including after a landlord wins an eviction suit); a tenant facing such measures may sue the landlord. However, self-help evictions may be permitted in some jurisdictions when commercial tenants are involved, as opposed to residential tenants. [2][3]


Prior to filing a suit in court for eviction, generally the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant (commonly called a notice to quit or notice to vacate). The residential and commercial ordinances created jurisdictions preventing landlords from taking any action that may force a tenant out of their premises. These actions include, but are not limited to, force and threats, removing essential services, demolishing the property, or interfering with entrance locks. [4][5]

Lawsuit and trial

If the tenant remains in possession of the property after the notice to vacate has expired, the landlord can then serve the tenant with a lawsuit.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the tenant may be required to submit a written response by a specified date, after which time another date is set for the trial. Other jurisdictions may simply require the tenant to appear in court on a specified date. Eviction cases are often expedited since the issue is time-sensitive (the landlord loses rental income while the tenant remains in possession). A jury trial may be requested by either party, however until the late 2000s that was very uncommon.[6]

Removal from the property

As mentioned above, most jurisdictions do not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without legal action being taken first, even if the landlord is successful in court.

Instead, the landlord would have to obtain a writ of possession from the court and present it to the appropriate law enforcement officer. The officer then posts a notice for the tenant on the property that the officer will remove the tenant and any other people on the property, though some jurisdictions will not enforce the writ if, on that day, inclement weather is taking place.[7]

With the removal of the tenant also comes the removal of their personal belongings. If the tenant leaves behind anything of value, there is a universal custom (but no law) for the landlord to hold onto the left-behind belongings for 30 days. After these 30 days the landlord is able to sell the left-behind property, usually in an auction, to satisfy any over due rent arrears. [8]

No-fault evictions

As gentrification and the re-population of urban centers by wealthier residents takes place, no-fault evictions are used as a tool to displace tenants in cities with rent control. In California, for example, the Ellis Act allows eviction of rent-controlled tenants if the landlord intends to no longer rent any portion of an apartment building (i.e., landlords cannot be compelled to rent). The Ellis Act has been applied to rentals in San Francisco,[9][10] Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Just-cause evictions

Some areas have "just cause eviction" laws, which prevents evictions for reasons other than an approved list. For example, the law in Seattle, Washington requires a court order (and in some cases relocation assistance) and allows evictions for:[11]

  • Failure to pay rent or late payments after written warning more than four times per year
  • The tenant has failed to correct a violation of the lease or laws concerning public nuisance, sanitation, unlawful business, or habitually causes warnings to be issued with corrections made
  • The owner's family is moving into the unit, and no adequate other units are available
  • The sale of a single-family home
  • Tenant-employees who are no longer employees
  • Renovation, demolition, or conversion to non-residential use
  • Violation of a legal requirement, such as building suitability or number of occupants
  • Tenants who live with the owner
  • If drug or health and safety-related crimes are committed (by the tenant or with the tenant's consent) on the property, street, or neighboring properties

Massachusetts law allows landlords to evict leased tenants only if one of three conditions are met:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violation of the terms of the lease agreement by the tenant
  • Excessive damage caused to the rental property by the tenant or persons under the tenant's control

Real estate mobbing

Real estate mobbing, also known as property mobbing, is the use of mobbing techniques to constructively or forcibly evict a legal resident or owner from his or her dwelling. Real estate mobbing is a technique used by real estate speculators and the sometimes euphemistically named "tenant relocators" to move residents from dwellings or off of lots that developers and speculators want. The United Nations recognized real estate mobbing as a worldwide cause of forced eviction.[12] Amnesty International deems real estate mobbing to be a violation of human rights.[13] Real estate mobbing is acknowledged as a problem in Europe and particularly in Spain. It is associated with real estate speculation and rapid gentrification.


United States

In the United States of America, rules for evictions and the eviction process are ruled by each state, local county, and city rules.

See also


  1. "Frontier Evictions, Texas". Frontier Evictions. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  2. "The Evolving Use of License Agreements in Real Estate-Related Transactions" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  3. January 2008. "Using a License Agreement Instead of a Lease". LawJournalNewsletters.com. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  4. "HPD - Tenants' Rights - Harassment". www1.nyc.gov. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  5. Bailey, Adam Leitman; Law, ContributorAttorney at (2016-10-25). "Commercial Tenant Harassment in New York City--Questionable Medicine". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  6. Aron, Hillel (2014-12-10). "How "Superman of Renters" Daniel Bramzon Revolutionized L.A.'s Eviction-Defense Industry". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  7. "Eviction". Texas Tenant Advisor. Austin, Texas: Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. Retrieved 2019-02-27. If it is raining, sleeting, or snowing you cannot be removed.
  8. "Tenants Belongings After Eviction: What Are Your Responsibilities?". RentPrep. 2018-08-11. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  9. "Ellis Act Evictions, San Francisco". Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. San Francisco, California. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  10. "2015 Promises to Be a Battleground Year for Ellis Act Evictions". The Bold Italic. A Medium Corporation. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. "Seattle Municipal Code, section 22.206.160 - Duties of owners". Municipal Code Corporation. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  12. United Nations Human Rights, Forced Evictions, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FS25.Rev.1.pdf.
  13. "Our Work". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
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