If Nothing Else Works Out, Should You Attempt to Evict Your Tenant?

Unfortunately, even the most honest and professional attempts at being a conscientious landlord sometimes fail, and you need to get rid of a difficult tenant. The key to winning an eviction lawsuit (sometimes called an unlawful detainer, or UD, lawsuit) is properly terminating the tenancy before you go to court. Otherwise, you can’t proceed with your lawsuit, let alone get a verdict for possession of your property or for unpaid rent. In order to properly terminate, you must give your tenant adequate written notice, in a specified way and form. If the tenant doesn’t move (or reform) after receiving notice, you can file a lawsuit to evict.

Because an eviction judgment means the tenant won’t have a house to live in, State laws are usually very demanding of landlords. Each state, and even some localities with rent control, have their own procedures as to how termination notices and eviction papers must be written and delivered ("served"). Different types of notices are often required for different situations. You must follow the rules and procedures exactly. Otherwise, you’ll delay to evict the tenant—and maybe even lose your case—even if your tenant has bounced rent checks for months.

No matter how credible your reasons for evicting, be ready for the tenant to defend—and possibly win. For one thing, the outcome may be affected by the way that you’ve conducted business with the tenant. If the tenant can point a finger at you, such as for acting in retaliation, it may shift the attention away from the tenant’s misconducts and decrease your chances of winning.

Eviction itself—that is, physically removing the tenant and their possessions from your property—cannot be done until you have gone to court and certified that the tenant misconducted, which justifies ending the tenancy. Even then, you cannot just move the tenant’s stuff out onto the sidewalk and say goodbye. In most states, you must hire the sheriff or marshal to perform that task.