Eviction is an uncomfortable process for both parties: scary and expensive for the soon-to-be-ex-tenant, and arguably more expensive and time-consuming for the landlord.
If your landlord locks you out of the apartment without a sheriff, it’s illegal. They can and frequently do get in a lot of trouble for it. The proper protocol involves a few important steps: the landlord must terminate the lease and give adequate notice, file with an eviction court if the tenant doesn’t vacate, win a judgment, and reclaim the unit with a sheriff in tow. THEN they can change the locks.
It’s a big long legal process that tenants should avoid at all costs, else they be burdened with an eviction record and the potential for thousands of dollars in judgment fees. Landlords don’t like to evict for many reasons, not the least of which being that they foot the initial $5,000 legal bill. Nevertheless, they absolutely may if you do any of these* rental no-no’s:
1. Don’t Pay, Can’t Stay
This one is obvious, and certainly the most common reason people get evicted. Some courts will allow a tenant to withhold payment if the landlord isn’t providing a habitable living environment. Still, eviction is so serious that you shouldn’t bank on it. If your unit has a bat infestation that has been repeatedly ignored, consider seeking your own legal council.
2. Violating Your Lease Agreement
Some landlords are serious about their contracts, and a thorough reading of your lease is always strongly encouraged. Some examples of a serious lease violation include: unapproved pets or human occupants, unapproved subleasing, too many nuisance complaints, or using your unit for purposes other than as a residence in a way that would cause upset with any of these provisions. For example, as a major business operation. This means that while you can work from home on your computer, you can’t open a mechanic shop in your living room.
3. Damaging Property
If you or a party guest accidentally break something, you will foot the bill. If you decide to install something that will require thousands of dollars to uninstall, you can actually get the boot. The difference has to do with intent, frequency of occurrence, and the total repair costs for your lessor.
4. Illegal Activity
You may not sell narcotics out of your unit. You may not be naked at the community pool. If you assault your partner, your landlord will be able to (and absolutely should) split the lease and evict just you. Any serious illegal activity performed in, around, or related to your tenancy is grounds for eviction. Your landlord need only file a police report to get the eviction started. Management has every reason to want the removal of crime from their property as many people won’t re-sign if they don’t feel safe.
And all of this (yes all of this) is neatly addressed in your leasing agreement. Because of this, if you are unaware of a rule it is almost always your fault. Read your contract, follow the rules, pay your rent. Keep it simple.
*This article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For information about how to keep yourself safe from eviction, consult your local Landlord-Tenant attorney, because this author is not one.