What Is Eviction: 6 Steps to Handle Tenants Who Just Can’t Pay

December 4, 2023 0 comment

Eviction is the legal process a landlord uses to regain possession of their rental property from a tenant due to violations of the lease agreement, most commonly for not paying rent. While no landlord wants to go through an eviction, understanding the process and handling it correctly can minimize stress and potential legal complications. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Open Communication

Before resorting to legal channels, reach out to the tenant:
• Understand their reasons for not paying rent. It could be a temporary financial setback.
• Discuss potential solutions such as a short-term reduction in rent, payment plans, or a one-time late payment allowance.
• Document all communication for future reference.

2. Serve a Pay or Quit Notice

If open communication doesn’t yield results:
• Provide a formal “Pay or Quit” notice, giving the tenant a specific timeframe (usually 3-5 days, depending on local regulations) to pay overdue rent or vacate the property.
• The notice must be delivered in person, by certified mail, or through a process server, ensuring the tenant receives it.

3. File for Eviction with the Court 

If the tenant neither pays nor vacates within the stipulated time:
• Head to your local courthouse to file an eviction lawsuit (often termed an “unlawful detainer” lawsuit).
• You will be charged a filing fee, which varies based on jurisdiction.

4. Attend the Court Hearing

• A hearing date will be set after filing. Attend the hearing prepared with all relevant documentation: lease agreement, payment records, communication records, and the served notice.
• If the judge rules in your favor, they will issue an eviction order.

5. Regaining Possession of the Property

• After obtaining the eviction order, it must be enforced by the local sheriff or constable, not the landlord.
• The tenant will be given a final notice and a few days to leave. If they don’t, law enforcement will remove them.

6. Handle Left-behind Possessions

• In many jurisdictions, landlords are required to store a tenant’s abandoned belongings for a specified period, usually 15-30 days.
• After the stipulated time, if the tenant hasn’t claimed their belongings, landlords can dispose of or sell the items. However, some states require a public auction.


Evicting a tenant is a time-consuming, emotionally draining, and often expensive process. Always ensure you’re following local and state regulations to avoid potential legal pitfalls. While eviction should be the last resort, understanding the steps ensures you’re prepared to handle it efficiently.

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