UPDATED: January 27, 2020
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An eviction notice, scary as it is, is not the eviction itself. When a tenant is served with an eviction notice they still have rights and options. The eviction notice may be presented as a legal document, but it must meet strict requirements before a court will consider it valid.
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The Purpose of an Eviction NoticeAn eviction notice is meant to inform tenants that a legal process of eviction is about to begin if the landlord grievance cannot be resolved. If the eviction is not based on a particular grievance, there is generally a much longer deadline to respond - up to 30-60 days (as opposed to 3-5 days for many issue-specific notices in some jurisdictions).
If the issue is confronted and legal requirements are adhered to quickly and competently, a tenant may be able to delay the process for weeks or even months, or even prevent the eviction from happening altogether.
Eviction Notice Requirements
In any jurisdiction, an eviction notice must provide all the information a tenant may need to understand the landlord's reason for eviction, and all the information needed to respond within required time frames, in order to be valid. Legal eviction processes begin only if a tenant doesn't use that information and respond appropriately before the deadline. Courts determine what kind of information is necessary and how it must be presented.
Landlords often hire legal counsel to assist in the eviction process. It is not required that a tenant hire an attorney, however, many tenants' rights/housing lawyers offer legal aid clinics and other free or low cost legal assistance services, so it may be worth considering.
Eviction Notices Must Contain Accurate Information
If you've received an eviction notice, the first and most important thing to do is to read the entire eviction notice carefully. Although they are not very long, they are subject to a long list of strict legal requirements.
A notice of eviction is much like any other notice. If the notice or its method of delivery is invalid or defective in any way, it must be filed again by the landlord. At a minimum, this can provide the tenant with another week or two to work through a solution.
A landlord's exact grievance must be stated on the eviction notice itself, along with instructions on how to fix the problem within the time limit. Often, these grievances involve accusations of a tenant breaking terms of their lease, (e.g., failing to pay rent, disturbing neighbors, engaging in illegal activity, making frivolous complaints, etc). It's important to refer to any personal records and compare them to landlord claims.
Eviction Notice Procedure
After receiving a notice, a tenant must respond in a timely, if not urgent, manner.
The typical 30 day eviction notice, as the name indicates, requires a response within 30 days of receiving it. State and local jurisdiction laws, as well as the specific circumstances involved, can also impact how long a tenant has to respond. It will indicate at the beginning of the notice exact time frames, and deadlines to respond will never be upheld in court if a notice did not clearly communicate them to the tenant.
Types of Eviction Notices
It's important to note that the following types of notices are reasons for receiving a notice, not reasons for being evicted:
Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If a tenant doesn't pay rent when it's due, a landlord can serve a notice, giving the tenant some time in which to pay the amount owed plus any associated late fees (as listed in the signed rental agreement), or move out. The time period given is usually 3-5 days. If the tenant pays the full amount in the given time, there can be no eviction on this notice. The landlord must start all over again with a new notice and new time period if there are other violations that need resolution.
Notice to Correct a Violation of the Lease or Quit
In some states a landlord can give a tenant a notice to fix some violation of their rental agreement, such as a junk car in the front yard, a pet that is not allowed by the lease, or more people living in the unit than is allowed in the agreement.
The notice must state the amount of time the tenant has to correct this. For example, state law may give the tenant 5 or 10 days. As long as the tenant corrects the violation in time, there can be no eviction on this notice.
Notice to Quit
In some states, a landlord may give a notice for a tenant to move without any possibility of correcting something. In most cases, this can only be done if the tenant has seriously violated their rental agreement.
For instance, a tenant is repeatedly late with the rent, causes damage to the rental property, threatens the health or safety of the property or other tenants (sometimes called nuisance), or grows or sells drugs on the rental property. The time given to move depends on state law. If the tenant is shown to have done what the landlord is accusing him or her of, they must move or be evicted.
30-Day or 60-Day Notices
In most states, a landlord can give an eviction notice for a tenant to move without giving any reason. The time allowed under state law for such a notice is usually 30 or 60 days, but it may be as short as 20 days or as long as 90 days. There may be different time periods if the tenant has lived in the unit for a long time, is a senior citizen or is disabled.
The requirements also vary if the tenant is receiving federal housing assistance, or if the reason for the eviction is a condo conversion. Some states or cities require landlords to pay relocation expenses to senior citizens or disabled tenants or for units that are being converted to condos.
A landlord can’t give this kind of notice to a tenant with a lease until the lease period is over. He or she also can't give such a notice for reasons of discrimination, or as retaliation against a tenant (e.g., for reporting violations or insisting on legal repairs). This type of notice may also not be allowed in rent controlled buildings or buildings protected by rent stabilization laws.
For more on the entire eviction process and the steps required for an eviction, see The Eviction Process.