Can Landlord Evict Tenant Without Court Order?

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction

I recently received this question from a reader:

My landlord is really giving me a hard time about paying my past due rent and keeping my unit clean.  Just about every day, he tells me that one of these days I am going to come home and all my stuff is going to be on the curb and the locks will be changed.  Can he legally do this?

This is a common question/situation.  This reader did not identify which state s/he was in, but generally speaking, NO, the landlord can’t just throw you out.  He must go through a legal process known in most states as an eviction process.

Here is a little background:  As part of the leasing process, the landlord grants the tenant certain rights to the property.  These include, but are not limited to, the right to occupy, the right to quiet enjoyment (should not be bothered by others), and others.  The lease is a legal agreement/contract between the landlord and tenant that spells these rights out, what is given in exchange (rent), and how long these rights last (lease term).

If the landlord wants to take back these rights, he needs the court to break the lease.  That is why he must go to court and prove that the tenant has violated some part of the contract (lease).  This process can take 2-3 weeks depending upon the jurisdiction.  You will have your opportunity in court to explain your side of the story.  Even during that time, the tenant may have the opportunity to resolve the lease violation and stay in the property until the expiration of the lease.

So, what if there is no lease between the tenant and landlord?  This can complicate matters, but generally speaking, the landlord must still go through the court process to evict the tenant as the tenant is consider at “at-will” tenant and still has some fundamental rights (at least in Minnesota).  For both the protection of the landlord and tenant, I would never live somewhere without a lease, even from a family member.

If you are in this situation and feel like your landlord is taking advantage of you, do the research on the eviction process in your state.  It may even be worth you speaking to a tenant-rights attorney to understand what the landlord can and can’t do.

 

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