Millions of Americans face eviction with no where to go every year. If you know your legal rights, you might be able to fight the eviction while you make other arrangements. This article looks at the landlord-tenant eviction process and the homeless resources that are available to people that have no place to go after the eviction process is over.
The Eviction Process
The eviction process generally takes about thirty days to enforce the removal of a tenant from the rented property. In most instances, the tenant must first receive a written “Notice of Eviction” which is sometime referred to as a notice “To Quit” which is initiated by the landlord and which state the legal cause for eviction.
The landlord must strictly follow the requirements of the legal process in order to evict you from the premises. Another words, there are technical requirements the landlord must comply with in order to convince a judge that an eviction order should issue removing the tenant from his property.
What is known as “substantial compliance’ will not be sufficient. So if your can find technical defects in how the eviction papers and notices were written or how they were served, you might be able to defeat the landlord’s eviction case which will require the landlord to start the legal process over again. This will give you additional time to consider your options.
Implied Warranty of Habitability
There are however legal circumstances if properly alleged in your legal response to the eviction that can prevent the landlord from evicting you even if you have not paid the rent. Specifically, if the landlord has violated the “implied warranty of habitability” by failing to make required repairs or if the landlord’s reason for evicting you was to “punish you” for exercising some legal right, you might have a good defense for what is called retaliatory eviction. Both the landlord and the landlord’s insurance company seek to avoid legal exposure of this kind because there is the risk that the renter could be awarded punitive damages.
If you lose the eviction case, the court will issue a “writ of removal” ordering a law enforcement officer to physically remove you from the premises.
Usually the court will allow you between three and five days to physically vacate the landlords property. You may however be able to persuade the judge to issue a “stay” in your favor which extends the period for another week or two in order to give you more time to find another place to live.
In addition to evicting you from the premises, the landlord might also obtain a judgment against you for money damages. This might cover unpaid rent, damage to the premises, the landlord’s attorney fees, as well as filing and service of process costs. If you don’t pay the judgment, the landlord might try to collect it by garnishing your wages or putting a lien on your car or bank account.
Rent Control Areas – Public Housing
If you live in rent controlled apartment or your landlord is a public housing partner under the federal mandates of Section 8, the landlord will likely need to prove good cause to evict you. If the landlord gave you proper notice terminating your month-to-month tenancy (usually 30 days) but later accepted rent covering a period beyond that 30 days, he might have “waived” the right to evict on that notice. This is known as relief from forfeiture and it comes up more then you might imagine.
If your money troubles prevent you from affording a lawyer to represent you, you can still represent yourself and present the defenses to your eviction on your own. Obviously, having a skilled eviction defense lawyer is your best course of action, but if you are in financial hardship this option is probably not available to you.
Legal Aid – No-Cost and Low-Cost Legal Services and Assistance
What you can do however is obtain a free consultation from a legal aid lawyer. If you qualify for Legal Aid you may also qualify to have a lawyer appear with you at the eviction hearing.
Each state provides some form of made up of no-cost and low-cost legal services. Qualifying for free and discounted legal aid depends mostly on your income level and the type of legal work you would like performed.
Another alternative is to seek free legal eviction advice from a local law school clinic. Law school legal clinics offer free legal services to low-income people and the homeless. The obvious drawback with this option is that you are usually dealing with law students rather then lawyers. However, these students are often highly motivated and good-hearted young people truly wanting to serve and protect people in legal trouble. Most states require that law students work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney.
Finally, keep in mind that eviction is not the end of the road. If you remain in financial trouble, you need to seek out other types of public resources that might be available to you at no or very little cost. For more information on low-income-no-income public and transitional housing, homeless shelters, food banks and pantries, food stamp assistance, as well as legal and financial aid visit the GotTrouble Financial Hardship Food and Shelter Resource and Directory.