If a tenant has stopped paying rent or violated some other provision of the lease, the landlord must provide the proper legal notice and follow the legal procedure in order to evict them. If any of the stops are not followed, the entire case can be thrown out of court. Landlords are forbidden from conducting “self-help” evictions by locking out tenants without a court order, cutting off their utilities, or removing their belongings from the property.
In the event of a lease violation, there are several different types of legal notice that must be given prior to filing a lawsuit for eviction. If the tenant has not paid the rent, the landlord should provide a 5-day notice to pay or quit. For most other lease violations a 30-day notice is required. 30 days notices can also be given in month-to-month tenancies whenever the landlord wants the tenant to move out, even if the tenant has done nothing wrong. If the violation is something that can be remedied by the tenant, then a 21-30 notice is required, which gives the tenant 21 days to correct the problem or the lease will be terminated in 30 days. But if the tenant is doing something that constitutes a threat to the health or safety of others, then the landlord can provide notice of immediate termination of the lease and proceed directly to court.
Once the period provided by the written notice has expired, if the violation has not been cured, then the landlord can file a Summons for Unlawful Detainer in the General District Court to request possession of the premises and any money owing. These cases are expedited on the court’s docket and will usually be scheduled for a first return date within a few weeks. At the first return, the judge will determine if the tenant has been properly served and if the tenant disputes the case, it will be set for a trial date, usually a week or two later. In some counties the judge will hear the contested cases on the same day as the first return.
If the landlord prevails at the trial, then they can request that the court clerk issue a Writ of Possession to be executed by the Sheriff. The Writ cannot be issue until the expiration of the 10-day appeal period. However, if the tenant does not show up for the first return and the judgment is obtained by default, the landlord can request immediate possession, so that they do not have to wait the ten days. The Sheriff will post a notice on the door of the premises with the date and time of the eviction. By law the Sheriff must give at least 72-hours prior notice, but due to their schedule it is often closer to two weeks.