When you rent an apartment, condo, or home, you’re entering into a contract with the property owner in which you are legally bound to pay rent, abide by rules, and meet certain expectations regarding the use and care of the property — this is your rental agreement. When you fail to uphold your end of the agreement, the property owner has the legal right to force you to move out.
This is called an eviction, and in some cases, it can have a significant effect on your credit. Additionally, it will more than likely hinder your ability to rent from other landlords in the future.
Although each state has its own specific laws regarding the eviction process, understanding what an eviction is, how eviction works, what your options are, and how eviction affects you and your finances can help you better prepare in the event it happens to you.
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Reasons for an Eviction
Landlords aren’t allowed to simply kick tenants out of a property without proper reason. Ultimately, the reasons behind an eviction depend entirely on your rental agreement and the rental laws in your city and state. Below are some common examples of why you may have been evicted:
- Failure to pay rent: When you sign your lease, you agree to pay a monthly rental fee. Some landlords will allow grace periods or a certain number of late payments and late fees before eviction, but other landlords may not be as forgiving. Be sure to look at the nonpayment eviction proceedings in your rental agreement;
- Lease violation(s): Your rental agreement will indicate a number of different rules and expectations that you are expected to abide by while you live there. Similar to above, it is crucial to understand which lease violations are grounds for eviction;
- Property damage: Landlords generally prepare for minimal amounts of wear and tear — this is what a security deposit is for — but if you cause damage to the rental property that is expensive to fix, or is beyond repair, your landlord can evict you;
- Illegal activity in the home: If you perform any illegal activity in your home or on the property, you can be evicted immediately. In most cases, your landlord will need to provide ample notice, but if your landlord has proof that you are involved with illegal activity, they can evict you in as little as 24 hours or less. Some examples of illegal activity include:
- Solicitation of drugs;
- Manufacturing drugs;
- Unlawful possession or use of a firearm.
- End of the lease: If your lease is about to expire, your landlord is completely within their rights to terminate your lease and ask you to leave. They don’t need a reason, they have fulfilled their end of the contract, and they are not required to continue having you as a renter.
Your eviction could be for one or multiple of the reasons above. You can usually gain insight into why you were evicted from your eviction notice or letter from the landlord, or by reaching out to your landlord directly and asking.
What Happens When You Get Evicted?
Landlords are required by law to give an eviction notice. As mentioned above, laws vary between states, but in most states, landlords are required to provide at least 30 days of notice before taking legal action.
The eviction process begins with a landlord sending a written notice stating that they are beginning the eviction process. The notice alerts tenants of the pending eviction and the reason(s) why. It is generally given in the form of a letter, or it is posted on the rental door. In most cases, this notice falls into one of three eviction categories:
- Pay-rent-or-quit notice: You receive this type of notice when you fail to pay rent — in some cases, this is a result of multiple missed payments, in others, it is simply one missed payment;
- Cure-or-quit notice: You receive this type of notice when you violate your lease agreement;
- Unconditional-quit notice: You receive this type of notice for failing to pay rent, or when you violate your lease. This type of notice leaves you with no options for correcting your wrongs.
Once you receive an eviction notice, you can do one of three things.
1. Resolve the Eviction
If you receive a pay-rent-or-quit notice or a cure-or-quit notice, you are given a set amount of time to resolve the eviction before you move out, or go to court. For example, if you are being evicted because you missed your payment, the obvious solution would be to pay the rent to resolve the eviction.
Once you have taken action to resolve your part, contact your landlord, provide proof that the issue is taken care of, and resolve the eviction.
2. Move Out
If you receive any form of the notices above, and you cannot pay the balance, or cure the violation, you can choose to move out and avoid the court eviction process entirely. If you are given an unconditional quit notice, this is your only option.
If you choose to move out, this does not mean that you are exempt from paying off any balances (past due rent, damage to property, late fees). You are still responsible to pay all fees that are agreed upon in your lease. If you forget, or you refuse to pay, you will likely be sent to collections.
3. Go to Court
If you refuse to leave or resolve the issue that caused the eviction notice, your landlord can take you to court. Once your landlord has begun the eviction proceedings, you will be required to appear in court.
If you believe you are being wrongfully evicted, you may have grounds to contest the eviction. For example, if you didn’t pay rent because your landlord didn’t make necessary repairs in the timeline that your rental agreement states, you may be able to contest the eviction. Even though you didn’t fulfill your side of the agreement, neither did the landlord.
If you win the case, you will be able to carry out the rest of your lease. If the landlord wins the case, you will need to:
- Move out by a specific court-ordered time;
- Pay rent that you owe;
- Pay for any court-ordered fees.
Going the legal route can end up being a costly venture, so be sure you have a solid case or reasoning for taking your landlord to court before taking legal action.
Do Evictions Show Up on Credit Reports?
The eviction itself won’t show up on your credit report, but different things that stem from or are a result of your eviction may appear on your credit report.
If your landlord takes you to court for the eviction, you may receive a judgment. A judgment is sent to the three major credit bureaus and it negatively impacts your score. It is also a matter of public record, so any future lender can find this information.
This could make it harder to find another rental or even a loan. Additionally, a judgment stays on your credit report for seven years and is difficult to remove from your report.
If you move out prior to the eviction going to court, your credit score and report can still be affected by your eviction. If you still owe rent or various other fees to your landlord, and your landlord reports to the credit bureaus, these late payments may affect your credit score.
The landlord can also choose to send the debt to collections, and this will also negatively impact your credit score. Again, like most derogatory marks, getting sent to collections will appear on your credit report for seven years unless you work towards removing it.
How to Prevent an Eviction
The eviction process can be a long, stressful, and costly venture for both the tenant and the landlord, so as obvious as it may seem, you should aim to avoid eviction at all costs. Below are some methods for preventing eviction:
- Abide by your rental agreement: You signed a rental agreement that is legally binding. You need to uphold all of the responsibilities that are expected of you and detailed within your lease. Abiding by your rental agreement is the best possible way to avoid eviction;
- Communicate with your landlord: If you know that you are unable to abide by your agreement, talk to your landlord. For example, if you are responsible for maintaining the lawn, and your lawnmower broke down, tell your landlord about it. The same goes for if you can’t afford rent at some point;
- Look for affordable housing: If you are unable to keep up with the rent for housing, don’t sign the lease. Many financial experts encourage you to only spend 30% of your gross income on housing. There are certain ways that you can live rent-free and there is also housing assistance for single parents or rent assistance for individuals with disabilities.
Getting evicted can cause both short- and long-term consequences for finding housing, and for your credit. But it is not the end-all. Work on improving your credit, and look for housing and rental agreements that you can manage.
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