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How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

How Evictions WorkThis article by Marcia Stuart of NOLO Law for All, is a summary of the eviction process, including the termination notices required for different situations.

A landlord can’t begin an eviction lawsuit without first legally terminating the tenancy. This means giving the tenant written notice, as specified in the state’s termination statute. If the tenant doesn’t move, or reform, by paying the rent or finding a new home for the dog, you can then file a lawsuit to evict. This is called an unlawful detainer, or UD lawsuit.

State laws set out very detailed requirements to end a tenancy. Different types of termination notices are required for different types of situations. Each state has its own procedures as to how termination notices and eviction papers must be written and delivered.

Although terminology varies somewhat from state to state, there are basically three types of termination notices for tenancies that landlords terminate due to tenant misbehavior:

Pay Rent or Quit Notices are typically used when the tenant has not paid the rent. The landlord gives the tenant a few days (three to five in most states) to pay the rent or move out (“quit”).

Cure or Quit Notices are typically given after a tenant violates a term or condition of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets clause or the requirement to refrain from making excessive noise. Usually, the tenant has a set amount of time in which to correct, or “cure,” the violation. A tenant who fails to do so must move out, or face the possibility of an eviction lawsuit.

Unconditional Quit Notices are the harshest of all. They order the tenant to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or correct a lease or rental agreement violation. In most states, unconditional quit notices are allowed only when the tenant has:

  • repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause.
  • been late with the rent on more than one occasion
  • seriously damaged the premises, or
  • engaged in serious illegal activity, such as drug dealing on the premises.

However, in some states, landlords may use Unconditional Quit Notices for transgressions that would require Pay or Quit Notices, or Cure or Quit Notices in other, more tenant-friendly states. In these strict states, landlords may extend second chances if they wish, but no law requires them to do so.


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