Posted in Blog  
  on May 05, 2015

What Is a Wrongful Eviction?

There are always going to be problematic tenants from a landlord's perspective. From the tenant's perspective, there are always going to be problematic landlords. A vast majority of tenants and landlords have a mutually beneficial relationship that works for both groups. When that relationship turns sour or there is a lease violation, however, a wrongful eviction can easily happen. What is a wrongful eviction? It is when a property owner, a landlord, or an agent acting on behalf of either party forces a tenant out of a residence without legal authorization to do so. There are a number of ways this might happen.

1. By changing the locks on the building in question after removing personal effects.

2. By shutting off the utilities to the building.

3. By bullying the tenant into leaving the property through abuse and intimidation.

Tenants often have a lot of leeway to correct the issues that they may have created. Most landlord-tenant laws require that a property owner, landlord, or agent give that tenant every opportunity to rectify the situation. That's why a specific eviction procedure must always be followed.

Landlords Almost Never Have Authorization To Remove Tenants

Only in specific jurisdictions is there any authorization for a landlord to physically remove a problematic tenant. Most of the time the tenant who is in violation of a leasing agreement must be notified that they are in violation in writing. They will be given a specific time frame to rectify that violation so they can return to compliance. The most common reason why a tenant falls out of compliance with a leasing agreement is because of a non-payment of rent. Any violation of the lease can be grounds to send a violation letter, but landlord-tenant laws have a specific amount of time that ranges from 3-30 days to rectify the violation. Only if the violation is not rectified by the deadline given on the notice can a landlord then proceed with a formal eviction. To do so, an “unlawful detainer” must usually be filed in the local court system.

Did You Know Tenants Can Evict Themselves?

Landlords, property owners, or their agents can also be “evicted” by tenants for the same reasons. If a landlord fails to live up to their obligations in a leasing agreement, a tenant is allowed to send notice of this violation in writing and be guaranteed protections against retribution for such an act. If the property being rented does not meet basic needs in a specific time frame, often just 24 hours, a tenant may “evict” themselves from the lease without penalty. Tenants who legally break a lease must still surrender the property in a condition that is equal or greater to the condition they received it. A security deposit cannot be used in this situation to correct an issue that was reported as a violation of the lease by the tenant. Otherwise all other applicable security deposit laws are generally enforceable during the separation process.

Why Can't Self-Remedy Options Be Legal?

It would be a lot easier to be able to just evict some tenants without court intervention and legal fees, but the rights of a tenant cannot be overlooked. It might be your property, but it is a tenant's home. The law protects this right. You entering a home without permission or a legitimate emergency could be construed as breaking and entering and that means a tenant has a right to defend themselves and their property in many jurisdictions. That's why letting the court system and law enforcement handle a problematic is a good idea. It keeps everyone safer and although it may be an added cost, it is generally a cost that is worth spending. This process also eliminates any litigation costs that may come from accusations that a landlord stole or damaged personal property during the process. Just like most tenants won't need to ever be evicted, most tenants that receive a violation notice will rectify the situation. For those that receive a court-ordered eviction, they will leave before law enforcement arrives. Only a small minority of tenant will need to have a full eviction, just as a small minority of landlords break leases on their end as well. What is a wrongful eviction? It is any process that attempts to remove a tenant from a property without legal permission. Make sure to follow the steps outlined in your local landlord-tenant law today so that you can stay in compliance.


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