#TenantTipTuesday: So the landlord wants you to leave

Where is the love?

 Some of these cold landlords will turn you out of your home and change the locks before you can say “is that legal?” Knowing your rights when it comes to an eviction, and learning what the process looks like, can help you should you ever experience the worst case scenario of losing your home.

What does it take?

There are only three ways a landlord can get a rented place back legally :

  1. The tenant can move and return the keys to the landlord
  2. The tenant can move away, abandoning the unit without telling anyone of plans to come back
  3. The landlord can go to court and get an order, with notice to the tenant to have the sheriff force the tenant to move out. Only the sheriff, with a court order, has authority to physically remove you.

Notice what’s not up there? Changing the locks and shutting off the utilities!

Your landlord has to go to court to force you to leave. They can’t just change the locks or turn the water off. In fact, it’s illegal to do so. Your landlord also can’t remove your property, threaten any of the above actions, or take any other action to force you to move without first getting a court order. And that court order again requires the sheriff.

The only legal way to force you out of your home is for the landlord to go to court and get an order that requires you to leave.

If your landlord unlawfully changes the locks, shuts off the power or other utilities, makes serious threats or attempts to shut off your utilities, or takes other out-of-court action to force you to move, you may file a lawsuit to get an order so that you can return to your home. You can also sue for damages in the amount of two month’s rent or twice your actual damages, whichever is more; and for another month’s rent or actual damages if the landlord entered your home illegally (for example, to change the locks). This lawsuit can include damages for emotional distress causing loss of sleep, inability to eat, and other interference with your ability to use your home.

How does a landlord have to give me a termination notice?

There are only three ways that a landlord can legally serve you with a termination notice. The landlord must hand-deliver the termination notice, mail it to your address by first class mail, or put the notice on your door and mail you a copy (if your rental agreement allows this).

If the notice is handed to you, the notice period starts to run immediately.

If it is only mailed to you, the landlord must add 3 days to the length of the notice.

If the notice is posted and mailed, the notice starts to run either way when the landlord mails it.

Any other way that the landlord gives you a notice of termination (such as email, by text, orally, or by certified mail) is not legal and may give you a defense in an eviction action based on that notice.

And remember: all notices must be in writing!

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