Information is for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney
Download or view a printable pdf of our Evictions handout
How can landlords force tenants to leave their rental home?
Landlords must first go to court to force a tenant out of the rental unit. They cannot legally change the locks, shut off utilities, remove tenants’ property, threaten to do these things, or take any other action to force tenants to move without first getting a court order (ORS 90.375). Only a judge can issue an eviction order, which is officially called Notice of Restitution.
There are only three ways that a landlord can legally take back the rental unit:
- The tenant moves out and returns the keys to the landlord;
- The tenant abandons the unit and doesn’t notify anyone that he/she has plans to return;
- The landlord gets a court order, after a hearing, to have a sheriff force the tenant out of the rental unit. Only a sheriff with a court order can physically remove you from the property.
A landlord must give a tenant a termination notice before the landlord can go to court to get an order forcing the tenant to move, unless the rental agreement has an expired move-out date.
I just received a termination notice, what does that mean?
A landlord issues a termination notice when he/she has decided to end your tenancy and has given you notice to move. This is the first step of the process. Many For Cause termination notices can be resolved and the tenant can stay, if the tenant fixes the problem, by paying back rent for instance. A termination notice must be written, delivered to the tenant in a certain way, and provide the date in which the notice period ends and the tenant should leave if the problem is not fixed.
The landlord cannot lock you out at this point. Carefully read the termination/eviction notice, it may include a deadline to fix the problem, depending on what kind of termination it is. There are several kinds of eviction notices:
30-day No Cause
60-day No Cause
30-day For Cause
10-day For Cause
10-day Pet Violation
72-hour Nonpayment of Rent
24-hour Outrageous Conduct
24-hr Unlawful Occupant
Tenants with a fixed-term lease such as a 6-month or 1year lease can be given a 30-day for-cause eviction notice, or 72-hour Nonpayment of Rent notice. This means the landlord claims that the tenant has violated the lease in some way. The landlord is telling the tenant to move out unless the tenant can fix the problem described in the eviction notice.
Landlords don’t have to provide a reason why they are giving the eviction notice if the tenant is on a month-to-month rental agreement- it can either be a 30-day or 60-day No Cause notice. These can be difficult to fight, unless the tenant can prove retaliation or discrimination. If the tenant does not move by the date listed in the notice, the landlord may take the tenant to court.
Termination notices are not court documents and they do not usually appear on the tenant’s record. If the tenant has not moved or fixed the problem by the end of the termination period, the landlord can go to court to file an FED (Forcible Entry and Detainer). An FED is not a final eviction order. It notifies the tenant that the landlord has filed for an eviction, and notifies the tenant of the court date.
If you receive an FED (either by mail, posted on your door, or given to you in person), it is important that you go to court on the date given, even if you have already moved out, or fixed the problem with the landlord. If either the landlord or the tenant does not show up in court, it is a default judgment against them.
Whether you win or lose in eviction court, or the case is dismissed, the FED may show up on your court file, but this is not the same as having an eviction on your record. Tenants with FEDs will be better protected when looking for a new place in 2014. Beginning January 1st, 2014, landlords cannot deny a tenant rental housing due to an FED on the tenant’s rental history unless it resulted in an eviction.
- Carefully read the termination/eviction notice.
- Make sure the termination notice was properly delivered to you (ORS 90.155, 90.160).
- There are eight types of evictions that a landlord can give a tenant but sometimes landlords don’t give the correct type of notice. Did your landlord give you the correct eviction notice, does it apply to your situation or do you feel like it is a false accusation?
- Try to talk with your landlord and prevent the termination if possible.
- Consult an attorney and call CAT for referrals for attorney resources and numbers.
It is important to try to talk to a lawyer before going to eviction court. The Renters’ Rights Hotline can give tenants some resources to speak to attorneys. If you can’t speak to a lawyer, ask a friend or family member to accompany you to court. The court provides free interpretation services if needed but you must put in your request for the service.
The judge often does not make a decision at the first appearance. He/she first checks to make sure that both parties are present and sends them into the hall to negotiate an agreement. A Stipulated Agreement is often a tenant’s best chance to stay in the home and avoid an eviction.
Stipulated Agreement (ORS 105.146).
Often the landlord has already drafted up a stipulated agreement for the tenant to sign. If the landlord offers you an agreement to sign, make sure to read it very carefully. If there is a section you don’t agree with, you have the right to ask to change it. If you brought a lawyer, family member or friend, ask them to read it as well. If both parties sign a stipulated agreement, the eviction suspended for the duration of the agreement, usually six months. If you sign a stipulated agreement, but are not able to fulfill the terms, the process to force you out is very fast.
If the tenant and landlord do not negotiate an agreement, the judge sets a trial date for a later date. Both sides present their arguments and the judge makes a decision. Take witnesses or other documentation as evidence. If the judge decides against the tenant, a Notice of Restitution is given, which includes they date when the tenant has to be out.
Evicting the tenant.
If the judge has issued a Notice of Restitution, and the tenant has not moved out by the date given, the landlord can have the sheriff or process server post a four-day notice on your door. If you don’t move out within those four days, the sheriff will come back and require you to leave while the landlord changes the locks. If you can’t get your belongings out, you will have 5-8 days to contact the landlord and arrange to pick them up (ORS 90.425).