The first thing a landlord has to do to begin an eviction is to end the tenancy. This is done by giving an eviction notice. Usually, a 72 hour notice.
Next, the landlord can file an eviction action in the local court. The action has to be served in a way defined by the law on the tenant by someone other than the landlord. Check the local law to make sure papers, if any, are served properly. If they aren't, the court won't allow an eviction.
After receiving eviction papers the tenant has a chance to answer. The time for the tenant to answer will be on the papers that are served. An answer must be in the form required by the local court rules and state law, so a tenant might get help with drafting an answer. This is the time for the tenant to raise defenses such as that the landlord didn't give proper notice of termination, or tenant has a valid lease and has the right to remain in the premises, ect.
If the tenant doesn't file an answer with the court, the court will enter what is called a default judgment for eviction if the landlord can show that the court papers were served properly on the tenant. The tenant may have a default judgment set aside if there was a good reason why he or she wasn't able to answer on time.
If the tenant raises a valid defense, the case will be set for a hearing or trial on the facts. This is the time for the tenant to produce proof, including inadequate notices given by the landlord and letters written by the tenant.
If the court rules that the landlord can evict the tenant, the landlord still can't change the locks. The landlord must take the court order to the sheriff and the sheriff will come and post a notice, usually on the tenant's door, telling the tenant that if she or he does not move out by the date and time given, the sheriff will come and remove the tenant and the tenant's belongings from the unit.
This whole process can take anywhere from 14-30 days.
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