What Does It Mean to Be Evicted?

An eviction is when a landlord takes legal steps to remove a tenant from a rental property—but they can only do so for certain reasons.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
An eviction is when a landlord takes legal steps to remove a tenant from a rental property. But a landlord can only evict a tenant for certain reasons, and they have to follow the proper legal procedures outlined in their state’s landlord-tenant laws.
Being served an eviction notice, especially if it comes without warning, can be an unnerving experience. However, that initial eviction notice doesn’t necessarily mean your fate is sealed. Knowing how the eviction process works, as well as your local landlord-tenant laws, can give you the upper hand if you’re facing a potential eviction. 
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What does evicted mean?

An eviction is the legal process a landlord takes to remove a tenant from a rental property. 
To evict you
, a landlord will typically have to have a reason for doing so, and they’ll have to follow proper legal procedures.

Does my landlord have a right to evict me?

A landlord rarely can evict you for no reason. Whether your landlord has the legal right to evict you depends on their reason and landlord-tenant laws where you live.
Common reasons that tenants get evicted from their homes include:
  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Breaking the terms of a lease agreement
  • Causing damage to the rental property
  • Illegal activity that threatens others’ health and safety
If your landlord has other plans for their property and doesn’t want you to live there anymore— but they don’t have a cause for evicting you—they could just opt not to renew your lease. However, depending on your state, they might still be required to give you a certain amount of notice that your lease won’t be renewed.

What happens during an eviction?

Your landlord might have cause to evict you in some cases, but to do so legally, they have to follow proper procedures as required by your state’s landlord-tenant laws.
Often, the first step is that your landlord will have to send you a written notice warning you of
and the reason. Depending on the alleged offense, that notice allows you a certain amount of time—often somewhere between three and ten days—to correct the issue, if possible. 
There are usually legal requirements regarding how that notice should be delivered, like via certified mail or posted on the door of a residence, to be considered valid.
After receiving a written eviction notice from your landlord, you’ll generally have a few options:
  • Address the reason for the eviction, if possible: this could include paying overdue rent or making or paying for a repair to fix damages
  • Move out of the rental within the notice period
  • Contact your landlord to see if you can come to an alternative agreement
When the notice period expires, if the problem hasn’t been addressed, your landlord may be able to file an eviction lawsuit and proceed with a hearing.
If the judge at the hearing rules in favor of your landlord, law enforcement could forcibly remove you from the home if you haven’t moved out by the required date.

How can I avoid getting evicted?

If you’ve received a written eviction notice from your landlord, you might not be out of luck just yet. 
Depending on the circumstances of your potential eviction, you might decide it isn’t worth fighting in court. However, if you believe the reason for your eviction isn’t justifiable, you might be able to remain in your rental.
Here are a few ways you might be able to avoid an eviction:
  • Correct the problem, if possible: If the landlord’s reason for your eviction is valid and enforceable, but you’re able to correct it within the legally-allotted amount of time, your landlord won’t be able to evict you in most cases.
  • Consider mediation with your landlord: Some landlords can be easier to work with than others. Settling the issue outside of court, when possible, could save you both time and money. Depending on what state you live in, an attempt to mediate outside of court might be required before a hearing can be scheduled. Whatever agreement you and your landlord come to, it’s a good idea to get it in writing.
  • Know your
    legal rights as a tenant
    : Having a good grasp of your area’s landlord-tenant laws can help you identify when your landlord has fallen short of their legal obligations, like ensuring your rental is properly maintained, as well as whether the alleged problem is your responsibility. 
  • Identify your landlord’s missteps in the eviction process: Getting familiar with your landlord-tenant laws can also help you identify when your landlord has skipped or taken improper steps that deviate from what’s legally required. 
  • Come prepared to an eviction hearing: Skipping out on an eviction hearing isn’t a good idea—often, this results in the judge ruling in favor of your landlord. Be ready to clearly and concisely explain from a legal standpoint why you shouldn't be evicted from your rental. You'll also want to come to your hearing prepared with all the necessary paperwork. 
  • Identify discriminatory practices: If you can demonstrate your landlord is attempting to evict you for a discriminatory reason based on your race, gender, national origin, or another class protected by fair housing laws, that eviction lawsuit may not hold up in court. You might also want to consider filing a fair housing complaint at the state level or with the
    United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

What happens after you get evicted?

If you proceed with an eviction hearing and the judge ends up ruling in your landlord’s favor, you might have to deal with unfortunate consequences in the following years. Here are a few things that can happen after you’ve been evicted:
  • Your credit score may take a hit: An eviction itself won’t affect your
    credit score
    , but if your landlord turns over your unpaid rent to a collection agency, it could lower it and stay on your credit report for seven years, which could make it more difficult to
    qualify for home or car loans
    in the future.
  • Eviction on record: The judgment of an eviction hearing is a matter of public record, and it might show up on certain consumer reports and background checks.
  • It may be harder to find an apartment with a new landlord: Because that judgment might appear on
    consumer reports
    and background checks, a new potential landlord might take notice and decide to rent to another applicant. However, that’s not always the case—some landlords will be willing to consider the surrounding circumstances when reviewing your rental application.

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An eviction is the legal process a landlord takes to remove a tenant from a property.
If you faced an eviction hearing but ultimately weren’t evicted, it’s possible the filing may still show up on your record. If that’s the case, you might be able to get the record sealed or expunged.
A good first step is to find out where the eviction filing on your record came from and contact that entity for more information, then decide how to proceed from there.
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