Getting a notice to move out can be annoying and scary. Find out how to deal with a formal eviction and what you can do to avoid one.

What you will find out:

Do I have to answer a Notice to Vacate?
When someone complains, how long do I have to answer?
Is it okay for me to ask my owner to pay me to leave?
What should I do if I do not have a place to go?
What will happen to my things if I can not find a place to live?

Even if a tenant is facing a formal eviction, they may still have choices. If you are a renter facing eviction, you may be able to work something out with your owner or at least avoid having an official removal on your record. Here are answers to some common questions about how a formal eviction works and what a tenant can do about it.

Do I have to answer a Notice to Vacate?

Responding to an Eviction Notice can help if you want to stop being kicked out of your home. Your owner might tell you casually that something is wrong before sending you an Eviction Notice. It could be in a letter, an email, or just by telling you in person or over the phone. If you do not fix what is wrong, they might give you a written warning called a “Eviction Notice” and tell you to leave. If you do not fix the problem after getting this warning, they may file a case to get you out of the apartment. You might be able to convince your landlord to stop the eviction process at any of these steps.

You need to know two things about an Eviction Notice. First of all, an Eviction Notice is different from an Eviction Order. You can agree to leave after getting a warning, but you usually do not have to leave until a court issues an order telling you to. You can try to find another answer with your owner, like a Late Rent Payment Agreement to help you catch up on rent. The important thing is that if you can tell your owner that they do not need to file an eviction case, it will not show up on your record. An eviction case will not show up on background checks, but your owner might still give you a bad reference.

The second thing you should know about an Eviction Notice is that you can not get rid of it by ignoring it. Most of the time, your owner has a certain number of days after giving you an Eviction Notice to file for eviction. Most of the time, they do not have to wait for you to answer before they can file a case. Most of the time, it is best to talk to someone right away to figure something out. Some rules say that your owner might have to show that they told you they were going to kick you out or sue you. But even if you do not reply, an owner can usually still show that they properly told you about it.

When someone complains, how long do I have to answer?

If your owner sues you to get you to leave, you will usually get a written court case. A formal case for eviction is a court record that tells the court why the landlord wants to kick you out. If you get paperwork with the case, it may tell you when you need to send the court your answer. In your answer, you explain the formal reasons why you do not want to be kicked out. Depending on where you live and why you are being kicked out, you may only have a few days to a couple weeks to file your answer. Most other types of court cases take a lot longer than eviction cases.

If you want a lawyer to help you, you should talk to one as soon as you can. The deadline on the lawsuit is not the deadline to call a lawyer. Instead, it is the deadline to answer the court. Your lawyer will need time to learn about your case and write a response. Finding and hiring a lawyer can take a few days.

Depending on where you live, it can be hard to stop an eviction case. Most of the time, you need a good reason, like having more time to prepare your case. Some courts may not let eviction cases go on for too long without a good reason, especially if the person is being kicked out for not paying rent. Depending on your finances, you might want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer because, in some cases, filing for bankruptcy can also stop an eviction.

If you think you will not be able to make it to court on your scheduled date, you may want to talk to your lawyer or the court as soon as possible to ask for a postponement. If a renter does not show up to court, the owner almost always wins right away.

Is it okay for me to ask my owner to pay me to leave?

It is acceptable for a renter to ask the owner for money to move out and accept it. This kind of deal is often called “cash for keys.” Landlords might agree to this if they think the renter might not be able to pay back what they owe. When a tenant can not pay, the owner usually has to go to court and spend more money and time to get the renter to leave. Many renters use this money to pay for moving costs and a down payment on a new place. Landlords can get the unit back faster and fill it with a paid renter so they can start making up for their losses.

Here are some other common things a renter and owner might talk about or negotiate:

How much money does the renter actually owe if it was not agreed upon?
Will the owner return the tenant’s deposit, or will they keep it to cover late rent or damage to the property?
Can the renter agree to pay less than he or she owes?
Can the owner and renter work out a payment plan so that the rent does not have to be paid all at once?
Can the owner agree not to file a removal case so that the renter does not get an eviction on their record?
Will the owner send any bills to a collecting agency?

Whenever you agree to something, it is usually best to get it in writing.

What should I do if I do not have a place to go?

People who have nowhere else to go often try to put off getting kicked out.

Local charities, faith groups, or government programs may be able to help you stay in your home or find a new place to live. The local housing court, the housing authority, or the state bar association are often good places to find out more about these groups. You can also look online for help with eviction, programs to keep you from getting kicked out, and programs to help you pay your rent.

It can take time to figure out how to get these benefits, so it is best to start looking into your choices as soon as you know you might be kicked out.

What will happen to my things if I can not find a place to live?

Most of the time, if you agree to move out, you also have to get all your stuff out. When you are trying to figure out how to move out, you can ask the landlord if you can briefly store things on their property.

If the owner gives you an official eviction order, you usually have to move out by the date on the order. In some places, the owner may be able to put your things on the curb once they have the right to take back the rental unit. In some places, owners are required to store the tenant’s things for a certain amount of time. You might have to pay the owner back for these storage costs, or you might have to pay more to store your things for longer. In this kind of case, the owner will usually rent a business storage unit at the normal rate.

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