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How to Respond to an Eviction Notice

The Use of a Notice to Quit in the Eviction Process

When a landlord begins eviction proceedings, a notice to quit is the first step in the legal process. For individuals who receive a notice to quit, it can be an emotional and worrisome time filled with uncertainty. It is important for tenants who receive a notice to quit to understand that this is the first step in a legal process and there are usually ways to remedy the situation.

Summary and Formal Eviction Notices

There are two types of eviction notices that a landlord can issue: a summary eviction notice and a formal eviction notice. The main difference between the two is the time you have to respond. Regardless of which type of notice is received, the time to respond to the notice is the most critical aspect of the process. Formal notices are used to evict tenants after the expiration of a lease or if the property has been sold. Formal notices will usually give a tenant 30 days to respond.

Summary eviction notices will usually give a tenant 10 judicial days or less to respond; judicial meaning any day that is not a weekend, a holiday, or the day the notice was served. When responding to the notice to quit, there are several options available to the tenant:

  • Pay any delinquent rent that is due to the landlord within the allotted time of the notice
  • Move out of the premises within the allotted time of the notice
  • File an answer with the judicial court
  • File a motion to stay with the court

If the intent of the notice was for the tenant to pay a late rent payment, as soon as payment is made the tenant is considered to have complied with the notice to quit. If the tenant files an answer, the court will hold a hearing (usually within a week) in order to determine whether an order for summary eviction will be granted.

If summary eviction is not granted, the landlord can still file a formal notice of eviction. If the summary eviction is granted, the landlord pays for the local law enforcement agency to initiate the eviction process. At that point, the tenant can file the motion to stay, which asks the court to delay the eviction for up to 10 days. The motion to stay can also be filed in place of the answer.

Is Eviction the Only Solution?

When a notice to quit is served, it can be a confusing and frightening time for the tenant, and in many cases, the landlord files the notice as a last resort and would rather find another way to resolve the issue. Sometimes, there simply can be no remedy between a landlord and a tenant and the eviction process is the only way to remedy the situation. In other cases, however, simply maintaining an open line of communication between the tenant and the landlord can alleviate a majority of problems before legal action is required.

If communication is maintained, many times compromises can be made and problems can be solved without the need to pursue legal action. If the need does arise to initiate a notice to quit, it is important for tenants to realize that they do have certain legal steps that can be taken to slow the process down and help them make the best decision under the circumstances. As with most things, understanding how the process works and having knowledge of the available legal options can minimize an otherwise stressful event.