How a Lawyer Can Help If You Are Being Evicted - Even If You Haven't Paid Rent

How a Lawyer Can Help If You Are Being Evicted - Even If You Haven't Paid Rent

Frankie Grijalva
Time is ticking.

The federal moratorium on residential evictions expires July 25.  At that point, landlords across the country can legally provide tenants with a notice to vacate a property. Sometimes, depending on the state and city you live in and if you win or lose in court, you'll have a few months to actually leave. In other cases, it may be a matter of weeks. 

A lawyer can help you delay the process, or help you stay in your home. And a lawyer's help doesn't have to cost a lot of money. 

A history of eviction moratoriums

The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 27th, placed a 120-day eviction moratorium on all housing that receives government subsidies or any home that has a federally-backed mortgage. 

Note the key words here: government subsidies or federally backed loans.

According to the National Housing Law Project, over 70% of all US mortgages are federally backed or owned. 

Unfortunately, some states have already begun the process of filing tenant evictions on the other 30% rentals:
Too many tenants simply give up when they receive an eviction notice - especially if they haven't been paying rent (and it's understandable why you haven't been, if you lost your job due to Covid-19). 

In New York City, when tenants represent themselves, they are evicted almost 50 percent of the cases. With a lawyer, they win 90 percent of the time.

Here at LawChamps, we want to help you avoid eviction. We can match you with a lawyer who specializes in fighting eviction for as little as $249 (or 4 interest free payments of $62.25). 

Our affordable payment structure will likely cost you less money than fighting your landlord on your own, finding a new apartment, putting down another security deposit and moving. 

But we also understand that you may want some free advice. So we have a guidebook to landlord-tenant issues on our website.

Here, we have also outlined the eviction process. 

1. Notice is Given
There are three ways for a landlord to legally serve you an eviction notice:
  • Personal Service: Handed directly to the tenant
  • Substituted Service: Leave with someone at the home AND mail a second copy
  • Posting and Mailing: Leave on the door where it can easily be seen AND mail a second copy.  
What is "legal delivery" depends on your city and state. If your landlord does not properly serve you the notice, a judge can rule in your favor in court. 

2. Your landlord must fill out a series of forms. 

The number and types of forms will vary based on your loction.

Your local court may require you fill out other local forms, so check with your court’s clerk office.

3. Your Landlord Must File Complaint with the Court

The landlord must make 2 copies of Summons and Complaint and turn them into the court clerk. The landlord must pay a fee, which varies by location.

The clerk will will stamp all documents “Filed” and one of the copies is given to the tenant.

4. Serve Papers to Tenant and File Proof of Service with Court

There are three ways to serve a tenant:
  •  Personal service: Tenant is served in person. If the tenant does not accept the documents, the server may leave them as close as possible.
  • Substituted Service: CANNOT use this unless tried personal service at least 2 or 3 times prior.
  • Posting/Mailing: CANNOT use unless court gives permission. Once mailed a copy must also be posted on the property where tenant will see it. 
5. Tenant may Respond to Complaint

A tenant has a certain number of days to respond to the paperwork, depending on how they were served the paperwork. Usually, a tenant has 5 days to respond if the paperwork was received in hand. 
If substituted or mailing, the tenant usually has 15 days after the date the server mailed the court papers.

6. Eviction Trial

Once an answer is filed, a Request to Set Case for Trial is filed.
The trial date will depend on a number of factors, including how backlogged the court is due to Covid-19. 

If the Landlord wins:
  1. A judge will grant landlord a judgement of Possession, which gives them possession of the property.
  2. The Landlord will file a Writ of Execution. Once filed, it may be taken to the Sheriffs. The Sheriffs will be allowed to remove and lock the tenant out of the property.
  3. The Sheriff will serve tenant with Notice to vacate the property. The tenant has 5 days to leave. If not,  the sheriff may return to remove tenant and lock him/her out.
If the tenant wins:
  1. The Judge decides the tenant has legal right to stay on property.
  2. The Landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant’s costs.
  3. The Judge may decide how much rent the tenant has to pay.
7. After Judgement

If either party does not agree with the judgement, an appeal may be filed.
If the tenant needs more time to vacate the property, they may request a Stay of Eviction.

Evictions are not automatically reported to credit agencies. 

However, if a landlord turns to a collection agency to reclaim back pay, this will appear on your credit report.

Also, judgements on eviction trials are public record.  Future landlords or creditors may view this information, which can damage your chances for getting a new rental or securing credit.  

If this makes you feel overwhelmed, consider reaching out to us. 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Frankie Grijalva

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