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Facing Eviction? Know Your Legal Rights
If you are facing eviction, particularly during these unprecedented times, it is vital that you understand your legal rights. Your landlord cannot just throw you out of your home without warning or good reason.
Your Eviction Rights
In general, your landlord has the right to evict you if you breach the contract you signed when you moved into his property.
For example, if your lease says that you are not allowed to have pets and you adopt a dog to live with you, then you have breached your contract and the landlord has grounds to evict you.
This does NOT mean, however, that he can demand that you leave immediately or lock you out of your home.
It also does not mean that you cannot defend your right to stay in the home.
The Law Might Be on Your Side
As a tenant, you have the law on your side if you can prove that your landlord is:
1) Evicting you in retaliation. For example, if he asked you to help fix his flat tire and you refused.
2) Not holding up his end of the lease. For example, if the plumbing broke and he took a month to fix it. In that case, your landlord is not providing you with a habitable home as most state laws require.
3) Discriminating against you based on your sex, national origin, familial status, race, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, color, creed or marital status, violating both state and federal fair housing laws.
The Eviction Process
Each state spells out the eviction process. In most, you have the right to receive a formal eviction notice that gives you time to fix the stated problem and stay in your home.
In some states, though, the landlord can demand that you leave the property within three days if you are involved in illegal activity, have caused substantial damage to the property or have sublet the home. In these cases, you have no recourse but to vacate the property.
In states that give you time to you correct the stated problem, the window to do so is not long, usually between three and 10 days.
So if you are behind on rent, you have some time to pay what is owed. If you are not supposed to have a dog, then you have time to find it a new home.
If you do not fix the problem in the time allowed, then the landlord can file eviction papers with the court.
When this happens, you will receive a summons to appear in court where you will have the opportunity to defend yourself in front of a judge and explain why you think the landlord does not have the right to evict you.
Make sure you present a calm, reasoned argument about why you should be allowed to stay in your home. Bring any documentation you have such as pictures of unrepaired items or text messages of inappropriate landlord requests that will bolster your case.
The bottom line is that you can defend your right to stay in your home. Many tenants do and prevail.
What Happens if You Lose
If you do appear in court and lose your case, then the court will give you a set number of days, usually between two and seven, to vacate your home. You might also be ordered to pay your landlord's legal fees.
If you do not vacate the property within the given timeframe, then the landlord has the legal right to have the sheriff evict you.
If you are facing eviction and cannot work things out with your landlord on your own, then it is time to talk to a legal legal professional who can help you protect your rights.
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