Going to Court

Below are common questions and answers about the court process with evictions.

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If your landlord filed an eviction case against you, you will be served with a Summons and Complaint. The Summons will state the amount of time you have to respond to the eviction. The Complaint lists the reason for why the landlord wants to evict you.

If you are served with a Summons and Complaint for eviction, there is very little time to respond—usually only 3 business days. If you do not respond, the court will issue a judgment against you. This means the court will issue an order to evict you and order you to pay money to the landlord. Whether you believe you have a defense to the eviction or not, you should always file an Answer. For more information on how to file an Answer, see our guide here: click here.

Remember, you usually have only 3 business days to file an Answer. This time starts the day after you were served with the Summons. Your must file your Answer with the court by 5:00 p.m. of the third business day.

The landlord must request a hearing before a judge unless you agreed to everything the landlord said in the Complaint. The hearing is generally held within 10 days of filing your answer. If you filed an Answer, you must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, you may be evicted the same day as the hearing, without any further notice!

You will get notice of the hearing in the mail or by a phone call. If you agree to everything in the complaint, the landlord will ask the judge for an order to evict you.

Gather all of your evidence and witnesses and take them to court. Make sure to get to court on time. Your case may be the last one called, or it may be the first one. If you are even a few minutes late, the judge may have already called your case and made a decision. 

When your case is called, let the judge know you are there and go to the front of the courtroom. The judge will then determine whether or not you should be evicted. When the judge asks for your side of the story, briefly tell the judge the facts of your case and any defenses you want to raise. Be polite and calm while you are talking. Do not talk while the judge or someone else is talking. This can be hard when you are nervous or angry, but it helps your case. If you have any evidence, make sure to show it to the judge.

If you are being evicted because your lease is up or because your landlord is claiming you violated the lease, be sure to raise any defenses you have. If you did not receive a proper eviction notice or you are not violating the lease, explain this to the judge. The judge will hear from the landlord before making a decision. If the judge agrees with you, the case might be dismissed and you will not need to move. If the judge agrees with the landlord, he will issue an Order of Restitution. This is the order that evicts you and gives the landlord possession of the rental unit.

If you are being evicted for not paying rent, the judge will see if you owe something to the landlord (rent, late fees, deposit, damages, etc.). Be sure to tell the judge if you have any defenses. Below are some examples of defenses you can raise:

          • You never got a 3-day written notice.
          • You moved out before the time on the notice was up.
          • You paid the rent already (bring witnesses or receipts to court).
          • You are withholding rent due to poor conditions. (See our flyer on bad housing before withholding rent. click here). Bring a copy of the housing inspector's report, photos, and any other proof.
          • The Housing Authority is holding back the rent because the landlord won't make repairs. Bring a copy of the notices from your caseworker.
          • You offered the rent during the three day period or before you received the eviction notice, but the landlord refused to take it. Bring the rent money and any other evidence you have to court.

Again, if the judge agrees with you, the case may be dismissed and you do not need to move out. If the judge finds you owe money, he will issue an Order of Restitution and you will have to move. Except in rare cases, the judge will not deal with how much money you need to pay the landlord at this hearing. Usually, there will be a second hearing held a couple of months after you are evicted to decide how much money you will be ordered to pay the landlord.

The judge may tell you at the hearing how long you can remain before you must move out. This is usually three (3) calendar days. If the judge does not tell you when you have to be out, you will be served with the order by a constable. The order will usually give you three (3) calendar days to move out. But if at the hearing the judge already gave you three (3) additional days, you may have to move out as soon as the constable comes. If you have not moved out by the time ordered, the constable can remove your property and let the landlord change the locks.

The landlord is supposed to store any property you leave behind somewhere safe. Your property should not just be thrown out, or put on the curb. Your landlord cannot refuse to give back your property until you pay rent, but your landlord may be able to charge you moving and storage fees if you leave your property. The landlord cannot charge you storage fees for necessary items such as prescriptions, personal documents or clothing if you request these things back within five days.

NOTE:  You MUST update the court and the landlord with your new address if you moved out before the hearing or you areevicted.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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