Updated November 2021
Many landlords consider themselves lucky to get responsible, communicative, and long-term tenants. However, there are times when you’ll wind up with tenants you’d like to evict. But what happens if the tenant wins the eviction case?
When you start renting properties, you’re setting up an investment plan that requires a lot of logistical organization. Renting property can be a great full-time job or additional source of income, but it can also be very stressful.
Unfortunately, not all renters are created equal.
There are also many reasons you may need to evict your tenant in today’s housing market. Things like non-payment of rent, lease violations, property damage, or illegal activity on the premises can be valid reasons to give your tenant the boot.
There is always a chance, however, that the tenant might come out on top. You may wonder what the steps are to execute an eviction or what happens if the tenant wins.
Keep reading to learn how you can protect yourself and your properties during the eviction process.
Table Of Contents For When A Tenant Wins An Eviction
Many articles for landlords focus on the eviction process, but what happens when a tenant wins the eviction lawsuit is not often covered. Today, learn all that you need to know about eviction and what happens next, no matter what the outcome:
- Evicting A Tenant: Basics For Landlords
- What Are The Steps To Evict A Tenant?
- How Can A Tenant Win An Eviction?
- Common Mistakes Landlords Make When Filing For Eviction
- What Happens If Landlord Loses An Eviction Case
- Tips On How To Win An Eviction Case
- FAQs: How To Win An Eviction Case
- Can a tenant fight an eviction?
- Can a tenant win an eviction or unlawful detainer case?
- How often do tenants win eviction cases?
- How can a tenant win an eviction?
- How can you successfully defend yourself during eviction cases?
- What should be expected at a landlord and tenant hearing for eviction?
- What should you say in court for an eviction case?
- What happens after you go to court for an eviction?
- Can a landlord evict a tenant without a court order?
- Stay Focused Through Eviction Cases
Before we start talking about what happens if the tenant wins an eviction case, it’s important first to have a solid understanding of eviction, what leads to eviction, and what the eviction process generally looks like.
When you rent your home, the hope is that your tenants will treat the space with the same respect you would. This is why vetting your tenants through tenant screening companies like RentPrep is one of the most important parts of being a landlord!
Even if you have a good relationship with your tenants, it’s important to remember that renting is a business. Unfortunately, there are some legitimate and common reasons to show a tenant to the door.
Evicting can be complicated and confusing, so it’s important to know the steps and how to complete the process correctly.
It’s important to know your state’s laws when drafting a lease—before the tenant moves in! Lawyers and resources like US Legal Forms and Uniform Law Commission can help you create an effective and responsible lease and conduct research in the case of an eviction.
If you don’t know what laws affect your job as a landlord, you cannot successfully pursue eviction without a high degree of risk. Knowing the law is key to your business.
You cannot evict a tenant just because you want to; there are only certain situations when evictions can occur. Knowing when you can legally evict a tenant in your state is key.
It’s important to remember that removing the tenant’s belongings or changing the locks without an official eviction filed is illegal in every state. There are many reasons to evict a tenant (that vary by state). Still, they generally include failing to pay rent, violating a lease agreement (like having pets or illegal substances), or causing significant damage to your property.
If you do not have a legal reason to pursue eviction, you must wait for the lease agreement to expire before you can ask the tenant to move out. It’s as simple as that. In some cases, you might be able to convince a tenant to terminate their lease early, but you cannot force their hand on this.
Evicting a tenant is not always easy. The eviction process often has many steps involved. Here are a few of the basic steps if you are looking to evict a renter:
The first thing you should do when considering eviction is talk to your tenant and explain what is happening. The eviction process is long, and if you can correct the problem immediately, it’s definitely the easier road.
Explain the issue at hand and what you would like to see change. Be strong but firm; let them know that you will be sending a formal notice, but you wanted to give them an early heads up. Don’t allow your tenant to make the same mistake twice.
Once you’ve given this courtesy notice, make sure to move on to the official eviction process.
Create a letter or document that gives clear instructions and a deadline for your tenant (including a date). Use this guide to help you create a notice and post it on the door of your property.
You may need to send a 30-day notice, or you may need to send a 60-day notice. Where your rental unit is located will determine how this notice should be delivered and how long you must give the tenant to fix the issue or respond to your eviction notice.
If the tenant doesn’t fix the issue or vacate the property within that amount of time, move on to step three.
Now that you have given the tenant an eviction notice and they have not responded appropriately, you can file an eviction lawsuit in court. Eviction suits are typically handled in small claims or local trial courts, but some cities have specific landlord–tenant courts.
File your complaint, including all relevant information and evidence required, with your local court. Then, wait while the court reviews the complaint, sends a copy of the summons and complaint to both parties, and sets a hearing date.
You may have to pay a fee, but the courts will take care of summoning the tenant for you, which can remove some of the awkward interaction between you and your renters.
On court day, make sure you bring documentation of your lease and all communication that has transpired between you and your tenant. Both parties will be given a chance to present their version of what has happened, including any relevant evidence.
Depending on the court and your jurisdiction rules, the court may request mediation between parties before the hearing or they may simply hear the case and make a decision that day.
Ideally, you will win the case and be able to proceed with evicting your tenant. We’ll talk more about what happens if the tenant wins in the next section.
When a landlord wins in an eviction hearing, the landlord will be given a writ of possession. The judge may also tell the tenant to pay the landlord back rent or any other necessary funds, though some jurisdictions require this type of collection to be done through a separate small claims case.
You can then take the writ of possession to a local US Marshall, and they will carry out the physical eviction. Even with the writ, you cannot personally make the tenant leave the property, but a writ of possession will enable law enforcement to do the eviction in your stead.
Though most landlords try their best to stay within the letter of the law while conducting business, there are cases where the tenant wins in an eviction hearing and is permitted to stay at the property.
What happens when the judge decides that the tenant is not to be evicted?
Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to lay out the next steps for both parties. There are many variations of what could happen, and here are a few brief examples:
- The landlord might be required to pay the tenant’s court and legal fees.
- The landlord might be required to pay additional money if they knowingly tried to evict the tenant without legal reason.
- The tenant might be asked to make changes to their living arrangements within a certain amount of time, and the landlord might be asked to have patience with this type of schedule.
Common Mistakes Landlords Make When Filing For EvictionThere are many reasons why landlords lose eviction cases, but some are more common than others. It’s important to become aware of common mistakes that landlords make when filing for eviction so that you can steer away from these issues.
- Not settling out of court. Going to court can increase fees, cause you to lose money, and cause unnecessary stress for you. The truth is, some courts are tenant-friendly and will fight for the side of the renter. It’s best to settle the eviction outside of court, if possible.
- Not documenting or following eviction notice guidelines. Not properly following eviction steps and legal proceedings can lead to your loss in the eviction. Be sure to carefully document conversations, notices, and leases with your tenants.
- Accepting partial rent payment. Once you have accepted even a partial payment from the renter, you lose the right to evict them. Do not accept any money from the tenant unless it’s the full amount and you intend to cancel the eviction.
If your tenant wins the eviction, they will have the right to stay on the property. The court will decide how to proceed on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned above, possible outcomes could include:
- Court orders may state that the landlord pays the tenant’s legal fees.
- The landlord might be responsible for additional fees paid to the tenant depending on the judge’s ruling—and whether you followed proper legal protocol for the eviction.
If you disagree with the outcome of the case, it is possible to file for a review, and you might be able to have an additional hearing and present more evidence.
Suppose you lose the eviction case and your tenant does additional illegal activity at your property or otherwise breaks the lease agreement. In that case, you can repeat the process from Step 1 and again file for a formal eviction notice.
The best way to win an eviction case is to document every interaction you have with the tenant, the property, and all associated third-party individuals. Keep a record of every conversation you have with the tenant, whether by phone, email, or text message. Be sure to stay organized with copies of all dated documents, including:
- Bounced checks or payments
- Records of payment and all related communication
- A copy of the dated eviction notice and proof that the tenant received the notice (certified mail works nicely for this, as it requires a signature)
Having all of this proof on hand will be the best way to prove that you are legitimate in your eviction filing.
Another great way to avoid losing an eviction lawsuit is to avoid facing tenant problems altogether. Successful landlords have found that one of the best ways to reduce their eviction filings is to take more time when screening tenants to find the right tenants.
If problem-causing tenants keep slipping through your screening process, it might be time to upgrade. Using a high-quality tenant screening service like RentPrep sets you up for success with clear, accurate information about each applicant. Start finding great tenants with RentPrep!
As we mentioned before, the eviction process has many steps and sometimes, it can feel overwhelming on where to start. Here are a few frequently asked questions on evicting tenants.
Yes. While an eviction notice is a formal document from a landlord to a tenant, asking them to leave the property for a specific reason, that notice does not mean the landlord has the final say on the issue.
If a tenant disagrees with the landlord, they can send them a notice letting them know they will not change anything or leave the property. Tenants should understand that this likely means they will need to go to an eviction hearing, but that doesn’t always happen.
In some cases, mediation or a line of dialogue can be opened between the tenant and the landlord to handle things out of court and for less money. Miscommunications and simple problems can be resolved this way with the right attitude, so keep that in mind when dealing with eviction.
Yes, it is possible, and sometimes even likely, for a tenant to win their eviction case. There are many reasons why a tenant might win.
For example, a landlord who tries to file an eviction because they don’t like the decorations that a tenant has up in their house would be wrong, and the court would decide against them. It is not legal for a landlord to dictate what is inside the property, so this would not be a legal eviction.
Other situations are not so clear-cut. For example, a landlord might feel they should be allowed to evict a tenant who is consistently late on their rent. However, the court may decide that the tenant can pay the back rent on a payment plan as long as they remain current in future months.
The key for landlords is to keep as much documentation and evidence on hand as possible when filing for eviction. This will be a great benefit when trying to prove your side of the case at the hearing.
It’s hard to access data that gives a concrete, nationwide figure for how many tenants win their eviction cases. Considering that many tenants and landlords resolve things on their own, even after entering the court system the numbers get even more complicated.
However, in one Pennsylvania county researched, the number of judgements decided in favor of the defendant (i.e., the tenant) was less than 2% from 2012 to 2019. Around 5% of cases were settled, and another 5% were dismissed without prejudice to be re-filed later.
In most eviction cases, the landlord can secure a writ of possession and reclaim their property. There are, however, cases when the tenant is in the right and able to remain in the property for the foreseeable future.
Tenants win evictions in several different ways:
- They are able to prove, without a doubt, that they did not break the lease agreement.
- They are able to prove that the landlord is not keeping up with their responsibilities, and thus it is reasonable for them to withhold rent until the property is restored to habitable condition.
- The landlord files the paperwork incorrectly and needs to refile it.
- The landlord is trying to evict them for illegal reasons or with illegal discrimination.
Of course, these are some of the reasons a tenant may win an eviction case, and each hearing is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The best tool that you have at your disposal during an eviction case is the truth and proof of that truth.
If your tenant has paid rent late every month for the entire contract and is being evicted for nonpayment of rent in the last two months, then the landlord must show bank statements and check copies to verify. This will be key.
Keep documentation, and make sure everything is shown very clearly. The most successful eviction cases are those where the evidence is impossible to refute, so your goal should be to gather and present that evidence.
Every eviction hearing will be handled according to the court’s rules and precedents in the specific jurisdiction. Generally, the court may ask the landlord and tenant if they have tried to mediate the dispute or settle out of court. The court may ask them to do this first and return at a later date.
Otherwise, the court hearing will proceed. If everything has been filed properly, the judge will hear out both sides and review all documentation brought forward by the tenant and the landlord. Then, they will decide the eviction and how things will be handled moving forward.
In most cases, evictions are decided when the hearing occurs, but it might take a few days for a decision to be made in more complicated cases.
The number one thing to focus on sharing while in an eviction case is the truth, and you should have as much physical evidence as possible to support what you are saying.
Anything that you say just because you feel it’s true, but you cannot prove, might not be considered evidence. As the plaintiff, the landlord must bear the burden of proof and evidence.
Explain what happened, how things ended up as they currently are, and what steps have been taken to try to remedy the situation. From there, the judge will lead the questioning and hearing.
Once the eviction hearing concludes, the judge will have made a decision about the case and how things will proceed. All questions about the next steps should be asked of the judge, but you can also contact the court at a later date for clarification if necessary.
If the landlord wins the case, they will receive a writ of possession, which can then be used to have a US Marshal remove the tenant from the rental unit if the tenant does not leave on their own.
If the tenant wins the case, they will be permitted to stay at the property and specific arrangements set up by the judge may be applicable.
If the case was dismissed without prejudice, the landlord may be able to re-file, and the process will repeat with additional documentation.
Landlords are not allowed to self-evict tenants. This means they cannot physically force a tenant to leave the rental unit even if they have a legal reason to evict. They can, however, send an official eviction notice.
It is up to the tenant to decide if they agree or disagree with the legality of this eviction. If they know the landlord is correct in assessing the situation, they should fix the issue or leave the property. If they disagree, they should move forward with the eviction hearing to explain their side to the court.
Whether you win the eviction case or not, keep in mind that it is not always a direct reflection of your ability as a landlord. Unfortunately, the laws often favor tenants over landlords, and this can lead to some frustrating situations.
The key is that you remain focused and follow the letter of the law as closely as possible while you attempt to file an eviction. With the right data to back up your case, your chances of winning will be higher than you might expect.
For an active community of landlords and renting advice, check out the RentPrep Facebook page, where you can interact with other landlords who have experienced similar eviction situations. Avoid these and other sticky rental situations by screening your tenants before signing a lease.