Landlords must follow a series of steps in order to legally evict a tenant.
If the landlord has followed all the proper procedures, and the tenant either does not answer the court papers, or the tenant answers but the court decides in favor of the landlord, the court will order the sheriff to evict the tenant. If the court decides for the tenant, the tenant will get to stay.
It is against the law for landlords to evict tenants on their own, without going to court AND getting a court order directing the tenant to move out.
Even if the tenant is months behind on the rent, without a court order the landlord cannot:
- Physically remove the tenant;
- Get rid of the tenant’s personal property;
- Lock the tenant out;
- Cut off the utilities, like water or electricity;
- Remove outside windows or doors; or
- Change the locks.
Mediation and Settlement
If at any point during the eviction process, the landlord and the tenant want to try to reach an agreement (a settlement), they can go to mediation and, if successful, they can write up the agreement and dismiss the case. Sometimes, cases get resolved with a settlement on the date of the trial, when both sides get a chance to talk about the case together and reach an agreement that works for both sides. Go to the section on Mediation & Settlement for more information about resolving the dispute out of court.