If your landlord wants to terminate your tenancy, he or she typically must give you some kind of written notice. The landlord must wait until the amount of time stated in the notice has passed before being able to get a court to evict you. And if a court case is filed, you are entitled to notice and a hearing if you want to remain a tenant and if you believe you have legal defenses against an eviction. Your landlord may not get around this process by locking you out, or by shutting off your utilities or other essential services.
Legal requirements for eviction notices vary depending on the type of tenancy you have. For example, an eviction notice for a month-to-month tenancy has different legal requirements than does a notice for a tenant with a lease for a specific time (often six months or one year).
If you have a month-to-month tenancy, you pay rent once a month and your rental agreement continues until either you or your landlord ends it. To end a month-to-month tenancy, you or your landlord must give each other written notice. This notice can be given at any time, but it must allow for at least 30 days before the actual date of termination. If your tenancy began more than one year ago, your landlord must give you a 60-day notice of termination. The notice must clearly state the date that the tenancy will end. In private rental housing, it is not necessary for either party to give a reason for ending the tenancy, although a landlord may not give such a notice for an illegal reason. A landlord may base a court eviction proceeding on a 30-day notice given by a tenant. However, in some kinds of housing, including some government subsidized housing programs, a landlord cannot evict a tenant with a 30-day no-cause notice.
A landlord in a month-to-month tenancy may also give you a 30-day eviction notice for cause. The cause for the notice must be either for not living up to your rental agreement or not complying with your duties set forth in the law. The notice must tell you the reason for eviction and must say that the rental agreement will end at least 30 days after you get the notice. If you can fix the problem by making repairs, paying damages, or otherwise, your landlord’s notice must also say that you can avoid eviction by fixing the problem within 14 days. The time period to fix the problem in a manufactured dwelling facility is the full 30 days. If you do not fix the problem within the 14 days, or 30 days if you are a homeowner renting space in a facility, your landlord may file a court eviction case after the 30-day notice period has gone by. If you do deal with the problem and your landlord is satisfied, your rental agreement will not end. However, if the same problem happens again within six months of the first notice, your landlord can end the rental agreement with a 10-day written notice that clearly states the problem and date of termination. In a facility, the second notice must provide 20 days for the tenant to move out.
In most kinds of housing, a landlord of a month-to-month tenancy may also attempt to evict you with a 72-hour notice for not paying your rent. This may happen if you have not paid rent within 7 days of its due date. If you receive this type of notice, it must state that your landlord intends to end your rental agreement if you do not pay the rent within 72 hours. If you do not pay the rent within the 72 hours, your landlord may immediately file a court eviction proceeding. In calculating the 7-day period, the day the rent is due counts. For example, if your rent is due on the first of the month, your landlord may give you a 72-hour notice on the eighth of the month. Your landlord may not evict you in 72 hours for non-payment of rent when the only money you owe is a late charge. In the alternative, your landlord can give you notice after four days that would give you 144 hours to pay the rent.
In a month-to-month rental agreement, your landlord can also issue a 24-hour written notice to end your tenancy under very limited circumstances. The law specifies the reasons. You may receive a 24-hour eviction notice if you have intentionally injured someone other than a member of your household, intentionally damaged the property, or committed an act that is “outrageous in the extreme.” An outrageous-in-the-extreme act is not specifically defined by law, but does include prostitution or promotion of prostitution, violence, manufacture or delivery of drugs, intimidation and burglary. A landlord may not use a 24-hour notice or otherwise attempt to evict someone for being the victim of a crime such as domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, however. The landlord may give a 24-hour notice to any person living in a house where the tenant had a written rental agreement that prohibits sub-leasing. This is enforceable if the landlord has not taken rent from the person who is not covered by the rental agreement. A tenant who lied about criminal convictions on a rental application may, under limited conditions, get a 24-hour notice.
In housing operated by a housing authority or a nonprofit organization as “drug and alcohol free housing,” a tenant for less than two years who violates the drug or alcohol policy may be subject to a 48-hour notice with one day to correct the problem.
You may have a lease for a specific time — often six months or one year. This time period is called the term of a lease. The valid parts of your lease will determine when it can be terminated or renewed. During the term of your lease, neither you nor your landlord can terminate the lease without cause, unless your lease states otherwise. Your landlord may end the tenancy during the term for non-payment of rent, serious violations of the lease, or for intentional dangerous behavior as described before. Although your written lease agreement cannot shorten the number of days required by law for notices of termination, the lease may make notice periods longer. For example, a lease that allows the landlord to give you a 24-hour notice of non-payment of rent would not be permitted. However, you could hold your landlord to a lease that requires a 96-hour notice of non-payment. If a fixed-term lease contains nothing about its termination or renewal, the lease simply ends without notice from either party on the date stated in the lease. The lease could, however, contain a provision that turns the tenancy into a month-to-month tenancy at the expiration of its term lease. In that case, the tenancy would have to be terminated with a notice as discussed above. In that situation, the tenant would be expected to move at the end of the term without notice.
Just as the law establishes very specific requirements for eviction notices, it also requires that notices be served in very specific ways. Even if the notice is correct, it may have no effect if it is not served the right way.
Notices may be served by either personal delivery or by first class mail. A lease or other written rental agreement can outline additional ways to serve notices. First class mail is specifically defined. It does not include certified or registered mail or any other type of mail that may delay actual delivery of mail to the tenant. If your landlord chooses to serve a for-cause eviction notice by mail, you would get three extra days to correct the cause in the notice. The termination of the tenancy would also be extended by three days.
A 72-hour (or 144-hour) notice for not paying rent is considered to be served on the day it is both mailed to the tenant and attached securely to the main entrance of the tenant’s dwelling unit. The same is true for a 24-hour notice of termination for outrageous or dangerous behavior.
It is important to know that your landlord cannot evict you in retaliation for your having asked to have repairs done, or for asserting other legal rights under the rental agreement or the landlord-tenant laws.
For information about illegal retaliation and other defenses to an eviction, read topic Eviction Defenses. For information related to evictions from mobile home parks and floating homes, read Rights of a Mobile Home Owner Threatened With Eviction From a Mobile Home Park and Reasonable Rules in Mobile Home Parks and Floating Home Facilities.
Legal editor: Edward Johnson, April 2013