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4173688_1Being a landlord can be stressful. Building maintenance, late rent payments, disruptive tenants – the list goes on. Your position as a landlord comes with certain legal obligations. But your obligations to your tenants are not without limits. When a tenant stops paying rent or fails to vacate the premises at the end of the lease term, you can take action.

Before you can commence an eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent you must first provide your tenant with a written notice demanding payment. The written notice needs to state that the tenant has three days to pay the back rent or else an eviction proceeding may be commenced against them. The notice should itemize exactly what amounts are owed and what they are owed for. You should hire a process server to deliver the notice to your tenant to ensure sufficient service under the law.

If you plan to evict a tenant because the lease term has expired, or you simply wish to terminate a month-to-month lease, you generally must serve the tenant with a written notice providing them with thirty days to vacate the premises. The exception is where you have a written one year lease with the tenant, in which case no written notice is required prior to commencing an eviction proceeding for “holding over” after the lease term has ended. The same recommendations for service of the three day notice set forth above apply to the thirty day notice.

Assuming the tenant does not comply with your demands within the time specified in the written notice, you are authorized to commence an eviction proceeding. An eviction proceeding is commenced by filing a Notice of Petition and Petition with the court and properly serving those documents upon the tenant. The Notice of Petition and Petition lay out the details of the relief you are requesting from the court and why you are entitled to that relief. The Notice of Petition must be signed by an attorney, judge or the clerk of the court – a landlord may not sign a Notice of Petition. It is highly advisable to hire a process server to deliver the Notice of Petition and Petition to the tenant – the law does not permit a landlord to serve the Notice and Petition themselves. If those documents are not properly served in accordance with the law your proceeding will be dismissed.

There are other grounds for evicting a tenant, although they are less commonly used and more difficult to prove. For example, you may wish to evict a tenant for engaging in objectionable conduct. However, in order to be successful in such a proceeding you must have a written lease agreement that allows you to terminate the lease due to objectionable conduct of a tenant. You must then demonstrate to the court that the tenant has engaged in a pattern of outrageous behavior, which may require witnesses or other evidence.

The nuances of landlord/tenant law contain many pitfalls for a landlord seeking to evict a tenant. The law must be strictly adhered to, and any mistakes can result in delays or even the need to start the eviction process all over again. Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP has a number of attorneys who can assist you in preparing a lease agreement and can represent you in connection with an eviction proceeding.

Tobias A. Lake is an associate with the firm’s Municipal and Environmental/Land Use Teams, concentrating in land use, municipal and environmental law. He can be reached by phone at 845-778-2121 toll free or 845-778-2121 and by email.

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