Economic losses are sometimes inevitable, and almost always unforeseeable. Nobody ever plans to lose their job or source of income. Even in the best of circumstances, the threat of accidents, sickness, or a death in the family, can trigger a downward financial spiral. For about 2.3 million Americans each year, including families, losing their source of income leads to the unthinkable: eviction.
Yes, you read that number correctly. For 2.3 million Americans, getting an eviction notice is not just a nightmare — it’s a reality. If you find yourself in hysterics after getting an eviction notice, try to stay calm, breathe, and know that there are information and resources out there to get you through this tough time.
Getting an eviction notice is not the end of the world, and there are several steps to take in order to help you navigate your way through this time. Following these 10 tips can help you if you’ve just received an eviction notice, and hopefully provide you with much-needed knowledge and relief.
1. Figure Out Why
An eviction notice can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, showing up suddenly taped on your door. If you’ve been paying your rent on-time, perhaps there is another issue that you might be having with your landlord? Try to get to the root of the problem as soon as you can by contacting your on-site manager, landlord, or property management company.
Sometimes, mistakes can occur that prevent your rent from being paid on-time through no fault of your own. Other times, noise-complaints, subletting, or violations in the rental agreement, such as pets, can all be cause for eviction. Contact a tenant attorney immediately if you feel there is a wrongful eviction notice on your hands. They will go into detail on your state’s tenant law. You might have rights that you might not even know about, allowing you to fight your eviction notice more easily.
2. Start a Paper Trail
Whether you get in touch with your lawyers or call your manager for clarification, always start a paper trail to show you’ve been taking steps to fight your eviction. For instance, a failure to pay rent might give you 3-days notice on your eviction. But if you paid your rent, make sure you always keep proof in the form of money-order receipts, cashiers checks receipts, or screenshots of online transactions. In addition, keep a paper trail of all prior rental agreements, and always keep a copy with you. Sometimes, landlords or managers switch employees, and these new landlords or managers might not be aware of prior rental agreements. Keep a paper trail early-on, whether or not you anticipate getting an eviction notice.
3. Do Not Delay a Response
Whether you found yourself strapped for cash and needed to sublet, caused damages to a property on accident, or any other reasons, it’s best to make your case known to your landlord and manger immediately to fight your eviction notice. But, don’t try to swipe your wrong-doings underneath the rug if you did unknowingly violate your rental agreement. Now is not the time to try and hide away your new dog or cover-up damages to your apartment. It’s always best to try and communicate and work things out with your landlord, and offer to do that garage door repair service, or fix the front door you’ve been putting off. Failure to respond to an eviction notice, usually within 3-5 days depending on some states, will forfeit your ability to contest the eviction, so get to work right away.
4. Know Your Rights
Sometimes you can communicate with your landlord or manager after getting an eviction notice civilly and deal with matters before appearing in court. Other times, you must follow through and attend your court-date after getting an eviction notice. But what happens if you’re being evicted from a friend’s place? Can they simply kick you out of their abandoned house, or their shared living room? What about if you get kicked out of an abandoned home that has had a “homes for sale” sign out front for ages now? Do you have landlord tenants’ rights there, too? More than likely, you do.
From the UK to California, squatters’ rights can also apply even if your living situation is less traditional. You still have rights as a squatter, and your landlord still has responsibilities and must by law not kick you out of your home without proper state protocols. Contact your local authorities in order to gain as much information as possible on your rights as a tenant, and make clear to your landlord you know your rights. This is always the best option in order to avoid violent confrontations.
In addition, outside circumstances may prevent you from paying your rent, and you might be protected from those as well. Consider the new renter’s protection due to COVID-19, which is now in cities like Los Angeles and keeping renters safe. This new CARES act Eviction Protection provides 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing. You will be served a 30-day eviction notice, but not until July 25. Natural disasters, pandemics, or any other problems in your community might have sparked a similar renters-relief act. Do some quick research before throwing in the towel and giving up hope.
5. Prove Your Case in Court
If you cannot work things out one on one with your landlord and have a court date set, you must appear and fight your case. Hire proper legal attorneys, and bring up any relevant information, even if it is personal. For example, you cannot be discriminated against regardless of your sexual orientation, race, gender, etc., and if you feel your landlord has been discriminating against you for some time now, it would be a good piece of information to bring up to highlight illegal behavior.
In addition, victims of domestic abuse sometimes face discrimination from landlords as well. Bringing in video evidence, voicemails, nasty e-mails, texts, and anything else that can prove retaliation on behalf of your landlord can all be valuable in saving you from getting an eviction notice and making it stick.
Finally, read your lease carefully and try and fight back using this valuable contract. For example, if your lease says no pets, the law still allows service animals to be given an exception. In addition, your landlord might also have disobeyed the lease if the paperwork was filed incorrectly, if he or she failed to keep you safe, or failed to do necessary repairs as well. Research into your own personal lease, and bring all this evidence in to your court date.
6. Make a Move-Out Plan
As mentioned earlier, sometimes circumstances such as domestic violence and abuse can lead to situations such as eviction, and worse, homelessness. Make a plan in order to know the best way to move out safely. Getting an eviction notice is not a death sentence, and the process to be kicked-out can sometimes drag out when facing court-dates, legal procedures, and so on. Take this time to look up affordable moving companies, storage units, and so on. Contact family members to see if you can move in with them, and have their help in moving your things if you cannot afford a moving company.
In addition, it’s important to make accommodations for pets, medical equipment such as oxygen tanks, or any other miscellaneous items.
7. Pack Light
If you cannot get in touch with family, and have no other means of shelter, certain shelters can be made available to you if you are a victim of domestic abuse, an endangered youth, or need help with substance abuse issues. Contact your local non-profits, and ask if you can keep your belongings with them for a few days before having to move out due to your eviction. You can rent box trucks to store your items; just make sure proper maintenance such as trailer alignment has been taken care of before using it to store or move your belongings.
In addition, you can contact a dumpster rental company to help get rid of unnecessary belongings if you feel you will need to pack light for a while. If you don’t know where to look for shelter, your local department of human and social services or a local church can be good places to start. Getting an eviction notice and having nowhere to go is scary, but there is always resources and help available. It’s best to make a plan and research if you feel you are at risk of losing shelter as well.
8. Research Low-Cost Housing and Programs
If you find yourself lost after getting an eviction notice, do some research and apply for low-cost housing immediately. These low-cost housing initiatives are available in nearly every major city, and include programs such as federal-housing and section 8. If you’re new to these programs, reach out to your local social services department for help filing paperwork. Also, if you are a family with children, extra resources can be made available to you as well.
In addition, look at programs such as WIC for new mothers, EBT or food stamps, and Medi-Cal in order to have proper nutrition and medical care while you’re struggling and finding a new place to live.
9. Try to Keep a Steady Income
Thankfully, you cannot be fired from a job by simply being evicted or homeless. However, certain consequences after eviction, such as added stress, inability to use facilities to wash in, loss of transportation, and dealing with legal appointments and fees can all begin to quickly pile up. Try to maintain your work routine as best you can, and even ask your employer for extra over-time if need be.
Remember, your eviction notice will not harm your credit unless your unpaid rent is sent to collections agencies. It’s best to maintain a steady income for as long as possible in order to pay back any unpaid rent quickly to keep it from affecting your credit score later on.
10. Rent Somewhere Else
As mentioned, it’s a myth that an eviction itself will negatively affect your credit score. In reality, it’s any unpaid rent and debt that is reported on your credit history that leaves a negative impact. However, if you can make amends with your landlord and prevent this debt being reported, there are still ways to be able to rent even with a prior eviction. Try and find private landlords or homeowners that will allow you to rent without a background check. Or, offer new landlords a larger security deposit and air-tight paycheck stubs. Also, consider using a co-signer to roommate with. These simple tips can help you rent again after getting an eviction notice.
Not All Hope Is Lost
An eviction notice is one of the last things anyone wants to deal with. For some, it could mean a pesky call that could be cleared up after a technical error. For some, it might mean a lengthy court battle. For others, it might mean homelessness, stressful moving situations, and even a loss of income.
Whatever your eviction leads you to do, it’s always best to seek the right legal advice, start a paper trail before anything happens, and do adequate research on your rental agreement. In addition, be aware of rent increases over 10% that could be illegal and lead you to be unable to make payments. Know that you have rights and resources as a tenant and human-being, and know that there is hope after receiving an eviction notice. It’s not uncommon for people struggling now to look for homes for sale down the road.
Getting back on your feet after being evicted is highly doable, and with the right know-how, you can learn to maneuver through the process while keeping positive.