U.S. News & World Report Asks Michelle P. Quinn “What To Do if You Get Evicted?”

U.S. News & World Report Asks Michelle P. Quinn “What To Do if You Get Evicted?”

Moving can be a stressful experience in even the best of circumstances. However, having to pack up after an eviction is something no one wants to endure.

“Evictions are a result that landlords try hard to avoid,” says Samuel M. Sherry, a Maine attorney specializing in landlord representation.

Still, sometimes they are inevitable. If you are a tenant facing eviction, take the time to learn how the process may play out and what resources are available.

Why Can You Be Evicted?

Eviction procedures vary from state to state and may differ by county or city within a state.

“New York City is a very complicated housing market,” says Michelle P. Quinn, partner with law firm Gallet Dreyer & Berkey in New York City. Evictions are handled by the New York City Housing Court, but the process can vary depending on whether someone lives in a co-op, loft, market-rate apartment, or rent subsidized housing.

Evictions in New York City can occur for two reasons: nonpayment or lease default. A lease default may occur if someone does something that violates the terms of their lease, such as installing a washing machine when one is prohibited.

In Sherry’s experience in Maine markets, the following may all be reasons for eviction in addition to nonpayment:

  • Excessive police calls.
  • Disputes with neighbors.
  • Allowing squatters to move in.
  • Creating a nuisance.

Property damage and illegal activity can also be reasons for an eviction in most jurisdictions.

How Long Does an Eviction Take?

While the details vary, states generally follow the same basic steps. Tenants must first be provided an eviction notice. Standard times for these notices include 30, 60 and 90 days, but some can be substantially shorter. For instance, in California, there is an option for landlords to send a three-day notice asking the tenant to either pay their overdue balance or move out.

Once a notice is issued, a hearing is scheduled so a court order can be issued to require the tenant to vacate the premises. If the tenant does not leave voluntarily, a landlord typically must wait until a sheriff can accompany them to the property and enforce the eviction notice.

“On paper, that looks like probably four to six months,” Quinn says. “That’s on paper. That’s not at all realistic.” With courts still backed up from evictions filed after the end of a pandemic-related moratorium, some cases that were filed years ago are still waiting for resolution in New York City.

Meanwhile, a leasehold eviction at a property located outside of the city of Portland in Maine could be completed in as little as five to 10 weeks, according to Sherry.

Still, an eviction is not a positive outcome for a landlord. Not only is the eviction process long and costly, but once a resident has been removed, a landlord needs to go through the process of finding a new tenant.

How to Avoid an Eviction

In some areas – such as New York City – a tenant can pay any outstanding balance due and end the eviction process. That’s the result of a 2019 change in the law, Quinn says. Prior to that, even if a tenant paid their past due amount, the eviction could continue.

If you're behind on payments and know you can't catch up, a better option may be to strike a deal with the landlord or property management firm. They may be willing to drop the eviction proceedings if you agree to move out voluntarily and leave the unit in good condition.

“It is a very embarrassing and discouraging process,” says Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer. “Both a tenant and a landlord should do everything they can to avoid an eviction situation.”

Finding Housing After an Eviction

If you know you're going to be evicted, moving before the formal process begins is a good idea. That’s because having an eviction on your record could make it more difficult to rent a property in the future.

“You may have to disclose it on a rental application,” Moore says. And a prior eviction may be reason for a landlord to refuse to rent to you in some – but not all – jurisdictions.

Don’t assume you can simply omit that information on your application either. Many landlords use online services that sweep public judgment data and may alert landlords to a prior eviction, Sherry says.

However, if a formal eviction does take place, the best way to find housing later is to be honest about your previous situation. Most landlords will discover the eviction when conducting a background check, so it's best to share that information before they find it themselves.

Even if a landlord is willing to overlook a past eviction, expect to pay more for a down payment or security deposit than what would otherwise be required.

How to Get an Eviction Off Your Record

Depending on whether your landlord reports to the credit bureaus or a financial judgment is entered against you by the court, evidence of your eviction could end up in your credit report. This information should drop off automatically after seven years.

A formal eviction also creates a court record, and this cannot be easily erased or hidden. The only way to remove the eviction from your record would be to have it expunged. Typically, the landlord would need to agree to that, which would mean settling any past due amount.

Depending on your state's rules, you may also be able to motion the court for an expungement if certain circumstances exist, such as if the property was in foreclosure or you moved out prior to the eviction being finalized.

There are lawyers who can help with these cases, but they may be expensive. A better option may be to work with your landlord directly to reach a resolution, preferably before you are evicted and not after.

“Surprises are trouble,” Sherry says. “Communication is always helpful.”

Offering collateral or partial payments are two ways to show a landlord that you're committed to meeting your obligations. Keep a record of your communication and get any agreement in writing.

about the attorney

Michelle P. Quinn


Michelle P. Quinn represents cooperative and condominium boards, businesses, and individuals regarding issues with shareholders and owners in commercial and residential landlord-tenant litigation, including summary proceedings, administrative agency hearings, and Supreme Court actions and appeals.  She has substantial experience with Mitchell-Lama cooperatives, redevelopment companies, and tenancies protected by New York State Rent Regulation.

View Profile