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What Are Unlawful Detainers?

As a tenant of a rental property, it is your responsibility to know that failure to pay rent could result in unlawful detainers and land you in court. In legal terms, an unlawful detainer is an action taken by the court to determine who is legally and rightfully in possession of a property at the present time. Although not paying rent is the most common cause, there are four other instances that result in unlawful detainer action, almost all of them relating to the responsibilities of the tenant: failing to permanently leave the property after being served notice or after lease expiration; canceling a contract for deed; foreclosing on a mortgage; and violating the terms of a lease where eviction provisions are included. Generally, it is the landlord who brings the action against the tenant in an attempt to recover lost property.

Avoiding Unlawful Detainers

Although it may seem very easy to take advantage of your landlord, it is important to realize that a lease agreement is a binding legal document between the landlord and tenant, and therefore unlawful detainers are serious legal issues. Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement and maintain an amiable, business-like relationship with your landlord can cause many problems and significant financial expense if you find yourself in opposition to your landlord.

It is easy to avoid unlawful detainer action by being a responsible tenant and understanding your rights and responsibilities. First and foremost, always pay your rent on time. Make an effort to set aside a small amount of money each month that can be used to cover a few months’ rent if finances become stretched. In addition, realize that although the rental property is primarily yours as long as you abide by the conditions of the lease, if served an eviction notice or if the lease expires, you no have other option but to leave as soon as possible to avoid further problems. In most instances, the landlords have the upper hand in unlawful detainer cases because it is ultimately their property and they have experience and motivation to appropriately follow the lease agreements, thereby being “right” as far as the law is concerned.

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