How To Address A Tenant Overstaying Notice: A Complete Guide

Eviction is a difficult process to go through. This isn’t just because there is a lot of paperwork and time involved, but also because there are always cases where the tenant overstays their notice and simply won’t leave!

When a tenant won’t leave after eviction, landlords find themselves stuck, frustrated, and losing money fast. While it can be tempting to show up on their doorstep and scream until they leave, this isn’t going to be the best choice.

Instead, you need to be prepared for what to do if the tenant does not vacate after eviction. There are a few situations through which this most commonly happens. Learning how to address the problem in each situation is critical if you want to regain control of your property!

Today, we’ll cover a few of the most common scenarios, what to do when a tenant won’t leave after eviction in those scenarios, and what resources you should prepare in advance in case you ever end up in any of these trying situations.

A Table Of Contents For A Tenant Overstaying Notice

Common Reasons A Tenant Won’t Leave After Eviction

When you’re ready for a tenant to move off your property because they keep breaking the lease agreement or are otherwise causing real damages to your business, you’ll likely want them to be gone as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for landlords, the evictions process is not a fast or immediate one. There is a complete process of writing letters for any late rent or other issues to notify the tenant of how much time they have to remedy any problems.

Basically, it can take a few weeks or even months to fully move through the eviction process depending on the situation.

Even after you serve an eviction notice (or even receive a judgment from a court hearing), there are cases in which the tenant does not leave after notice:

  • They don’t agree with the notice reason.
  • They want to fight in court.
  • They don’t care about the court judgment.
  • They have nowhere else to go.
  • They are angry.
  • They need more time to move.

While it is reasonable to feel sympathetic to tenants who are stuck in this tough situation, they are not the only one who is struggling. After all, property management is your business, and you need to be able to keep your business running, too.

In each of these cases, there are specific actions you can take in order to move along the eviction so you can regain control of your property.

Case #1: Tenant Not Leaving After Notice

Landlords send a notice to tenants when they need to move out. These notices – there are quite a few different ones – are notifications that something has changed and the tenant needs to leave.

As you know, there are a lot of different notices and reasons that those notices get used:

  • 3-day notice to pay or quit: nonpayment of rent
  • 5-day notice to fix or quit: lease violation
  • 5-day notice to quit: serious lease violation
  • 5-day notice to quit: repeated nonpayment of rent
  • 30-day notice: month-to-month lease ending
  • 60-day notice: property being sold or demolished

These are just some of the many notices, and remember that the notices may differ by state! The thing about a notice from you to your tenants is that not all tenants are going to want to leave after receiving it.

So what happens if your tenant won’t leave after a 30-day notice or another notice?

What To Do:

Sending an eviction notice to your tenant is only step one out of the longer, court-backed eviction process. While sending this notice (and often is) enough to get a tenant to either shape up or get out, there are a lot of cases where you will need to escalate it further.

If a tenant does not respond to your notice or leave the property within the allotted amount of time, here’s what you need to do:

  1. File for eviction with your local courthouse.
  2. Gather evidence.
  3. Come to the court hearing to prove your case.
  4. Win a writ of possession and have the tenant removed by the sheriff.

Of course, that process can be overwhelming! To learn more about the entire eviction process (including more detail on the four additional steps listed above), visit our full eviction guide.

Case #2: They Don’t Agree With Notice

Sometimes, a tenant will not agree with the violation that you have included in an eviction notice. For example, they might argue that they are allowed to park wherever they want because it is not outlined clearly in the original lease.

What To Do:

In cases where the tenant does not agree with the notice and comes back to you in an argumentative light, there are a few things you can do.

The first thing you can do is try to talk to the tenant. While it may seem like the situation has already escalated too much to be repaired, you’ll never know until you talk to them. If you have evidence that the tenant is in the wrong, explain to them why you believe this. In many cases, you can work it out without needing to involve any courts.

If, however, they still do not agree, your best bet is to go to the local courthouse and file for an eviction hearing. In the hearing, both you and the tenant can present your case. An impartial judge will make the decision about which side is right.

Case #3: They’re Challenging The Court Ruling

You’ve gone through nearly the entire eviction process, and you thought you were finally going to be done with it. Even though the court ruled in your favor, you find out that the tenant wants to challenge the court’s ruling.

While they wait for the court to review the case, most state laws dictate that the eviction is put on hold until the case is further reviewed. This means that the tenant won’t leave after eviction hearings are complete or until another judgment is made.

What To Do:

In this case, unfortunately, your choices are going to be a lot more limited. While you could try to cut a deal directly with the tenant to get them out sooner, the chances are high that they will not be interested in working with you at this time.

You’ll likely have to wait out the court system. You may be able to file for an expedited hearing if you cite your business as a need for expediency, but not all court systems will be able to accommodate this request.

If you do not already have a lawyer working with you on this eviction, we recommend that you find one that specializes in property management law to help you.

While they may not be able to speed up the eviction either, they will be able to help you sue for damages caused by the additional delay if the court once again rules in your favor. And this delay could be large. In Massachusetts, for example, a judge could extend a stay of execution for up to 6 months depending on the circumstances.

Case #4: They Are Ignoring Court Judgment

If you win an eviction hearing, the court will pass a judgment in your favor. This judgment allows you to get a writ of possession. The writ of possession is a legal document which states that you are the proper owner of the property, and that you have the right to control what happens at that property.

Even with this winning judgment, there are cases where tenants may still refuse to leave the property. As if the hearing never happened, they continue to live in your house. It can feel like you are trapped with nothing to do, but you actually have a lot of power in this situation.

What To Do:

Take the writ of possession to the local sheriff or constable to schedule a move out date. They can forcibly make the tenant leave and help you change the locks so you can regain control of your property.

If the case becomes severe, they may even be able to help you file for a “failure to vacate” judgment. This is a criminal judgment that would have implications as a misdemeanor on the tenant’s record.

Case #5: They Need More Time

In some cases, the court may grant a tenant what is known as a “stay” even though you won the eviction hearing. This stay gives the tenant more time to remain in the property, and the amount of time is decided by the judge at the hearing.

Usually, stays are requested by the elderly, families with children, and others that may have more difficulty moving quickly due to their family structure or lifestyle.

What To Do:

Because the duration of the stay period was already decided in court, there is not much that you can do to make the tenant leave. If you believe the stay decision was unfair, it is within your right to challenge the decision by requesting an appeal from the local courthouse.

Case #6: They Are Ignoring The Lease’s End

Finally, let’s talk about one more case. There are cases where you may have sent out a 30- or 60-day notice to remind a tenant that their lease will be ending soon, but the tenant refuses to leave after the lease expires.

What To Do:

As in case #1,  you’re going to need to proceed with a full eviction by filing with the local court if you want to have an official and legal removal of the tenant occur.

There is often another option in cases with a lease ending. Often, you can talk to the tenant and find a solution – such as giving them some monetary assistance – that will help them move out sooner rather than later. Being helpful can lead to the tenant leaving quicker, and often this method will be less expensive (and quicker!) than going to court.

Warnings and Reminders For Landlords

Now that we’ve covered some of the most common situations that you’ll need to deal with when a tenant won’t leave after eviction, we also want to cover some of the things that landlords need to remember while going through these situations.

#1: Never Remove A Tenant Yourself

Regardless of how frustrated you become with a tenant not leaving after notice time and time again, you should never resort to forcing them out yourself.

Physically removing a tenant, turning off the utilities, or blackmailing a tenant in any way to make them leave is illegal, and you could end up in a lot of trouble if you take any of these actions.

While it can be painfully time consuming and expensive to follow the eviction routes laid out in the law, you need to do this to preserve the future of your business.

#2: Read Up On Local And State Laws

Local and state laws dictate much of landlord-tenant relationships, so it’s important that you know which laws apply to you and your properties. While some states require only three days notice for eviction, others require five.

For example, the laws in Illinois require 10 days notice for a lease violation while other states may permit a five day notification for the same violation.

You need to be up-to-date on all of these laws. If you make a mistake when doing any part of the eviction process because you didn’t follow your specific state’s laws, you may need to start the entire process over from the beginning. And that will just take more time!

Spend some extra time up front researching the laws so that you don’t make a mistake.

#3: Choose The Best Tenants

While it is always possible for a tenant to surprise you and end up being much more frustrating than you expected them to be, there is a lot of truth to the idea that screening your tenants thoroughly can help protect you from eviction situations.

Put a lot of time and energy into choosing the right tenants for your properties. With careful selection, you will be lowering the risk of something going wrong throughout the rental process.

Tenant Overstaying Notice? You Got This!

As they say, don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Regardless of whether or not you want to deal with a tenant refusing to leave your property, you’re going to have to face it at one point or another. If you never deal with it, you and your business will likely go bankrupt or lose the house entirely.

Eviction is a hard process, but there are a lot of things that you can do to move the process along and ensure that your hard work is not waste. After all, your properties are yours and no one else’s. Don’t be afraid to follow through on taking back control when a tenant just won’t leave!