You and your landlord each have rights in the eviction process. Make sure you know yours.
7 Things to Do When Facing Eviction for Not Paying Rent
Whether you lost your job due to COVID-19, had an expensive car repair or got sidelined by a medical bill, sometimes you can’t pay for every expense in one month. When that happens, paying the rent could be the bill you let slide.
The CARES Act, which became law in March, placed a moratorium on tenant evictions until late July. So for a few months, tenants who fell behind on rent but had federally subsidized housing or a landlord with a federally backed mortgage didn’t have to worry about getting evicted. If you’re not caught up by the end of July, however, you could face eviction.
If your state or city has its own moratorium on evictions, that prohibition will also end eventually. So what should you do if you come home to find an eviction notice on your front door? Click or swipe to find out.
1. Don’t throw self-esteem out on the street
Times are hard all over right now. A lot of people can’t pay their rent due to job loss or other factors related to the coronavirus pandemic. So many, in fact, that the CARES Act even put a nationwide temporary moratorium on evictions.
So, don’t waste time beating yourself up. Instead, educate yourself on the eviction process and what you can do next to avoid being evicted or prepare for court.
2. Know your state and city laws
You can find links to each state’s and local laws and resources on tenant rights at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  For example, if you live in Florida, HUD’s tenant rights page has links to a summary  of Florida’s landlord/tenant law or the entire statute. 
3. Don’t ignore that notice on your door
Your landlord isn’t legally allowed to just put your belongings on the sidewalk and lock you out – not yet anyway. First, he or she must give notice that you must pay your rent within a certain time frame – three or 14 days, for example – or vacate the premises.
If you don’t pay what’s owed, the owner of the property can’t just kick you out. First, the landlord must file a lawsuit in county court for payment or possession of the dwelling.
4. Try to work out a payment plan
If you can find a way to scrounge up enough to pay what you owe, this is the point where you can avoid a lot of hassle, stress and damage to your credit report and rental history.
If you have a job, maybe you could propose paying $100 and then an extra $50 or $100 a month until the back rent is paid. Most landlords don’t want to pay a fee to file a lawsuit, go to court and find a new tenant, so this tactic is worth a shot. Just make sure you stick to the agreement if approved.
5. Don’t blow off the court summons
If your landlord files suit to evict you, you’ll receive a summons showing a date and time to appear in court as well as a date to submit an “answer” to the court explaining the reason you think your landlord is wrong to evict.  For example, maybe the landlord’s assertion that you didn’t pay rent is false or he refused to repair a broken furnace or stove.
Depending on state law, the summons could be posted on your door, arrive in the mail or get served in person. Whatever the delivery, if you don’t show up for court, your landlord will win by default and you will receive a judgment against you for the amount owed.
Better to have your day in court, make your case and try to convince the judge to let you work out a payment plan if possible.
6. Seek legal counsel
You don’t have to have a lawyer in court for an eviction, but many cities offer free legal counsel and other landlord/tenant resources to help you understand tenant rights and offer suggestions on how to proceed. 
7. Move on
If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, you must vacate the premises. Depending on state law, you will have to move out by a certain date, typically within 14 to 30 days. If you have good reason for not being able to leave, you may be able to buy some time by requesting a stay of eviction to postpone moving out.
The eviction will appear on your credit report for up to seven years, probably damaging your credit score and payment history on your credit report. However, if you pay the judgment in full, the landlord must report payment, which will also show up on your credit report.
The late payment will still count against you, but at least you can show potential landlords that you paid the debt in full.
This article by Deb Hipp was originally published on Debt.com.
Published by Debt.com, LLC