Summary Ejectment

Going To Court

"Summary ejectment" is the name of the court action which a landlord must use to evict you.

The landlord starts the action by filing papers in court. The papers, called a "summons and complaint," would be served on you by the Sheriff. The summons gives the date and time of the hearing, and the complaint gives the reason the landlord claims that you must be evicted (for example, non-payment of rent.)

The Court Hearing

The court hearing usually is held within a week after you are served with the summons and complaint. The case is heard in Small Claims Court before a judge who is called a Magistrate. Most landlords and tenants who appear in this court are not represented by a lawyer, though each can have his lawyer present if he wishes.

As the tenant, you are not required to go to court, but the landlord will probably win his case if you do not appear. You cannot stop the eviction by not going to court. However, you cannot not be arrested for failure to go to court either, because this is a civil, rather than a criminal action.

In court, the landlord must prove that the landlord-tenant relationship exists, that there is a lease (either written or oral), and that you have violated it, or that the lease has expired, or that the landlord has given you proper notice to leave.

If the landlord/agent claims that you did not pay rent, he must present evidence which shows that you failed to pay. Most Magistrates require written records. After the landlord presents his case, you can raise any defense you have. (See Possible Defenses to Summary Judgment section).

Judgment

If the Magistrate believes the landlord, a judgment will be entered giving the landlord possession of the premises. The Magistrate can also give the landlord a judgment for the money which you owe, such as back rent, or because of damages to the premises.

After the judgment is entered by the court, the landlord still may not evict you by himself. Ten more days have to pass before the landlord may ask the Clerk of Court for for an execution of the judgment in order to put you out.

Appeal

Within these 10 days, you can appeal to a higher court if you believe the Magistrate was wrong. You must file an appeal with the Clerk and pay the rent to the Clerk of Court (not to the landlord) as it becomes due in order to stay until the appeal is heard. The Clerk of Court has forms which explain how the appeal is done. If you cannot afford to appeal, you can file the appeal as a pauper.

Execution

After the 10 days have passed and you have not appealed, the landlord must ask the Clerk of Court for an execution of the judgment in order to put you out.

Remember that, even at this point, the landlord may not put you out himself but continue with the legal process.

The Clerk of Court will issue an execution to the Sheriff, ordering the Sheriff to remove you and lock the property. (Remember that the landlord must wait 10 days after the Magistrate issues the judgment before he can ask the Clerk for an execution of this judgment.) About a week will pass before the Sheriff actually comes out to evict you. (This time period can vary depending on the workloads of the Clerk and the Sheriff.)

The Sheriff should give you at least two days' notice before he evicts you.

Remember that the only way the landlord can have you evicted is for the Sheriff to do so after the order of execution has been issued. At no time can the landlord put you out.