If your landlord sends you an eviction notice, you may want to fight the eviction. Learn more about deciding whether or not to fight an eviction, and taking next steps.
A note on COVID-19: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides for a 120-day eviction moratorium (March 27, 2020 through July 25, 2020) for tenants living in most types of federally assisted rental housing and for tenants living in rental housing with a federally backed mortgage loan. If you have received an eviction notice or court papers you should contact your local legal aid immediately.
Once your landlord files an eviction case against you in court, it can be hard to fight it. For instance non-payment of rent, Ohio law says that your landlord can evict you if you don't pay your rent. This is true even if you've lost your job, got sick or don't have the money. Those aren’t reasons to fight an eviction.
When it's worth fighting an eviction
Fighting an eviction can be hard. To successfully fight an eviction, you need a good reason.
Some good reasons to fight an eviction are if you are:
- Evicted from subsidized housing or from a mobile home park;
- Being evicted because your landlord refused to take your on-time rent payment;
- Paying rent through rent escrow;
- Being evicted because you complained about something the landlord should have done;
- Being treated differently because of your race, gender or disability, or because you have children; or,
- The CARES Act eviction moratorium applies. You can learn more about the new federal protections for renters under the CARES Act here.
If you do not pay your regular rent on time, the law says your landlord can evict you, even if you lose your job or get sick. So, losing your job or getting sick are not good reasons to fight an eviction.
If you decide not to fight the eviction
If you decide not to fight the eviction, you should try to get your eviction dismissed. To get your eviction dismissed:
- Move out of the home. First, move out of the home completely.
- Arrive at the court early and check in. Learn more about what to expect at a hearing.
- Go to the hearing. You must attend the hearing, even if you move out first. It is a good idea to bring your keys so you can officially give them to your landlord.
- Ask for the case to be dismissed. At court, you could say:
“Your honor, I have completely moved out of the home, located at [state the address]. I have my keys which I’d like to give to my landlord now. Since I have moved out, I would like to request that my eviction case be dismissed.”
Or, if you already returned your keys, say:
“Your honor, I have completely moved out of the home, located at [state the address]. I gave my keys to my landlord on [state the date]. Since I have moved out and turned in my keys, I would like to request that my eviction case be dismissed.”
If the judge dismisses your case, you can answer “no” when future landlords ask if you were ever evicted.
How to fight an eviction
If you decide to fight an eviction, you should:
- Get a lawyer. It’s hard to win an eviction case by yourself. Contact a local legal aid for help. If you get a lawyer, make sure to follow your lawyers instructions. If you can't get a lawyer, you will need to prepare for the hearing.
- Prepare for the hearing. Gather evidence like receipts and photos. Ask witnesses to join you at court and speak on your behalf. Get directions to the court’s location.
- Go to court. Arrive at the court early and check in. If you feel comfortable, speak with your landlord while you are waiting and mention that you are planning to contest the eviction. You can also try to see if your landlord is open to negotiating an agreement to allow you to stay or to give you more time to move. If you reach an agreement, make sure to get the agreement in writing. Also, wait for your case to be called and tell the judge your agreement, as well. Taking this step might save you, your landlord and the court a little bit of time.
What to expect at court
When your case is called, you and your landlord will be sworn in. Then, the hearing will take place.
If you haven’t found a lawyer yet, you can ask the court for a continuance like this:
"Your honor, I am asking for a one-week continuance so that I can try to get a lawyer to help me with this case.”
If the court agrees, they will reschedule the hearing.
When the hearing begins, your landlord speaks first. When it's your turn, speak up for yourself, but do not interrupt the judge or anyone else. Tell the judge why you should not be evicted. Share evidence, and let your witnesses share their information.
Learn more about what to expect at a hearing.
Learn more about how to speak up in court.
After the hearing
After the hearing, the court decides who wins. If you win, you have the right to stay in your home.
If you do not win, your landlord has the right to evict you. You have seven days, or less, to leave. Otherwise, the sheriff is allowed to come in and force you out.
Learn more about the eviction process and timeline.