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Court Appearances

Nearly every eviction begins with an eviction notice, which must be properly served on the tenant. Most notices give the tenant a certain amount of time to remedy a default (i.e., 72 hours to pay past-due rent), followed by a tenancy termination deadline if the default isn't remedied. Other notices can't be remedied (i.e., a 24-hour notice for outrageous conduct) and simply inform the tenant that they must vacate by a certain time and date.

After an eviction notice expires and the tenant fails to vacate, the landlord will need to file an eviction lawsuit at the local county courthouse. The eviction lawsuit is sometimes referred to as an "FED" ("Forcible Entry and Detainer"). The tenant will be served with an eviction summons and complaint and be required to appear in court.

As the landlord, you will also need to appear in court unless you have an attorney or other agent (such as a property manager) appear in court at the "1st appearance hearing." This hearing is usually set 8 days after the FED is filed. The purpose of the hearing is to see whether the parties can work out a payment plan, move-out agreement, or other arrangement. If not, the case will be set for trial.

If you are unable to settle the case at the first appearance hearing, by law the trial must be scheduled within 15 days from the 1st appearance hearing. Sometimes, the parties or the court will delay the trial beyond this time frame, but most cases move quickly. This leaves little time for preparation, meaning it is important to have your witnesses, exhibits, and trial arguments ready to go.

You do not necessarily need an attorney for court appearances, but you will increase your chance of success if you do. The eviction statutes are very technical, and most people aren't familiar with courtroom procedures. You will especially be at a disadvantage if the tenant has an attorney. If your case gets to the point of a trial, it is usually worth it to hire an attorney.

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