Settling an Eviction Case with My Landlord

Settling an Eviction Case with My Landlord

Last updated: August 2013

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While you can go to trial in an eviction case, you also can end an eviction issue with your landlord through a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a voluntary agreement between you and your landlord that resolves all the issues in your eviction case. If you reach an agreement, you do not have to go to trial. The settlement agreement is written and presented to the judge. The judge reviews the agreement and gives you an “agreed order.”Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.What is a settlement agreement? It is a voluntary agreement between you and your landlord that resolves all the issues in your eviction case. If you reach such an agreement, you do not have to go to trial. The settlement agreement should be put in writing and presented to the judge. The written agreement is called an "agreed order".You can try to resolve your case before you go to court. You can contact your landlord directly, or your landlord’s attorney to see if they are willing to make an agreement and what terms they want. If you negotiate an agreement before you go to court, the agreement should be in writing. You should still go to court even if you have an agreement. Do I have to settle my case? No. You have the right to a trial. You should enforce this right if you are not able or willing to negotiate a settlement agreement with your landlord. If you want a trial, consider asking the judge for a one-week continuance to get an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, ask the judge for a list of agencies that provide legal representation free of charge or at a reduced rate. Or, to find free legal help, search the "Helpful Organizations" section below.Why might I want to settle my case? You may want to consider settling your case because trials are risky. You can never be sure how they will turn out. Settling your case removes this risk because the settlement agreement describes your arrangement with your landlord.Why might my landlord want to settle my case? Trials are unpredictable events and your landlord cannot be sure he will win. Your landlord may also want to settle the case to avoid the costs of litigation.To settle my case, will I have to give up something? Yes. All settlements involve compromise. What you agree to give up depends on the reason you are facing eviction, the strength of your defenses, and the type of housing at stake.If I live in public housing, a HUD development, or other subsidized building should I offer to move in exchange for some benefit? If you live in public housing, a HUD development, or other subsidized building, you usually should not offer to move in exchange for a benefit. Your rental assistance is tied to your apartment, so you will lose this assistance if you move. Whatever your landlord is offering in return will usually be less valuable than your apartment (usually the landlord’s attorney only offers extra time to move). It is best to consult with an attorney before entering a settlement agreement.If I have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, should I offer to move in exchange for some benefit? Maybe, because you might be able to move without losing your rental assistance. But be careful. If you are facing eviction for committing a serious lease violation, including nonpayment of rent -- you could lose your voucher if you agree to move (and if you agree to a money judgment for rent owed), so it is best to consult with an attorney before entering a settlement agreement.If I live in private housing, should I offer to move in exchange for some benefit? Maybe, especially if you can get something valuable in return. LikeFor example, you might negotiate that you will move out if you can have two or three months to move out and the right to remain in the apartment rent-free until you do move. If you owe rent, you might agree to move out in exchange for the landlord agreeing to drop any claims he has for rent owed.If I am willing to move, how much time can I get to move out? Even tenants who lose at trial usually get at least 14 days to move before the sheriff can come out to enforce eviction, so if your landlord wants to settle your case you should bargain for more time to move out. In exchange for the security of knowing that he will eventually get possession of your apartment, your landlord may be willing to give you two or three months to move. He may even be willing to let you stay in the apartment rent-free until you move. If you have a Section 9 Housing Choice Voucher and a housing authority pays the majority of your rent, your landlord may be willing to give you more time because he will continue to receive the rental subsidies as long as you remain in the apartment.If you agree to move out, the landlord will usually want an Order for Possession. An Order for Possession is an eviction order, and the eviction becomes a public record that future landlords can see. You might consider trying to negotiate a date to move out with a “Continuance for Compliance.” This means you would come back to court a day or two after you were supposed to move. If you have moved, the case will be dismissed. If you have not moved, your landlord can get an Order for Possession that he could take to the Sheriff immediately.What can I offer my landlord during negotiations so that I don't have to move? That depends on the facts of your case. If you are facing eviction for nonpayment of rent, you may want to offer to pay your landlord all the rent owed and to reimburse your landlord for court costs. If your household member or guest committed a lease violation, you may want to offer to remove that person from your apartment and promise that the person will not return.If you owe rent and you negotiate a payment arrangement with the landlord in order to stay in your apartment, make sure it is in writing. If the judge enters an Order for Possession (an eviction order), your landlord can accept your money and still evict you if you do not have any other agreement in writing. What if my landlord offers to let me stay if I pay the back rent I owe within a certain period of time? You should accept this offer if:You want to stay in the apartment,You can pay everything you owe within the period of time the landlord suggests,And you give the judge a written order stating that the landlord cannot evict you if you pay everything you owe in a timely manner.Again, the landlord or the attorney might want to get an Order of Possession (eviction order) that he can enforce if you do not meet your payment obligations. You can try to negotiate, however, that the landlord can only get an Order for Possession if he comes back to court by filing a motion saying that you did not pay. The case would be dismissed “pursuant to the terms of the payment agreement,” but the landlord could file a motion to “reinstate” if you missed your payments. If my landlord has an attorney, can I trust that attorney? Not necessarily. Remember that the attorney is in court to protect your landlord's interests. The attorney may try to intimidate you into accepting an unfavorable settlement offer. The attorney may use terms you do not understand, and try to convince you that your case is weak. Do not be intimidated. Remember that you have the right to appear before the judge, and that you can ask the judge for time to get an attorney. If the attorney makes any promises, make sure they are in writing. Do not sign anything without reading it carefully and asking questions if you do not understand. Again, you can always ask the judge for time to get an attorney.If I reach an agreement with my landlord, should the agreement be put in writing? Yes. The terms of your agreement should be set forth in an "agreed order". Click on the "Forms/Letters" tab to view sample agreed orders. If you do not feel comfortable drafting such an order, wait until your case is called and ask the judge to instruct one of the attorneys in the courtroom to help you. If your landlord or the landlord's attorney drafts the order, wait until your case is called and then ask the judge to explain the order to you so you can make sure you understand and agree to its terms. Do not sign an agreement you do not understand.What are the different types of Agreed Orders I can reach with my landlord? There are different types of agreed orders that you can enter into with your landlord. What you should pay careful attention to is what the agreed order says that you must do once you sign it. You should also pay careful attention to what the agreed order says happens if you do not do what it says you must do.An agreed order can say that you must leave your apartment in a certain amount of days or the court will immediately turn your apartment over to your landlord. This type of agreed order is called a "A Continuance for Compliance." You come back to court after you move and if you complied with the agreement, the case is dismissed. If you do not comply, the judge will enter an Order for Possession that the Sheriff can execute immediately.Another type of agreed order can say that you can stay in your apartment if you don't allow a specific person or persons into your apartment. If you let this person or persons into the apartment, the court will give immediate possession of your apartment to your landlord. This type of agreed order is called a "Dismissal Order with Leave to Reinstate-Barring Prohibited Person." The case is dismissed, but if you violate the agreement, the landlord can file a motion to “reinstate” the case based on the alleged violation and ask the judge to enter an Order for Possession that the Sheriff can execute immediately.An agreed order can also say that you can stay in your apartment if you pay your landlord your outstanding rent through a payment plan. If you miss a payment, your landlord can regain possession of your apartment. This type of agreed order is called a "Dismissal Order with Leave to Reinstate-Payment Plan." The case is dismissed, but if you miss a payment, the landlord can file a motion to “reinstate” and ask the judge for an Order of Possession that the Sheriff can execute immediately, as well as a money judgment for all the rent you owe, plus court costs.An agreed order could say that you can stay in your apartment as long as follow the rules of the lease for a certain period of time. If you don't, your landlord can regain possession of your apartment. This type of agreed order is called "Dismissal Order with Leave to Reinstate-Probation." The “probation” should have a date after which the landlord cannot “reinstate” the case (for example, 12 months). If the 12 months passes, it does not mean your landlord cannot try to evict you, it simply means the landlord cannot reinstate the case and must start the process from the beginning by serving you with the appropriate notice (five-day, 10-day, 30-day). Finally, the agreed order could say that your lease violation was not serious enough to evict you from your apartment. This type of agreed order is called "Judgment for Possession-No Serious Lease Violation." This is when you agree to move out and there is no money judgment.Go to the "Forms/Letters" section to view a sample of any of these agreed orders.If I reach an agreement with my landlord, should I wait in the courtroom until my case is called or can I leave? You should wait. If you leave the courtroom before your case is called, nothing will prevent your landlord from giving the judge an order that is different from the one you negotiated. Protect yourself by staying in the courtroom and appearing before the judge when your case is called. You can then ask the judge to review the terms of the agreement, and to answer any questions you have about these terms.

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