|How Do I Settle an Eviction Case with My Landlord?||
Last updated: July 2007
The steps involved in settling an eviction case are:Review the "Common Questions" in this guide to learn how to settle an eviction case.Decide whether it would be best for you to settle your eviction case.If you chose to settle your eviction case, write out a settlement agreement between yourself and your landlord.Present this settlement agreement to the court.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, who can then review its terms and make sure both you and your landlord understand it. The written agreement is called an "agreed order".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 short 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.How can I settle my case? You need to talk directly to your landlord to settle your case. One way to do this is mediation. Mediation is an alternative to a trial. It is an informal negotiation. You and your landlord try to reach a settlement with the help of a mediator instead of letting a judge or jury decide. You can ask for mediation before meeting with a judge. Mediation has a few advantages over a trial, such as:You have more control over your case;You and your landlord can agree to a settlement based on what seems fair to you, instead of a judge deciding based on what the law says;You can keep a mediation agreement secret, unlike a trial where everything is public record;You can talk about what is important to you, and not just legal issues.If you and your landlord do not settle your case before trial, the judge can also send you and the other party to mediation.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 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 or Section 8 development, should I offer to move in exchange for some benefit? If you live in public housing or a Section 8 development, 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.But, if your landlord is trying to evict you for criminal activity and you are facing possible criminal charges then it may be best to settle the eviction case. If this is your situation you should speak to a lawyer right away. You can search the "Helpful Organizations" section below to find free legal help.If I have a Section 8 Voucher, should I offer to move in exchange for some benefit? Maybe, because you can move without losing your rental assistance. But be careful. If you are facing eviction for committing a serious lease violation, you could lose your right to participate in the Section 8 Program if you agree to move, so consult with an attorney before finalizing the terms of your 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. Like two or three months to move out and the right to remain in the apartment rent-free until you do move.If I am willing to move, how much time can I get to move out? Even tenants who go to trial and lose get at least 14 days, 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/she may even be willing to let you stay in the apartment rent-free until you move. If you have a Section 8 Voucher and the government pays the majority of your rent, your landlord may be willing to give you more time because he/she will continue to receive the rental subsidies as long as you remain in the apartment.What else 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 bar that person from your apartment.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.If my landlord has an attorney, can I trust that attorney? Not necessarily. Remember that he is in court to protect your landlord's interests. The attorney may try to intimidate you into accepting an unfavorable settlement offer. He/she 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 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 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.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 don't 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."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."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."Or the agreed order could say that you can stay in your apartment as long as you pay your rent on 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."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."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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