Virginia Poverty Law Center

The Steps in the Eviction Process

Your landlord can't kick you out right away, even if you don’t pay rent or you violate your lease. They have to follow specific steps and get the court and the sheriff involved to evict you. The whole process usually takes about five weeks or longer, starting when your landlord files a case in court.

Learn about the steps and timeline of the eviction process below.

1. Notice from the Landlord

Before starting a case in court, your landlord has to give you a letter to warn you about not paying rent or breaking lease rules. The notice should give you time to respond, usually 5 days if you owe rent or 30 days for most other issues. If you do not fix the issue in that time, your landlord can file an eviction case in court.

Carefully read the notice to learn how you can fix the problem and when your landlord might file in court.

2. Summons for Unlawful Detainer

After the landlord files the case, the court sends you a summons telling you. Learn how to read your summons. The first court date usually happens 3 weeks after your landlord filed the case.

3. Court Date

You must go to court if you want to fight your case and stay in your home. Judges usually decide eviction cases at the first hearing. In some cases, the judge may postpone the case or schedule a trial for later, especially if the case is not just over unpaid rent.

If the case was filed only because of unpaid rent, the judge will throw out the case if you pay everything you owe, including court costs, by the first hearing. You can pay the landlord, their attorney, or the court clerk. This is called the right of redemption and you can use it at least once per year.

4. Judgment for Possession

If the judge rules against you, your landlord gets a judgment for possession against you. This means they can take the next steps to evict you.

5. Appeal Period

After a judgment, you have 10 days to appeal and get a new trial. To do that, you need to file appeal papers and pay the court clerk everything the judge said you owe the landlord. If you appeal and pay rent on time each month, the landlord cannot evict you until the court decides the appeal.

Even if you do not appeal, the sheriff cannot evict you during these 10 days.

6. Writ of Eviction

Once the landlord has won the eviction case, they can ask the court for a writ of eviction. These are instructions from the court to the sheriff to evict you. Some landlords wait until after the 10-day appeal period to take this step.

The court clerk usually issues the writ within a few days after the landlord requests it. Then the sheriff will schedule the eviction.

7. Eviction Notice

The sheriff must give you a written notice of the date and time they will return for the final eviction. The notice must give you at least 72 hours (3 days) warning. Many sheriffs will give notice 5-7 days before the final eviction.

Remember: The eviction cannot happen during the 10-day appeal period after the judgment.

8. Extended Redemption

If the judgment was only because of unpaid rent, you have one more chance to stop the eviction. If you pay everything you owe the landlord, including new rent and costs, at least 48 hours (2 days) before the sheriff’s eviction, they should cancel it. This is part of your right of redemption.

9. Eviction by Sheriff

Unless the court or the landlord cancels the eviction, the sheriff will come back on the scheduled day and time. If you have not moved out, they will remove you and have the locks changed.

After the Eviction

After the sheriff’s eviction, your property will be put on the street or locked in the home. You have just 24 hours to get your things or the landlord can throw them away. The landlord must give you reasonable access during those 24 hours.

After the sheriff finishes the eviction, there are very few reasons a judge would reverse the eviction. But if your landlord evicted you without following the steps above, you can ask a judge to penalize the landlord and order them to let you back in. You do this by filing a Tenant's Petition for Relief from Unlawful Exclusion with the court. 

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