Legal Guides

What Happens When You Get An Unlawful Detainer?

unlawful detainee

You could have heard about unlawful detainee but you don’t know what it means. The term unlawful detainer refers to an illegal way in which the landlord evicts a tenant who maintains possession of the real estate property with no legal rights of doing so. 

It could be a tenant who remains on the real estate property after the lease agreement has been terminated or expired. The tenant could also have performed some form of illegal activities on the landlord’s property

The other scenario could be when the tenant fails to obey the rental agreement terms. For instance, you may keep a pet on the property yet pets are prohibited. All these scenarios can result in an unlawful detainee. 

Unlawful Detainee vs. Eviction 

The biggest difference between eviction and an unlawful detainee is the timing at which they occur. An unlawful detainer lawsuit refers to the step that is taken before an eviction. The manager of the property has to send a written notice of termination of the lease. 

From here, he has to file a complaint in court. If the judge agrees that the complaint justifies an eviction, the manager can take the required steps of removing the residents. 

What Takes Place When A Person Gets An Unlawful Detainer?

When you compare unlawful detainee to the other court matters, it is usually but not always shorter. After the property manager files a complaint, the remaining processes can take between three to five weeks.

However, there are times when this process can take a longer period. Here is a step-by-step guide on how an unlawful detainee takes place. 

1. The Notice Is Sent: 

The Notice Is Sent

A written notice that terminates the tenancy must be given before any form of court proceedings take place. The notice should have a set date that you need to have vacated the building. 

Before you get a termination notice, you should receive the notice to quit. This stipulates the wrongs that you have to fix according to the rental agreement.

Every state has varying rules on the number of notices that should be issued. Therefore, you need to check with your local laws if you are not sure of the rules that apply in your location. 

Read More: What Is A Bilateral Contract In Real Estate?

2. Exceptions To A Notice: 

There are certain exemptions when it comes to giving out a written notice. If the lease agreement was not renewed or was for a fixed term, there is always no need for a notice. However, some counties, states, or cities may require the notice of the intention not to renew. 

Certain states, such as California, don’t need to write a notice for terminating tenancy before the lifting of a court complaint. This applies when the tenant lives on the property or when the renter is working for the property manager. 

You can file a court complaint immediately the renter is no longer working for the property manager. It is a crucial step to understand when it comes to an unlawful detainee. 

3. Court Complaint Filed:

If you don’t comply with the stated notice, the real estate manager can file a complaint in court. As he files the complaint, he has to prove that the tenant has done something wrong that justifies the termination of occupancy. The court will then request for a response to the complaint. 

4. Defaulting:

When you don’t respond to a complaint that has been filed against you, defaulting starts there. This can be by filing for unlawful detainee or avoiding it fully. When there is a default, the property manager will definitely win and the court will grant permission for eviction. 

5. Answering:

When you answer the complaint, you may choose to willingly leave the residence or fight the detainer for the court to hold a hearing. The court hearing helps the judge to know whether there was an unlawful detainee or not. He will determine whether you will be granted permission to either maintain the occupancy or relocate. 

6. How To Send Unlawful Detainer: 

The written notice that is originally sent to you before the filing of a legal suit can be in person by the representatives of the property manager or the manager himself. The other options are by email or mail. 

The most important thing is to do all this in accordance with the state laws. Some municipalities prefer certain options and not others. 

The unlawful detainee itself is basically served by the property manager himself in person. For instance, in Minnesota, after the property manager files his complaint to the court of law, he will serve you with a summons that order for a court appearance. It should specify the specific date and time for the hearing. 

Read More: What Is A letter Of Agreement VS. Contract?

7. Avoiding An Unlawful Detainer:

There are certain measures that you can put in place to reduce the possibility of ever receiving an eviction or unlawful detainee. Examples include obeying all the rules in the rental agreement and paying your rent on time. 

As a renter, the best thing you can do is give the landlord or property manager no single reason to want you out of the property. 

Unlawful detainers will potentially make you lack a house. If you lose the case, the eviction will make it very hard for you to rent a house in the future. Therefore, an unlawful detainee is not something that you will desire to come your way. 

8. How Long Will Unlawful Detainer Remain On Your Record

Unless you get an eviction, the unlawful detainer is not reported to the credit bureaus. An eviction will stay on your records for a period of up to seven years. 

Even though it does not have a direct effect on your credit, it may reduce your chances of getting housing. The reason is that it appears on most of the consumer reports. 

Some people believe that unlawful detainee is not something worth worrying about. However, it is good to understand the consequences and processes. Remember it can happen to you or to a person who is close to you. 


Are you renting a place where you have breached the rental agreement in one way or another or you can barely afford it? It is wise to get another residential place to live early enough. 

However, it is worth noting that the landlord has no moral authority to evict you unless you breach the rental agreement. Get more info from your local laws and read some of the exceptions for particular rules that apply in your area.

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Sofia Kelly is a passionate blogger. She loves to share her thoughts, ideas and experiences with the world through blogging.

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