Ejectment Action vs. Eviction: 11 Things (2024) You Need To Know

If you’re a commercial real estate or residential property owner, there may come a time when you need to remove someone from your property – this is where ejectment actions and evictions come in.

But what’s the difference between these two terms?

In this blog, we’ll dive deep and discuss them in-depth, so you know what to do in an unfortunate scenario.

1. What is ejectment action?

An ejectment action is a common-law term for a civil action to recover the possession of or title to land.

Unlike an eviction, there is no lease or landlord/tenant relationship with the person on the land.

Having said that, the person that the owner of the land wants to leave claims to have some sort of right to the property.

Ejectments address occupants who are neither the owner of the property nor a tenant, but who have an interest in the property (such as a holder of a land contract).

Regardless of whether this claim is frivolous or legitimate, the presence of the claim often complicates things for the landlord.

2. How do you bring an ejectment action?

 To bring an ejectment action, follow these steps:

bulletGet a real-estate lawyer to advise you throughout the process.

bulletEstablish that you are the true and rightful owner of the property.

bulletFile the suit in circuit court.

You will be the “plaintiff” and the individual overstaying on your property will be the “defendant.”

File a complaint stating that there is a person overstaying, the Plaintiff is the rightful owner and that the party should be removed.

bulletWait for the Defendant to respond.

The Defendant will have a specific amount of time to respond depending on the jurisdiction.

If they do not respond, then the Plaintiff will be awarded a default judgment, which gives them what they ask for automatically.

bulletIf the Plaintiff receives a default judgment, then the sheriff will come to the premises and remove the Defendant from the property.

bulletIf the Defendant files an answer, then a hearing will be set so the judge can listen to both sides.

3. When are ejectment actions filed?

Here are some examples where ejectment actions have been filed:

bulletA boyfriend/girlfriend stays on the property after the couple breaks up

bulletA family member stays on a property devised from a will that they claim they have a right to

bulletA family member overstays their welcome on a property

bulletA friend overstays their welcome on a property

bulletA child/parent overstays their welcome on a property

bulletA purchaser of land through owner financing defaults on the land contract

4. What happens after the verdict is entered on an ejectment action?

In some states, such as Florida, the Defendant can file within approximately 20 days of the verdict (if he/she did not file for appeal) for what is known as a betterment.

In this stage of the process, if the Defendant made any real improvements to the property, they could exercise their legal right to sue to be reimbursed for those improvements.

5. What is eviction?

Most people are familiar with the concept of eviction.

Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord.

In some jurisdictions, it can also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgage.

That said, it often requires a written lease, mortgage, and/or some sort of tenant-landlord relationship.

6. What’s the difference between an ejectment action and an eviction?

During the eviction process, a landlord wants to force a tenant to leave the property.

In an ejectment action, there is no landlord or tenant.

There is also no lease, although the person being asked to leave the property has some rights to the property (either frivolous or legitimate).

Unlike cases of eviction, ejectments do not give landlords the rights to the summary procedure that evictions are allowed in some states, which means they can take a longer time to resolve.

Having said this, in other states or circumstances, an ejectment action may be faster than an eviction.

Be sure to seek legal advice from a local attorney about the specifics of your situation.

7. What are the steps to evict a tenant?

Below are the general steps in a legal eviction.

Just note that the exact legal process varies from state to state.

Be sure to speak with an attorney in your state to make sure you understand the process.

bulletStep 1: Tenant receives a written notice to vacate

Why does a tenant receive a written notice?

1. Failing to pay rent: If you fail to pay your rent, your landlord must give you (the tenant) a written notice before they can legally evict you.

The notice must be in writing, and it must give you the period under which you must pay rent or leave the premises (vacate).

This period of time does not include weekends, holidays, or the day the notice is given.

If you offer to pay the full rent within the time, your landlord must take it.

That said, if the amount is less than is owed, then the landlord doesn’t need to accept the money.

2. Breaking terms in the lease: If you break the rules of your written lease, then your landlord may evict you.

Common reasons that landlords evict tenants include being too loud, being too dirty, parking in incorrect spots, or letting people/pets onto the property when they’re not allowed.

3. Ending a lease: If a landlord and tenant do not have a written lease, then the tenant can end it at any time, the same is true if a written lease does not include a specific time frame.

Similarly, the tenant is able to end the lease for any reason and can do so without giving the landlord proper notice.

bulletStep 2: Tenant receives a summons and complaint

If a tenant refuses to leave, landlords may sue.

As mentioned above, tenants will receive a notice to vacate, but there is still often a chance to fix the problem.

Usually, there’s a 3-day to 7-day notice that tenants must do something to fix the situation (like pay rent).

If the tenant does not take the correct actions to cure the problem, then the landlord can sue.

The landlord will pay a fee and file a complaint with the Clerk of Court to begin a lawsuit.

The tenant will then get a copy of the summons and complaint about eviction.

bulletStep 3: Tenant responds to the complaint

After you are served a complaint as a tenant, you should contact a lawyer at once.

Don’t wait even a few days because you won’t have time to prepare a defense!

As the tenant, you should have roughly 5 days to answer the complaint, and the counting begins on the day after the tenant was served.

It does not include weekends and legal holidays.

File an “answer” with the Clerk of Court in writing and listing your defenses about why you shouldn’t be evicted.

If you owe rent, then you should also give the amount listed in the complaint to the court.

If one of your defenses is that you already paid rent to your landlord, then you do not have to do this.

Keep in mind that your landlord can get a default judgment against you if you do not answer the complaint, so you want to make sure you file an answer shortly after you receive it.

Note: If you disagree with your landlord about how much money you owe, then you can file a motion to determine the amount of rent to be paid when filing your answer.

The motion should state why you think the amount should be different and ask the judge to decide the right amount.

Be sure to attach any proof (receipts, etc.) to the motion.

The judge may schedule a hearing to decide the correct amount.

Even when filing this motion, you should still deposit the amount you admit to owing to the court.

bulletStep 4: Tenant and landlord goes to court

In this step, the tenant and landlord must go to court for the hearing and then the judgment for possession.

Either the landlord or the tenant can set the hearing date after the complaint and answer have been filed.

No date is set if the tenant does not answer the complaint or deposit the correct amount of money with the court.

Additionally, no date is set if the land gets a default judgment.

The judge will schedule a hearing if the tenant and landlord do not.

After the hearing is scheduled, the tenant and landlord will be notified of where and when it will take place.

Each party gets to go and present their case before the judge.

Typically, this is the only court date that you’ll have.

It’s important to bring anything you want the court to consider.

This may include your lease, photographs, or receipts.

If you want the judge to hear and consider what another individual has to say in this case, then the person must come with you to court.

If the tenant doesn’t attend the hearing, then the landlord wins automatically.

If the tenant loses the case, then the judge will give the landlord a Judgment for Possession.

Keep in mind that the judge can also order the person who loses to pay the court costs and attorney’s fees of the person who wins.

bulletStep 5: Eviction occurs

If the landlord wins and gets a judgment for possession, the court will issue a final 24- hour notice.

This notice is called the Writ of Possession, and it is given to the sheriff.

The sheriff then posts the notice on the tenant’s rental home.

After that, the tenant has to move out 24 hours following this notice being posted.

If the tenant does not move, the sheriff or landlord can forcibly evict the tenant and padlock the door.

The padlock may be placed with or without the belongings inside.

Finally, the landlord may impose a lien on the belongings up to the amount of rent that’s due.

8. What must take place before an eviction?

Before a tenant can be evicted by a landlord, all of the following must take place.

bulletThe tenant must receive a written notice to vacate the premises.

bulletThe tenant must be served with legal paperwork.

This includes a summons and complaint.

This paperwork must be delivered by a sheriff or other authorized process server.

bulletThe tenant must be allowed to respond.

bulletThe court can grant or deny the eviction.

bulletA Writ of Possession is posted if the court grants the eviction.

9. What can landlords not do when evicting a tenant?

There are some ways that landlords cannot make you try to move out.

These include:

bulletShutting off your utilities (water, gas, electric)

bulletChanging or removing the locks on your home

bulletRemoving doors or windows

bulletTaking your personal property from your home

If any of these occur, call the police or your lawyer.

Often, landlords who use illegal eviction methods will face penalties and may even have to pay your rent.

In order for this to happen, you’ll have to take your landlord to court to win “damages.”

The court can also order your landlord to pay your attorney’s fees if you win.

Just note that the laws vary from state to state, so consult with a local attorney if you believe you have been illegally evicted.

10. Is eviction or ejectment the best way to remove an unwanted individual from my property?

Above, we mentioned the fact that in some states ejectment actions are often more difficult to win in court than eviction cases.

Does this mean you should only ever try to evict someone?

The simple answer is no.

The law regarding possession is not as clear as you may think, and it’s always wise to consult an attorney who is experienced in real estate law before you set out on removing an occupant from your land.

Final thoughts

If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’re probably familiar with the concept of eviction, its causes, and the outcome if you’re brought to court.

That said, not as many people are familiar with ejectment action.

While similar, there are some distinct differences.

If you’re a landowner looking to remove someone from your land, it’s worth doing research to see if this is an option in your specific scenario.

Would you like to receive weekly emails with our latest blog/properties?

Subscribe Now

Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


18 thoughts on “Ejectment Action vs. Eviction: 11 Things (2024) You Need To Know”

  1. If there is presently no active lease but landlord is allowing tenant to reside there until the lease agreement is complete can the tenant make an unwanted (no financial contribution) leave. I’m not seeing that concept addressed.

    • Hello Christine, thank you for your comment. I’m not a lawyer and the laws regulating landlord/tenant relationships vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney.

  2. I have a question, that I am hoping someone can help me with. I have been living with my fiancee, my son, and his parents & nephew at his parents property. We are waiting on a check for about $20,000.00 so that we can move out. However, I had sheriff’s come and tell me that I had to leave 12 days ago. I was never served with a complaint, judgment, or any paperwork at all until the day before I was “evicted ” according to the sign, but after doing further research, it was originally an ejectment and somehow turned into eviction. The process server is a friend of my fiancee and said that he never received any instructions to serve me, and his brother is the attorney who filed the paperwork. On the service sheet, it even states that there was not service and also where my name should be, it says Nationwide Insurance! What is the best way to fight this and have these actions removed, since I had no knowledge of any of the actions that took
    place? Thanks!

    • Hello George, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I would suggest speaking with a local real estate attorney to see if the eviction process was done legally.

  3. What about a mother left her 18 year old son with the step dad and using the son to try and hurt the step dad. How do you get them out of the house. In new york.

    • Hello Anna, I would recommend speaking with a local attorney.

  4. I am a homeowner in Alabama … one of my rental properties was purchased by another entity through a tax sale.

    2 questions

    1. How long do I have to attempt redemption?

    2. Can lawful ejectment proceed prior to this period ending?

    • Hello Gerald, I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney or the county treasurer as the answers to these questions vary from state to state.

  5. My father passed away without a will. He owned a house in New Jersey, no mortgage. His girlfriend has been living in the house for several years. She cannot afford to buy the house and will not vacate. She has been sent a notice to vacate. Should I file for an ejectment or eviction? Thank you.

    • Hello Noelle, unfortunately, since I am not a lawyer myself, I cannot answer this question as I would hate to give bad advice. I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney. Best of luck!

  6. If there is currently an ejectment trial set , can a landlord evict someone prior to the ejectment trial date . Or do they have to wait until the ejectment trial has completed?

    • Hello Bill, that is a good question. I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney.

  7. does an extended stay hotel residing 5 months have the same rules as a apt with a lease?

    • Hello Christina, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this question. I would recommend contacting a real estate attorney that is local to the property in question.

  8. Thank you very much for your response, I do appreciate your time.. I can’t afford to consult a real estate attorney. And unfortunately none will speak to me without paying them first

    • I’m very sorry to hear that Bill. I’m afraid I’m not a lawyer so I really cannot give out legal advice; however, I do often run across law firms that will offer a 30-minute consultation for free. There are also legal aid organizations that offer pro bono services. Perhaps try calling your local bar to see if they can recommend a few such organizations?

  9. i am in a situation where i inherited a property with a mortgage from my husband who passed. He was renting the rooms out on this property. their are 7 adults and 2 children residing there. They all decided to stop paying rent 7 months ago. They do not have written leases. I am trying to sell the property now. The tenants have changed the locks on the property. They refuse to let potential buyers in the house to do a walk through. So basically they are all squatting in my home. The property is going into foreclosure. My lawyer suggests i do an ejectment in this situation. I am not asking for professional advice. i am asking you how you would go about this situation, eviction or ejectment? I see how you answer everyone else. i do consult with my lawyer. Its just afyer doing some research on the situation im not quite sure if i should do the ejectment or ann eviction….im conflicted and just was wondering what you might have done in this kind of situation and why. Not that im taking it as legal advice at all. just asking for your personal opinion on the matter. Your response will not effect my case in any way. Thank you for your time.

    • Hello Laura, unfortunately, I cannot give legal advice since I am not a lawyer. On top of this, different states have different criteria for evictions vs. ejectment actions. I wish I could be of more help, but the best I can offer is to go with your lawyer’s suggestion.


Leave a Comment