If a tenant fails to pay rent, breaches a term of the lease, commits waste, or if any other “good cause” exists, the landlord may seek to evict the tenant from the leased premises. State law eviction proceedings vary in their particulars. The eviction proceeding may be called a summary dispossess action, or an unlawful detainer action.

Usually the landlord must give the tenant a notice to quit before initiating an eviction proceeding. If the rent remains unpaid (or other situations are not remedied), and the tenant remains after the expiration of the period provided in the notice to quit, the landlord may file the action. The tenant is then served with a form of summons and complaint. A hearing is usually held in these types of actions within a very short time (14 days).

At the hearing in an eviction action, the tenant may present any appropriate defenses such as a mistake in the accounting for the rent, or the right to deduct rent because of the condition of the premises. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant is usually given a short period of time to move out before forcible proceedings take place.

Most states have special restrictions on eviction that apply only to residential leases. Typically these restrictions must be met very precisely before the landlord is permitted to evict a tenant.