There are numerous reasons for a landlord to begin the North Dakota eviction process against a tenant. The most common reason is for nonpayment of rent but others include a tenant who has violated a material provision of the lease. These include the following:
- Conduct that substantially interferes with the rights of other tenants to enjoyment of their units or apartments
- Unreported pets
- Unauthorized persons living in the unit
- Unlawful activity on the premises
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A landlord may not take action outside of the judicial process to legally evict a tenant for any reason, no matter if the tenant is engaged in unlawful conduct or has not paid the rent for months. Intimidating or threatening the tenant, locking him or her out, shutting off utilities or physically removing the tenant’s personal possessions are illegal and can subject the landlord to substantial civil damages as well as criminal liability.
A tenant can be evicted during the winter months for nonpayment of rent or for other material violations of the lease agreement.
Landlord and Tenant Obligations
Landlords have an obligation to adhere to housing codes and to maintain their leased units in a safe and habitable condition, to provide smoke detectors, functional plumbing and other systems, and to keep common areas clean and safe.
Tenants must use the facilities in a safe and reasonable manner, to not disturb other tenants, to remove garbage and to comply with the lease provisions and all state and federal laws.
3-Day Notice of Intention to Evict
For nonpayment of rent or for any other of the above lease violations, the landlord must serve a North Dakota Eviction Notice called a 3-Day Notice of Intention to Evict. The notice must be served by the sheriff or process server on the tenant or be left in a conspicuous location such as being posted on the door.
The notice must state that the tenant is permitted 3 days to pay the rent, remove the pet or the unauthorized persons from the premises or to cure any other specific lease provision being violated. The landlord may include a provision that a pet may be permitted if an additional damage deposit is paid within the 3 days.
This notice is not a legal requirement that the tenant move within 3 days since only a court order can force the tenant to vacate.
30-Day Notice to Vacate
If there is no written lease, or the lease term has expired or it has become a month-to-month lease, the landlord must serve a 30-day notice to evict the tenant. No reason for the eviction may be given in this instance.
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Summons and Complaint in Unlawful Detainer
After the 3 days or 30 days has passed and the tenant has either not moved out or has not cured the lease violation, the landlord can proceed to the next step in the North Dakota eviction process by filing and serving a Summons and Complaint in Unlawful Detainer.
The summons contains the time and date for the parties to appear at a court hearing, usually scheduled between 3-15 days after service of the Summons and Complaint.
Service can only be made by a process server or sheriff. If the tenant cannot be served personally, then the process server must sign an affidavit attesting that at least one attempt has been made between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and that a copy of the Summons and Complaint has been mailed to the tenant’s last known address and posted on the rental unit’s door.
The hearing on the unlawful detainer is held before a judge only. The landlord has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the tenant violated a material provision in the lease or has not paid the rent on time.
A tenant may offer any number of defenses including the following:
- Landlord’s violation of warranty of habitability despite given notice and a reasonable time to repair or remedy the condition.
- Retaliatory eviction for tenant exercising a right such as filing a claim with an agency or joining a tenant’s rights union.
- The eviction is for a discriminatory purpose such as national origin, pregnancy, disability, sex or sexual orientation.
- Insufficient notice or service was given.
- No lease violation has occurred.
- The rent was unlawfully increased.
A landlord may be forced to allow a tenant to be released from any further obligations under the lease if the unit has been substantially damaged by something not caused by the tenant and the unit is unlivable.
Writ of Restitution
If the landlord prevails in the North Dakota eviction process hearing, the court will issue a judgment granting possession to the landlord and directing the tenant when to vacate the property but which must not be more than 5 days.
Should the tenant remain past the ordered date to vacate, the landlord can obtain a Writ of Restitution to be given to the sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant. Any personal possessions that the tenant has not removed must be stored for 30-days by the landlord to enable the tenant to reclaim. All storage charges must be paid by the tenant.
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