The Vermont eviction process begins when a tenant fails to pay the rent, has breached a material provision in the rental agreement, engaged in serious criminal behavior or is asked to leave by the landlord if there is no written agreement and the lease period has expired. For any of these reasons, the landlord must first serve a written notice to vacate.
Vermont Eviction Notice – 14-Day Notice to Quit
Should the tenant fail to pay the rent or has only paid a portion, the landlord must serve a 14-Day Notice To Quit or Notice of Termination of Tenancy that states that the lease will expire 14-days from receipt of the notice. The landlord may serve the written notice personally without need of a process server or the sheriff. If the tenant is absent, the notice can be mailed to the tenant’s last-known address. There is a rebuttable presumption that actual notice was received 3-days after mailing by proof of certified or first-class mail.
The notice also must advise the tenant that the lease can remain in force if the entire rent due is paid within the 14-days.
The 14-Day Notice is also used if the tenant has committed a criminal offense that has affected the safety or health of other tenants. This could include any crime of violence, sexual misconduct or a drug offense.
30-Day Notice to Quit
If the eviction is based on the tenant’s violation of some other provision of the lease, such as failing to keep the unit in a clean and habitable condition, denying access to the landlord, having unauthorized persons living in the unit, or significantly damaging the property, then a 30-day notice is given to the tenant to vacate. This notice may be either hand-delivered to the tenant by the landlord or mailed. It must state that the tenant has 30-days from receipt of the notice to leave or to cure the violation. It must also state the lease provision that has been violated and if it can be cured.
60 or 90-Day Notice to Quit
If the tenant and landlord have no written agreement or the lease term has expired, the landlord must give the tenant a 60-day notice to vacate from the date of the notice’s receipt if the tenant has lived on the property for 2-years or less. The notice must be for 90-days if the tenant has resided in the unit for more than 2-years.
For tenants who live in Burlington, the notice requirement is 120-days if the tenancy has been for more than 2-years, and 90-days if 2 years or less.
Tenants who have been paying on a weekly basis are given 21-days to vacate. In all of these cases, the landlord need not give any reason for the eviction.
Summons and Complaint for Eviction or Ejectment
Once the notice period has expired, it is time to see if the tenant complied. Has the tenant not cured the violation? Or has the tenant not moved out? Or has the tenant not vacated where the lease term has expired? If the tenant has not complied with the Landlord’s demand, then the next step in the Vermont eviction process is for the landlord to file and serve a Summons and Complaint for Eviction. This is also called an action in “ejectment.” The court action can also include a request for the tenant to pay rent arrearages.
The Summons and Complaint can only be served by the sheriff, law enforcement officer or constable. Once served, the tenant has 20-days to file an Answer or he or she will be in default and the court will grant a Default Judgment to the landlord ordering the tenant to leave and to pay any rent due along with court costs.
The tenant must file a written, formal response. An email, letter or hastily scrawled note will not suffice. If the tenant files an Answer, the court will send to the parties a notice of the time and date of the trial or Merits Hearing.
Vermont Eviction Includes a Rent Escrow Hearing
A unique feature of the Vermont eviction process is the Rent Escrow Hearing. The landlord can request that the court order a tenant to pay to the court any rent due as well as future rent that will be owed before the eviction case is resolved. In this case, the tenant deposits the rent on a monthly basis with the court clerk. To facilitate this process, the landlord must mail written notice of the request for the Rent Escrow to the tenant or tenant’s attorney. A date and time of the Escrow Hearing will be sent to each party.
The tenant can request within 10-days of receiving the request for the escrow that he or she deposit half the rent due on the first of the month and the remainder on the 16th day.
If the date of the Rent Escrow Hearing is before expiration of the 20-day period to respond to the complaint or if no default judgment has been entered, the tenant can request a 10-day extension to file an Answer.
A benefit of this proceeding to the landlord is that he or she is guaranteed the overdue rent from the court if the eviction judgment is in the landlord’s favor. Also, if the tenant defaults on the monthly rent deposit, the landlord can immediately ask for a Writ of Possession within 10 days in some cases and have the tenant removed.
Motion for Summary Judgment
Another tactic that a landlord can use in the Vermont eviction process is to file a Motion for Summary Judgment after the tenant has filed an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. This is a motion that alleges that no material fact is in dispute and that the tenant must vacate the premises as a matter of law. If the tenant does not respond to the motion within 30-days, the court can grant judgment in favor of the tenant without need of a trial.
The eviction trial in Vermont is called a “Merits Hearing.” It is a court trial where both sides may present evidence and witnesses.
Possible defenses by the tenant include a failure of the landlord to provide a unit or apartment in a habitable condition. This means essential services, sewage and waste disposal, hot and cold running water and means the unit is clean and fit for habitation. A tenant, after giving written notice to the landlord to make needed repairs within a reasonable time, may withhold rent if the landlord has failed to provide the repairs or deliver the unit in a habitable condition.
Another defense is retaliatory eviction, or trying to force the tenant out after he or she has complained of the landlord’s failure to keep the property habitable or the tenant has joined a tenant’s union. It is also unlawful to evict someone for a discriminatory reason such as the tenant’s marital status, pregnancy, disability, creed, race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
At any time before a judgment is entered, the tenant can stop the eviction or defeat the ejectment action for nonpayment of rent by tendering the entire amount due along with the filing fee and service fees incurred by the landlord. The tenant is only permitted to do this once in a 12-month period.
Writ of Possession
A judgment in favor of the landlord results in an order to the tenant to vacate. The sheriff will serve the Writ on the tenant, which gives him or her 10 business days to vacate from the time of service or the sheriff will forcibly remove the tenant.