The Wyoming eviction process is governed by state statute and follows the standard landlord-tenant laws found in most states. Wyoming landlords do have the choice of following the provisions of the state’s Forced Entry and Detainer Act (FED) or filing an action in ejectment, breach of contract suit or for a violation of the Wyoming Residential Rental Property Act, though these suits are more complicated and more costly. In comparison, the FED is much simpler, involves fewer costs and potential legal fees, and only concerns the issue of who is entitled to possession.
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A landlord cannot enter a rental unit at any time without first giving reasonable notice. It also has to be for a valid reason such as to make repairs. The landlord may not remove the tenant’s possessions, change locks, threaten the tenant, shut off utilities or engage in any other activity to remove the tenant from the premises without a court order.
Although many lease agreements provide that a landlord may terminate a lease for any reason once the lease term has expired, he or she cannot act to remove a tenant for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for a valid or legal act by the tenant if the rental term has not expired. A discriminatory reason may include the following:
- National origin
Reasons for Eviction
Most evictions are for nonpayment of rent, but a landlord may seek to terminate a lease based on a violation of the rental agreement including the following:
- Unauthorized persons living on the property
- Unauthorized animals or pets
- Substantial damage to the property
- Unauthorized sublease
- Engaging in activity that endangers the health or safety of other tenants
- Engaging in criminal activity on the premises
- Failure to keep the unit or property in a clean and safe condition including disposal of garbage
Notice to Quit
The Wyoming eviction process begins with a 3-Day Notice to Quit, also referred to as a Wyoming Eviction Notice. This means that the tenant must pay the rent due within the time specified or if the eviction is for some other lease violation, to vacate the property. The tenant does not have to leave in 3 days but if he or she does not vacate the unit or pay the owed rent within this time, the landlord will have to initiate a court action to obtain a court order for possession.
A tenant can also halt any further legal action if he or she pays the rent before the landlord files in court a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action or any other suit to gain possession, even if the payment is made more than three (3) days after the Notice has been posted or served.
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Service of Notice
The Wyoming eviction process allows the Notice to Quit to be served either personally on the tenant at the property or at the tenant’s place of business, or by leaving it with a subtenant at the property who is at least 14 years of age.
Forcible Entry and Detainer Action
If the tenant fails to leave or does not pay the rent due after 3 days or other agreed upon date, the landlord can file a Summons and Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer. The Summons will contain the date and time of the hearing or trial and must be served like any other suit. In this case, however, the service on the tenant cannot be less than 3 days nor more than 12 days after the court issues the Summons. Since trials on FED actions are held within 2 weeks of issuance of the Summons, the landlord must act quickly and effectively to serve the tenant in time. If the landlord misses the deadline, an Alias Summons can be issued with a new court date.
The tenant also must serve and file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint if he or she wishes to present any evidence at the trial, though the tenant may cross-examine any of the landlord’s witnesses whether an Answer is filed or not.
The law in the Wyoming eviction process does permit the Summons to be posted on the unit door if valid attempts to personally serve the tenant or subtenant have failed. This method of service should be one of last resort since it is not favored by the courts, which will not allow such service unless there is a substantial showing that attempts to personally serve the tenant have failed. If the court does allow service by posting and the tenant fails to appear at the eviction trial, the landlord will not be permitted to obtain a money judgment against the tenant though the order to evict can be obtained.
A trial for possession of the property is held before a judge only. Regardless if the tenant appears or not, the landlord still must present sufficient proof that the tenant has either failed to pay the rent on time or has violated some provision of the lease for which it may be terminated.
If the tenant filed an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, he or she can present evidence that the lease was not violated or that the facts as stated by the landlord are incorrect, or that the eviction was for an unlawful discriminatory purpose. Another defense is that the eviction is in retaliation for the tenant filing a claim against the landlord or for exercising some other valid right.
Other defenses in the Wyoming eviction process could include the landlord’s failure to provide a safe and clean unit in violation of the implied covenant of habitability. This could include failure to provide hot and cold running water, not remedying a defective plumbing system, not providing heat or allowing rats to invade the unit. The tenant should produce at trial copies of written requests to the landlord to remedy any of these conditions along with evidence that the conditions continue to exist.
Writ of Restitution
In cases where the landlord proves his or her case, the court will make an Order of Restitution and if requested by the landlord, a Writ of Restitution. The Writ can be issued the same day or up to 30-days after the court order is issued. A tenant who attends the trial can request that the Writ not be issued for up to 30-days if there is sufficient reason such as having substantial personal property that must be moved or that a new school for the tenant’s children may have to be found as well as another place to live. If the tenant does not appear, the court can issue the Writ the same day as the judgment.
Once the Writ is issued, the landlord must give it to the sheriff to execute within 2 days of receiving it. The Writ is used to show the tenant that he or she must immediately vacate the property. The landlord can appear with the sheriff at the unit along with a locksmith, if needed or desired, but the tenant must at least be given a short time to vacate.
Disposal of Personal Property
Should the tenant leave any personal belongings behind, the landlord must first serve written notice to the tenant that describes the property abandoned and that it will be disposed of within 7 days. If the tenant does respond within 7 days and asks for return of the property, the landlord must allow the tenant an additional 7 days to retrieve it after the written response is received. The property may be kept at a storage facility and all fees must be paid for by the tenant as well as for the cost of moving it out of the rental unit. If the property is not retrieved or the tenant cannot or does not pay the storage and removal fees within the allotted time, the landlord may legally dispose of or retain the property.