The eviction process can differ from county to county, but they more or less are the same:
- Send a clear written notice
- Fill out the forms
- Serve the documents
- Attend the trial
- Wait for judgment
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant, especially the history of rent payments.
Filing an eviction takes time and patience. Going to court may be a long and tedious experience for landlords who handle multiple properties.
Most landlords are advised to try to work things out with a tenant outside court. It is only in extreme cases when a landlord resorts to filing for official eviction proceedings.
This article details a summary for a landlord to refer to when evicting a tenant. Alternatively, a landlord can ask an attorney for legal advice if they have any questions on landlord-tenant rights or the Vermont statutes.
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Now, let’s dive in.
An eviction notice is usually a form that is filled out by the landlord that details their violation and whether or not a tenant can fix the issue. Another term for an eviction notice is a written notice of termination.
The notice must contain the termination date so that tenants know how long their notice period is. The notice period depends on the reason for the eviction. The eviction notice is important because, without it, the tenants may easily win the case.
No matter the reason for eviction, the landlord cannot do a self-help eviction, which is an illegal form of eviction that is considered disorderly conduct on the part of the landlord.
The reason for eviction can range from failure to pay rent to violation of the lease terms, both of which require a Notice to Cease, as well as the charge for disorderly conduct.
Below are the basic rules and regulations when it comes to evicting a tenant in Vermont.
1. Failure to pay rent or nonpayment of rent
The most common reason to begin an eviction process is the failure to make a timely rent payment. A landlord can evict a tenant for failing to pay the rent due.
Rent is considered late in Vermont a day past its due. However, a grace period that gives more time to allow the tenant to pay rent due may be available if indicated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before a landlord can start with the eviction action for non-payment of rent, the landlord must provide the tenant a written notice called a 14-Days' Notice to Pay. This written notice of termination informs the renters that they are required to move out of the property or pay the rent due in 14 days in order to avoid eviction.
If tenants who are being evicted for failing to pay rent on time manage to pay all rental payments in full to the landlord before the 14 days are up, the entire eviction process stops, and they can continue staying within the rental premises.
2. Rental property is to be sold
Sometimes, a buyer may take an interest in the rental property but not wish for it to be rented out.
In this case, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-Days' Notice to Quit. The written notice must indicate that the property is up for sale. Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 30 days, then the landlord may continue to file for an eviction lawsuit.
3. Violation of the written rental agreement
A written rental agreement or lease can vary between tenants. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times.
The landlord can evict the tenant for a lease violation. The landlord must provide the tenant a 30-Day Notice to Quit, which gives the tenant 30 days to vacate the property.
Lease violations include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Material health/safety violations
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental premises, etc.
Landlords are not legally obligated to allow the tenant time to resolve the issue. The landlord may continue filing for an eviction lawsuit if the tenant fails to remain inside the rental unit after the given notice period.
4. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity on the rental premises, the landlord must give them a written notice of 14 days to move out of the property.
Examples of illegal activity include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal activity, illegal drug activity, and the like
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
- Violence that threatens the health and safety of other people residing within the rental property
Should the tenant remain on the rental premises after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue filing for an eviction case.
5. Non-renewal of lease after the end of the rental period
A Vermont eviction process does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
However, a tenant can be evicted if they stay in the property even a day after their written lease ends (and have not arranged for a renewal).
This type of eviction notice usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease. The required notice time given to a tenant depends on their tenancy type and whether they have a written lease or not. The tenancy is measured by two years.
In case there is no written lease, Vermont state law dictates that the notices below are observed:
Should the tenant remain in the rental premises even after their termination date, the landlord may continue to file for eviction proceedings in order to evict the tenant from the rental unit.
For your own Vermont lease agreement, visit DoorLoop's Forms Page to download a template along with many other forms.
Filing a Complaint
After the notice period has passed, the landlord may file a complaint within 60 days from the date the eviction notice expired. Successful evictions rely on correct filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the Superior court the rental property belongs to
- Fill out the forms
- Pay the filing costs. In Vermont, this costs $295 statewide.
It takes between 7-90 days before a landlord can file a complaint, depending on the reason for the eviction process. A landlord must file a complaint within 60 days after the eviction notice expires.
<table style="width:100%"><tr><th>Lease Agreement / Type of Tenancy</th><th>Eviction Notice to Receive</th></tr><tr><td>Weekly</td><td>7-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr><tr><td>Monthly tenancy, tenant has resided in the unit less than two years</td><td>30-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr><tr><td>Monthly tenancy, tenant has resided in the unit less than two years</td><td>60-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr></table>
Notice to Comply
Before filing for an eviction with the court, you need to issue the tenant a notice to comply. You can either download the free PDF or Word template, or create your Vermont eviction notice from here using a step-by-step wizard that guides you through the entire process to make sure you are submitting the legally correct notice.
Keep in mind, the step-by-step wizard will ask you to pay a small fee at the end - it's a small price to pay to ensure legal compliance and protection. The last thing you want is to go to court only to find out you did the first process incorrect.
Serving the Tenant
The Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant. The landlord must not serve this document themselves. The document should contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
Vermont allows a professional process server, constable, sheriff, or deputy to serve the document. It has to be delivered within 60 days after the complaint was filed in court.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The summons and its corresponding documents have to be served through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Summons and Complaint is served to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: A copy of the documents may be left at the tenant's place of residence or rental unit with someone who lives with them.
- Posting & Mailing Service: A copy of the Summons and Complaint is left in a secure and visible position by the entrance to the tenant’s rented property.
- Publishing Service: The server acquires another court order to publish the Summons and Complaint in the local newspaper.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant must file an answer to the court explaining why they disagree with the landlord’s claims. They have 21 days to respond to the Summons and other court papers.
Even if the tenant was able to file an answer, they still have to attend the court hearing.
The Summons and Complaint must be served within 60 days after it was issued by the court. The tenant must file a reply within 21 days after receiving it.
<table style="width:100%"><tr><th>Lease Agreement / Type of Tenancy</th><th>Eviction Notice to Receive</th></tr><tr><td>Weekly tenancy</td><td>21-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr><tr><td>Monthly tenancy, tenant has resided in the unit less than two years</td><td>60-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr><tr><td>Monthly tenancy, tenant has resided in the unit less than two years</td><td>90-Day Notice to Quit</td></tr></table>
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
A landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenant in order to win. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord may win by default.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
During the court hearing, the landlord has to support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited by the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
In cases of nonpayment of rent, the landlord can file a motion that tells the tenant they must pay overdue rent. A Rent Escrow Hearing is then scheduled so that the court can determine the amount to be paid and how often the tenant will have to pay it.
There is no specific timeframe for the court to schedule an eviction hearing. It could be scheduled after the landlord files the Summons or after the tenant files an answer.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Possession
Once the landlord wins the case and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Possession immediately after the judge rules in favor of the landlord.
The Writ of Possession is a court order which informs the tenant that they must move out of their housing on the property or else they will be forcibly evicted. If the tenant fails to do so, they will be forcibly evicted.
In cases of failure to pay timely rent, the tenant can stop the entire eviction process if they manage to pay all past dues before the law enforcement officials deliver the Writ to them.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process is to move the tenant out of their housing on the property. Vermont laws dictate a tenant has 14 days once the Writ of Possession is posted or delivered to them to vacate the property.
In cases involving illegal subleasing of the property, the tenant has 5 days to vacate the rental premises once the Writ is posted. In cases involving nonpayment of rent wherein the tenant misses a Rent Escrow payment, the tenant will also have only 5 days to vacate the property.
The Writ of Possession is issued immediately after the court rules in favor of the landlord, giving the tenant 5-14 days to vacate the property once it is posted.
Vermont Eviction Process Timeline
<table style="width:100%"><tr><th>Steps of the Eviction Process</th><th>Average Timeline</th></tr><tr><td>Issuing an Official Notice</td><td>7-90 days </td></tr><tr><td>Issuance and Service of Summons and Complaint</td><td>60 days </td></tr><tr><td>Court Hearing and Judgment</td><td>A few days to a few weeks</td></tr><tr><td>Tenant Files an Answer</td><td>21 days</td></tr><tr><td>Issuance of Writ of Execution</td><td>Immediately</td></tr><tr><td>Return of Rental Unit</td><td>5-14 days</td></tr></table>
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This could get more difficult to search through as it increases in size, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or anything else that you can easily search through.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payments is important to show in this part of the eviction process.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc.…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge so that it can be included in the evidence against the tenant. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, you can be confident that you will normally win the case.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too, as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it may not have to be specifically specified in the agreement. As a good practice, though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can you kick someone out without an eviction notice in Vermont?
No. A landlord can be sued for forceful evictions. Consequences can include being sued for court costs and attorneys’ fees as well as damages, which will be determined by the court.
The same also applies should the court discover that the tenant filed a lawsuit to harass the landlord.
Can a tenant be evicted in the winter in Vermont?
Yes, a tenant can be evicted in the winter in Vermont as long as the reason for eviction is valid and the landlord follows the correct eviction process.
What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Many states specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. Some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees in the event of the tenant winning the court case and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.
What other laws should I be aware of?
A landlord must be aware of an update regarding COVID-19 Eviction Policies. There may be a strong COVID-19 assistance response from the government that is offering an eviction moratorium or rent relief efforts for tenants who are struggling financially.
Landlords must also check out information about laws on Security Deposits so that they understand how it can help them in case a tenant is unable to pay for rent or repairs.
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to Vermont Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees or give the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.