Landlords in North Dakota can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in North Dakota.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 30, 2021
It’s tough to deal with an eviction. Your home is at risk, and you may believe there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Fortunately, North Dakota law protects renters when they go through evictions. This article explains North Dakota’s eviction laws and how you can use them to defend yourself. If you’re a renter in North Dakota dealing with the threat of eviction because you owe rent or your lease is expiring, this article is for you.
What Is Eviction?
A landlord uses an eviction to make a tenant leave their property. Before your landlord can evict you, they need to give you an eviction notice that explains why they want you out. They must often also give you a certain number of days to resolve the issue. If you don’t solve the problem by the time the eviction notice expires, then your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit to get a court order to force you out of the property.
If your landlord makes you leave without a court order, they have violated the law and have engaged in an illegal eviction, sometimes called an illegal lockout.
North Dakota has four main types of evictions, which will be explained below.
Who Can Be Evicted in North Dakota?
You can be evicted if you have a landlord-tenant relationship. A tenant is someone who rents property through an agreement with the property owner. If someone lives with you, they can also face eviction, even if they aren’t on the rental agreement.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in North Dakota?
There are four main reasons you can face eviction in North Dakota:
You have unpaid rent. This could mean you haven’t paid the full amount, you’re late paying rent, or you haven’t paid any rent.
You’ve violated the lease in some way other than the nonpayment of rent, like having a pet that isn’t allowed.
Your lease has expired and won’t be renewed or extended.
Your landlord is selling the rental property.
The eviction process generally works the same regardless of the reason for the eviction. The main difference is how much notice your landlord must give you before they seek legal action.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
If you owe any rent that is three days or more past due, you’re at risk of eviction. After the rent is three or more days past due, the landlord needs to give you a three-day notice to pay the rent or vacate.
Lease Expiration or Termination
Landlords can pursue an eviction if your lease expires or if they decide to terminate it. In both situations, the landlord is basically stating that you don’t have the right to stay in the rental unit, even if you’ve paid all of your rent. They must first give you notice, and the amount of notice depends on the term of your tenancy.
For a month-to-month lease, the landlord needs to give you a 30-day notice. If you don’t move out by the end of the notice period, your landlord can pursue an eviction.
For all other leases, the landlord either has to give you 30 days’ notice or the amount of time between payment due dates, whichever is less. If you signed a yearlong lease, this is typically 30 days if your rent is due each month. If you’re on a week-to-week lease, then they would only need to give you one week’s notice from the end of the lease.
Your landlord can also end the lease if you violate a term of the lease agreement. This is called lease termination. For any violation other than the nonpayment of rent, the landlord only needs to give you three days’ notice to leave if you violate the lease in a way that allows them to terminate it. They don’t need to provide an opportunity for you to cure the violation, which means addressing the issue.
The North Dakota Eviction Process
This section provides an overview of how eviction proceedings work under North Dakota law.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
To file an eviction lawsuit, the landlords need to provide the tenant with a written notice that explains the amount of time they have until they need to leave and whether they can cure the problem.
For nonpayment of rent that is more than three days late, the landlord needs to give you a 3-day notice to pay the rent you owe or leave.
When a tenant fails to abide by the lease, the landlord only needs to give three days’ notice, with no right to cure.
If the unit is sold, the landlord only needs to give the tenant three days’ notice.
If the lease is expiring, the landlord must give either 30 days’ notice or the amount of time between payment due dates, whichever is less.
When the lease is month-to-month, the landlord needs to provide 30 days’ notice.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
Once the notice expires, the landlord can go to court to request a detainer warrant. Through this, your landlord can serve you with a summons, which will have the court date. A sheriff or any other person over 18 who’s not involved in the eviction case can serve the summons by personally delivering it to the renter at least three days before the eviction hearing. Some landlords use a process server to deliver the summons.
If the server can’t locate the tenant, then the landlord needs to file an affidavit with the court and mail it to the tenant’s last known address. The affidavit will include a sworn statement from your landlord that explains why they want to evict you and how the reason meets the legal requirements for eviction. Additionally, someone needs to post the summons on the door of the property at least seven days before the court date.
If you receive a summons as a tenant, you need to file an answer. This involves filling out forms through the court and indicating what defenses you’re raising. Defenses allow you to contest the eviction. You can also put forth counterclaims, which are reasons your landlord owes you money.
You should fill out an answer and attend the court hearing. If you fail to do either, the landlord could win a default judgment. This means the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit because you didn’t file an answer or show up in court.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
When you provide an answer, you can defend yourself by raising affirmative defense and counterclaims. Bring evidence to the proceeding that supports your answer. Affirmative defenses are responses that you provide to describe why you shouldn’t be evicted, including:
Your rental unit has safety violations.
The landlord is discriminating against you.
You didn’t receive the required notice.
The landlord’s claims are inaccurate.
You’re being evicted because you complained to the landlord about your property.
If you’re successful in raising a defense, you may be able to stop the eviction.
You also can bring a counterclaim, where you file a suit for damages. Winning a counterclaim won’t prevent the eviction. But you can gain money or reduce how much money you owe the landlord. Usually, these claims involve issues with the payment of rent.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If the landlord wins, the court will decide when to issue a judgment, which is also known as a writ of assistance, a writ of eviction, or a writ of possession. The judge may decide to issue a judgment at the hearing or several days later. The judgment tells the tenant how many days they have to leave. It’s up to the judge to decide on the time period. If moving out within this timeline creates too much strain for you then you can request a five day delay through the court.
If you want to appeal an eviction, you must file the appeal within five days of the judgment. The court can help you find the necessary forms you’ll need to file and tell you where to file them. In the appeal, you’ll have to describe why you believe the ruling was incorrect and how the court’s error proves you shouldn’t face an eviction.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in North Dakota
Eviction can be stressful, but there are some practical steps you can take to help you avoid eviction or prepare the best possible defense.
Gather evidence that backs up your claims about the property. This may include documents that verify rent paid or photos and videos showing the condition of the property. It’s also a good idea to have a municipal building inspector provide a formal report on the state of the property.
If you can’t attend the court date, you should contact the court and ask if they can reschedule the hearing. If they can’t, then ask if and how it’s possible to stop a default judgment.
If you pay the rent to stop an eviction, make sure you have a record that verifies the payment.
Stay in constant contact with your landlord through your tenancy and take care of issues when they emerge. This can prevent an eviction. Having an eviction on your record will make it tough to rent in the future, so you want to prevent this if at all possible.
Similarly, if you’re being evicted, try to negotiate with your landlord or their attorney to stop the eviction. The landlord might drop the lawsuit if you agree to vacate within a certain time. If you come to an agreement, be sure to get it in writing and that both you and the landlord sign it.
If you need help with your eviction case, consider contacting a tenant’s rights attorney for legal advice.