Eviction Laws and Tenant Rights in Wyoming
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Landlords in Wyoming 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 Wyoming.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 27, 2021
This article outlines the basic process for residential evictions in Wyoming. We’ll explain tenants’ and renters’ legal rights and protections in Wyoming and what landlords need to do to lawfully evict tenants. You’ll find this article extra useful if your landlord is trying to evict you because you’re behind on rent or your lease is about to end.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is a legal process where a landlord removes a renter or tenant from a rental property like an apartment or home. But the landlord can’t just use any method to evict a tenant. Instead, they must follow the requirements set out by Wyoming state laws. This includes giving certain notices and getting a court order prior to evicting. If the landlord doesn’t follow the law, they risk conducting an illegal eviction.
Who Can Be Evicted in Wyoming?
The eviction process can be used when there’s a landlord-tenant relationship. Such a relationship exists when the landlord and renter make an agreement. The tenant agrees to pay rent in return for the legal right to live on the landowner’s property. Often, this agreement is made with a written lease agreement or rental contract.
Sometimes, non-tenants can get evicted. But this usually only happens when the non-tenant is someone living with the tenant during the eviction proceeding.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Wyoming?
If a Wyoming landlord wants to evict a tenant, they usually need a reason to do so. The most common three reasons for evicting a tenant are:
Being late, behind, or short on rent.
Breaching one or more provisions in the lease, besides the requirement to pay rent.
Continuing to live at the rental property after the lease term has expired or the lease has been terminated.
For the most part, the eviction process is the same regardless of the reason the landlord uses to evict the tenant.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
Wyoming law provides a three-day grace period for rent payments. So if a tenant’s rent is due on the first of the month, they have until the fourth of the month to make the payment before the landlord can begin an eviction proceeding for unpaid rent.
Lease Expiration or Termination
When a lease ends, the tenant must leave the property or face eviction. A lease can end because its term ends (it expires) or something happens that allows the landlord to terminate the lease ahead of schedule.
A lease can expire even if the tenant hasn’t violated the lease and can continue paying rent. If a lease expires and the landlord decides not to renew or extend it, the tenant must move out or face eviction.
A lease can also be terminated early. This often happens when the tenant violates a term in the lease. This gives the landlord the right to end the lease and order the tenant to move out. If they don’t, the landlord may use the eviction process to get them to leave.
The Wyoming Eviction Process
The following is a basic overview of residential evictions in Wyoming.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Before starting an eviction lawsuit in court, the landlord must first give the tenant a written eviction notice. This 3-day notice gives the tenant written notice to move out or get sued by the landlord in an eviction lawsuit. Generally speaking, the tenant only gets a 3-day eviction notice, regardless of the reason for the eviction. By law, the landlord doesn’t have to give the tenant an opportunity to cure or address the reason for the eviction. But some landlords will allow the tenant to cure the reason for the eviction during these three days. In the case of nonpayment of rent, for example, if the landlord wanted to give the tenant an extra week to come up with unpaid rent, they could do so.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
The legal eviction process (sometimes called a forcible entry or detainer action) starts with the landlord filing a complaint in circuit court. The complaint lists the reasons for the eviction and what the landlord wants (the tenant to be evicted).
After the landlord files a complaint with the court, the court issues a document called a summons. This briefly explains why the tenant is being sued and the time, location, and place for the eviction hearing. If the tenant needs to reschedule the court hearing, they usually can by requesting a continuance. But if the continuance is longer than two days, the tenant may be required to make a monetary deposit to the court called a bond payment. This deposit prevents the tenant from getting free rent and ensures the landlord receives full financial compensation if they successfully evict the tenant.
A copy of the complaint and summons must be served on the tenant. This can be done by a sheriff’s deputy, deputy U.S. marshal, or anyone 18 years of age or older that’s not part of the eviction lawsuit. The landlord may have the tenant served with the complaint and summons in one of the following ways:
Hand-delivering a copy to the tenant
Leaving a copy with someone 14 years of age or older who lives with the tenant.
Leaving a copy with one of the tenant’s employees at the tenant’s place of business.
Giving a copy to an agent that’s authorized to receive service of process, such as the tenant’s attorney.
Service must be completed at least three days before the eviction hearing (but no more than 12 days).
If the tenant wishes, they can file an answer in response to the complaint. This gives the tenant a chance to set out any defenses they plan on raising at the eviction hearing. If the tenant decides not to file an answer, they still need to show up at the hearing to prevent the court from entering a default judgment against them. A default judgment means the landlord will win the eviction hearing automatically, simply because the tenant didn’t show up in court.
At the eviction hearing, the landlord will begin by explaining why they feel the tenant should be evicted. The landlord will also present evidence to support these claims. The tenant may respond with any affirmative defenses or counterclaims. After each side presents their arguments, the judge will make a decision. If either side wants a jury to decide the eviction case, they should make the request before the eviction hearing. The tenant can usually do this when they file an answer to the landlord’s complaint.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
If you have any defenses to the eviction, they’ll usually take the form of either an affirmative defense or a counterclaim. An affirmative defense is a defense that relates to the reasons the landlord is trying to evict you. These are also defenses you must raise on your own (the judge won’t do it for you). An example of an affirmative defense might be that you paid your rent in full and on time, but your landlord didn’t properly apply it to your account. You could establish this affirmative defense by showing a copy of a canceled check that the landlord endorsed and deposited into their bank account.
Another type of defense is a counterclaim. This is a legal claim that’s separate from eviction. This means that if you successfully prove your counterclaim, it’s still possible for the landlord to evict you. A potential counterclaim might involve your landlord engaging in self-help to evict you. An attempt to remove you from the property using a self-help eviction method (like changing the locks) is illegal. If you succeed in proving this counterclaim, you could be entitled to monetary damages from the landlord.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If the landlord wins the eviction trial, they’ll ask the court to issue a writ of restitution. This will legally authorize the landlord to have you removed from the rental property if you still haven’t moved out. After the landlord gives a copy of the writ of restitution to the sheriff, the sheriff has up to two days to physically remove you from the property.
If you disagree with the court, you can file an appeal. But the appeal won’t stop the eviction unless you also:
File a bond with the court,
Provide two or more court-approved sureties (financial institutions that promise to pay a certain amount of money on behalf of someone else), and
Promise to pay any additional costs that the landlord may incur as a result of the appeal.
If the landlord wants to also collect monetary damages for damages to the rental property, they’ll need to file a separate lawsuit to get a court order called a monetary judgment against you. These will often get filed in small claims court.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Wyoming
The best way to face eviction is to be prepared. This means gathering any evidence you might need at the eviction hearing. Potential evidence includes documents, like a copy of invoices, receipts, and canceled checks. If the condition of the property is a point of disagreement between you and the landlord, you may also want to have pictures or videos to help make your points to the judge. If possible, try to get a municipal building inspector to visit the rental unit to create a report about its condition.
Do everything you can reasonably do to appear at your eviction hearing. The court won’t enter a default judgment simply because you choose not to file an answer to the landlord’s complaint. But if you don’t show up at the hearing, the judge will likely enter a default judgment against you. If you need to reschedule the hearing, ask the court for a continuance. If you can’t make a cash deposit with the court to ask for a longer continuance, it still helps to call and ask. This puts the judge on notice that you want to appear in court, but can’t. The judge will then be less likely to enter a default judgment against you if you don’t show up in court.
If the landlord decides to give you a chance to cure (fix) the reason for the eviction, carefully note what you have to do and when. Also, document everything. If possible, make your rent payments with personal checks to create a paper trail showing when and who deposited them. Also, get receipts for any payments you make to the landlord.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your landlord. Unless your landlord is harassing you, it helps to have an open line of communication. This makes it easier to reach a possible agreement. The agreement could give you extra time to cure a breach in the lease or find a new place to live. It might also result in the landlord agreeing to withdraw the eviction lawsuit against you in return for a promise to move out by a certain date. Even though you still have to move out, avoiding an eviction in your rental history can make it easier to find a future place to live.
If you reach an agreement with your landlord, get it in writing, sign it, and have the landlord (or one of the landlord’s representatives, like a property manager) sign it as well.
Finally, take advantage of resources available to tenants facing eviction. There are several nonprofit legal aid organizations and tenant’s rights attorneys who can give you legal advice and help you navigate the legal process. In addition to providing legal services, they can also help you access emergency rental assistance.