Tenants have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their residences, and the obligation to pay rent to the landlord. Similarly, the landlord has the obligation to provide a safe and secure premises and the right to collect rent. Tenants unable to afford to pay rent should contact a case manager to inquire about eligibility for a rent subsidy. A tenant who fails to pay rent can be evicted, but the landlord must take certain legal steps. To begin the eviction process, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant to move by a specific date. If the tenant does not move, the landlord can file an eviction complaint in court. If the landlord wins in court, the tenant has 10 days to appeal the court’s decision, and remain in the residence. A tenant who does not appeal has a minimum of 21 days to move.
To file an appeal, a tenant may be required to put any money owed in an account with the court. The court has special payment plans for low-income tenants. The tenant must keep paying rent into the court’s account every month, while the appeal is pending. Failure to keep paying the rent will cause the appeal to be dismissed. A landlord cannot change the locks, shut off the utilities, or evict a tenant in any way without getting a court order. Tenants illegally locked out should call 911 to ask for the police assistance in getting back into the premises. Once the police determine that the lockout is illegal, they should order the landlord to allow the tenant to enter the premises immediately. A landlord who refuses can be arrested.
Tenants with health problems who are unable to pay their utility bills may request a “medical certification” form from the gas or electric company to keep the service on. The tenant’s health care provider must complete the form certifying a qualifying medical condition. The certification should provide the tenant with enough time to resolve any unpaid bills or get on an alternative payment plan.