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Unlawful Detainer vs. Ejectment

Jan. 27, 2016

When attempting to regain possession of a property via the legal system, the first step is understanding which procedure to utilize.

An unlawful detainer action is available when a landlord/tenant relationship exists between the parties. This type of action is generally preferable to an ejectment action because it is a more streamlined process. Also, the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act is relied upon, which lays out the requirements and process. In these actions, a defendant only has seven days to respond after being served with the summons and complaint before a default is available to the plaintiff. Unlawful detainer actions are based on non-compliance with whatever notice was served on the defendant. The most common type of notice is a 3-day notice to pay rent or vacate. Landlord/Tenant Notices.

An ejectment action is a more traditional lawsuit. As such, a defendant has twenty days to respond to the summons and complaint instead of only seven. An ejectment action is not based on the defendant’s failure to comply with a notice; rather, it is initiated to determine who has a superior title, and thus, the superior right to possession. Unfortunately, ejectment actions are often initiated against family members when no landlord/tenant relationship exists or if there is a death in the family which caused a home to become vacant. In most cases, a valid deed is all that is required to “win” an ejectment action.