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Unlawful Detainer vs. Ejectment

When attempting to regain possession of 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 noncompliance 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 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.