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Understanding Vermont's Eviction process: an overview

Understanding Vermont's (Residential) Eviction Process

In Vermont the eviction process is called an "ejectment action." A landlord typically has two goals when bringing an ejectment action against a tenant: 1) recovering lawful possession of the premises and 2) recovering money owed (back rent, the cost of repairing damages to the premises, and the cost and expense of bringing the eviction action, including attorney's fees) by the tenant. How an ejectment action moves through the court system can best be understood by keeping these two goals in mind.

Before an ejectment action can be brought in court, a landlord must first notify the tenant that the tenancy is being terminated and the reason(s) why. This is a critical first step. Failing to give the tenant a proper termination notice can result in the ejectment complaint being dismissed from court, forcing the landlord to begin the process all over.

The termination period allows the tenant to voluntarily vacate the premises. If the tenant moves out, the first goal of an ejectment action is met: the landlord now has lawful possession of the premises. The landlord may choose to pursue goal #2 (recovering money owed) but under a breach of contract claim, not an ejectment action. The landlord will have to give the required notice about any security deposit and may also have to deal with property left behind by the tenant, but the premises can now be rented out to someone else.

If the tenant does not vacate by the end of the termination period then the landlord must file a Complaint for Ejectment with the court. The Complaint is then served on the tenant, who has 20 days to file an Answer with the court. The tenant may also file counterclaims against the landlord at this point. Counterclaims typically filed by the tenant include "breach of warranty of habitability" and "retaliation."

If the ejectment action is based on non-payment of rent the landlord can file a motion for rent escrow. If granted by the court the tenant will be required to pay rent into court (in an amount and on a schedule ordered by the court). If the tenant fails to make a payment as ordered, the landlord is entitled to a Writ of Possession without further hearing by the court. The landlord now has lawful possession of the premises, and can rent the property to someone else. The action continues to proceed through the court system, but only on the second goal of ejectment: recovering money owed.

Recovering money owed can take several months to move through the court system, and can the length of time can be frustrating to the landlord. But any effort by the landlord to "self-help" (force the tenant out by changing locks, turning off utilities, harassment, etc.) is illegal should be avoided at all costs.

Preparing the notice of termination of tenancy to representing you in an ejectment action in court, the Law Office of Robert A. Brazil, PLLC is here to help you get it done right.

 

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Saint Johnsbury, VT 05819
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