Use a Writ of Possession to Take Back Your Rental Unit

Winning the Eviction

Picture of Definition of Writ of Possession
••• Definition of Writ of Possession. Gary Burchell-Taxi-Getty Images


A writ of possession is an order granted by a court which allows a person not currently in possession of a property to take possession of the property. It is commonly issued after a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit against a tenant.

The tenant will be served notice by the sheriff or other law enforcement official that they have a certain amount of time to remove their possessions and to vacate the premises.

The amount of time given will vary by state and city, however, 24 hours to vacate is common. If the tenant does not vacate the premises willingly, the sheriff or other law enforcement official can forcibly remove them from the property.


A writ of possession was issued after Bob won an eviction lawsuit against his tenant, Mary. The sheriff posted the notice on Mary's door, which gave her 24 hours to leave the property willingly, or she would be forcibly removed from the premises.

Evicting a Tenant

Tenants will not always follow the terms of their lease agreement. When a tenant violates their lease and does not respond to a notice to quit the behavior, as a landlord, in order to get a tenant to move out of their rental, you sometimes have to file with the court to evict the tenant.

There are many reasons you are allowed to legally evict a tenant. These reasons include:

  • Nonpayment of Rent- This is the most common reason to evict a tenant. Paying rent is one of a tenant's most basic obligations, and if the tenant is not fulfilling this obligation, the landlord has the right to get them to move.
  • Continually Paying Rent Late- In  many states, paying rent late on a continuous basis is a reason you can file to evict a tenant. To be considered a late payment, the rent would have to be paid after any grace period that the state law requires or that the landlord has included in the lease. 
  • Damaging the Property- If a tenant causes significant damage to the property, you can file for an eviction. The court will examine the evidence to determine if this damage is in excess of normal wear and tear.
  • Disrupting the Peace of Other Tenants- Landlord have the right to evict tenants who are constantly bothering other tenants in the building. The landlord will  usually have to serve the tenant with at least one notice to quit the behavior before being allowed to file for an eviction.


  • Using the Property for Illegal Purposes- Illegal use of the property is another valid reason for eviction. For example, if a tenant decides to run a hair salon out of their apartment, the landlord can file to get the tenant to move. The apartment is zoned for residential use only and the tenant is trying to use it for a business.

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Screening a Tenant

One way to help prevent having to deal with costly evictions is to have thorough tenant screening procedures. This tenant screening involves asking the right questions and running the right checks. You may have to pay to run a credit or background check, but this amount of money will be far less than all of the costs associated with placing the wrong tenant in the property and having to evict them.

You should ask about:

  • Expected Move-In Date
  • Number of People Living in the Apartment
  • Yearly Income
  • If They Have Any Rental Assistance, Such As Section 8
  • Whether They Have Any Pets

The checks you should run include:

  • A Background Check
  • A Credit Check
  • A Check to Verify Employment
  • Calling Former Landlords to Inquire About History of Evictions