What is ejectment?

Ejectment is a legal remedy to resolve conflicts between a landlord and tenant that can sometimes be used to remove a person from wrongfully occupying real estate. Ejectment can be available if a landlord or property owner can show they have a legal right to the property, and the occupier has no valid legal claim to be there.

In many states, ejectment is commonly referred to as summary ejectment. Ejectment has become more formalized in recent years in order to protect the "public peace" and avoid situations of extreme conflict between a tenant and a landlord.

In addition to legal ejectment, there is the non-judicial process of forcible ejectment, also informally called self help. Self help is sometimes used or contemplated by landlords who wish to deal with the problem on their own, using various methods, for example, a landlord might change the locks on the doors to prevent the occupier from returning after an absence. Rights to self-help vary widely from state to state and even among local jurisdictions. Generally, though, self-help is inadvisable and rarely conducive to the public peace. As such, almost no states allow 'self-help' as a reasonable means of ejectment without court and police assistance.

Almost no courts allow going into an invalid occupier's place of residence without some form of proper legal notice and/or court approval. In a state where only legally-sanctioned ejectment is allowed, a tenant may sue for illegal forced ejection (also sometimes called wrongful eviction). Such lawsuits frequently succeed, with damages assessed against the improperly-acting landlord.

Most states allow for a fairly quick legal process of ejectment. Look first to the terms of the lease. A court will usually consider the terms of a lease before invoking the state's laws, unless the lease is illegal or the provisions regarding ejectment are illegal or manifestly unfair. Following legal processes for ejectment or eviction is always recommended. Landlords that do not follow formalities are punished either with damages, the tenant recovering possession of the property, and/or other punitive measures that lengthen the amount of time before a landlord can recover the property.