What to expect at your eviction trial

At your eviction trial, the judge will hear from both sides and decide if your tenant has to move out and pay you money, if you asked for it in your Complaint. After you've gotten a letter from the court in the mail with your trial date it's time to get ready for court.

Get ready for your trial

Once you know your trial date, it’s important to get ready. When you’re in the courtroom, things will happen quickly. You need to be organized so you can answer the judge’s or other side’s questions as quickly as possible.

Get familiar with courtroom basics

If this is the first time you've been part of a trial or hearing, read this information for how to prepare for a day in court.

On the trial day, make sure you take enough time off from work, have childcare, and pay for enough parking time, if needed. Courts hear more than one case in each time slot, so you'll need to be available for about 4 hours starting with the time your case is scheduled.

If possible, watch an eviction trial. These are open to the public and watching one will give you a better idea of what to expect. You can call your county courthouse to find out when eviction trials are scheduled. 

Get your testimony and evidence ready

When your case is called, you will probably get to talk first and tell the judge why your tenant should be evicted. 

At this point, you'll make your case, or testify (give testimony), to the judge. This can be easier if you write down your testimony in advance with all of the important facts and details you need the judge to hear in a way that's easy for you to look at while you're talking to the judge. 

If you have evidence - things like photos, emails, or papers that will help you prove you have a legal reason to evict your tenant - bring those with you. Make copies so you can give one copy to the judge and one copy to the other side (your tenant or their attorney).

How to testify in court

  • When you start the clerk may ask you to spell your name.
  • Ask the judge, "Your Honor, may I begin?"
  • Start by saying something like, "Your Honor, I believe my tenant should be evicted because..."
  •  Then describe the facts and law that support your eviction request
  • For each fact present your evidence. Give one copy to the judge and one to the other side. 

Examples of testimony and evidence in an eviction case

  • Use photos as evidence

    "Your Honor, I have photos to show how the tenant's dog damaged the home and yard." 

    Show the photos one by one, describing what's in each photo.

  • Use receipts as evidence

    "Your Honor, I have receipts that show how much I paid to repair the damage the tenant caused."

    Show the receipts one by one, stating the dates and amounts on each and what each receipt is for.

  • Give your testimony

    "Your Honor, the tenant gave me written notice they were going to move out. I got another renter, but when showed up with a truck, the tenant didn't move out."

    Give detailed information with facts: The date and time these events happened, a copy of the note that said they were moving out, and as many other details as you can remember.

If you have witnesses

A witness is someone who can help back up your story because they actually saw or heard something that's important to your case.

You may have a witness whose testimony can help prove your case against your tenant, but the only way you can get the story out is by asking the witness questions. It is helpful write down the questions before you go to court.

Witnesses will usually wait outside the courtroom until it's their turn to testify so they can't hear what other people may have already said. Say to the judge, “I would like to call [full name of witness], as a witness, your Honor.”  Court staff will then get the person and direct them to the witness stand. 

  • Begin by asking introductory questions

    Usually you'll start by asking the witness their name, address, job, how they know you, etc. 

  • Show first-hand knowledge

    Ask questions that show the witness actually saw or heard something themselves they'll be testifying about. People who only heard a story from someone else about your situation aren't helpful witnesses.

  • Ask questions that will help your case

    After you've introduced the witness and established they have personal knowledge of the facts they are testifying about, move on to ask about what they know that proves why your tenant should be evicted. Once you've asked all of your questions, finish by saying, “I have no further questions for this witness."

If the judge asks you to try to agree

The day of your trial, the judge may ask you and the other side to step outside the courtroom to discuss your case to see if you can agree without a trial. The court may even have mediators to help you agree. 

  • If you and the other side agree
    Go back to the courtroom and wait for your name to be called. Do not leave the court without talking to the judge about what you both agreed to. If you need more time for your tenant to do what they agreed to, you can ask the judge to move the trial to another day to give your tenant some time. At that new court date you can dismiss the case if you don't want it to go on your tenant's record.

    Do not leave the court without a copy of the agreement. Having a copy of the Judgment helps to prevent misunderstandings during a stressful time.

    Since you're the plaintiff (you started the case),

     if you leave court before your trial is completely finished your case may be dismissed (cancelled).
  • If you and other side can't agree
    If you don’t agree, go back into the courtroom. Let the deputy know that you’ve returned. Then, wait for the judge or clerk to call your name for your trial.  

The judge's decision

Once you and your tenant have had a chance to present your case the judge will make a decision. Listen carefully so you know what to do next.

The court clerk will give or mail you a copy of the Judgment that says what the judge decided.


What's next?

After hearing both sides, the judge will make a decision. If your tenant wins at trial, they don’t have to move out or pay you money, but they still have to follow what your lease or rental agreement says and pay rent. 


If you win, your tenant must move out and pay you any money they owe you, if any. 

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