forcible entry and detainer | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Procedural Law

Forcible entry and detainer, often called eviction, is a legal process allowing landlords to remove tenants from rental properties for lease violations or unpaid rent.

Forcible entry and detainer is a legal process that landlords can use when they need to remove a tenant. The need may arise if a tenant breaks the terms of a lease agreement or fails to pay rent. Let’s break down these terms and what they mean.

Forcible Entry Explained

Forcible entry relates to the tenant’s initial access to a property. It could mean that the tenant entered the property without the landlord’s permission. It could also mean that the tenant stayed in the property after the lease agreement had ended or was terminated. In other words, forcible entry means the tenant is staying on the property without any legal right.

Understanding Detainer

Detainer, on the other hand, refers to the landlord’s effort to take back the property. If the tenant wrongfully remains in the property, the landlord can begin the detainer process.

Usually, the landlord will start by serving a notice to vacate to the tenant. This notice gives the tenant a certain amount of time to either leave the property or fix the problem, like paying any rent they owe. If the tenant does neither, the landlord can move to the next step.

Moving to the Courts

If the tenant doesn’t leave or correct the issue, the landlord can take legal action. The landlord can file a complaint in court for forcible entry and detainer.

The court will then set a hearing date. At this hearing, both the landlord and the tenant can present evidence and make their arguments.

Court’s Decision and Enforcement

If the court rules in the landlord’s favor, they will issue an order. This order instructs the tenant to leave the property. If the tenant still doesn’t vacate, the court can get law enforcement involved. The sheriff can physically remove the tenant and give possession back to the landlord.


Forcible entry and detainer, or eviction, is a legal tool for landlords. They can use it when a tenant breaks the lease agreement or fails to pay rent. It provides a structured process for landlords to regain control of their property while also giving tenants an opportunity to rectify their mistakes. The aim is to strike a balance between landlord rights and tenant protection.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/20/2023

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