Glossary of Common Eviction Terms

First Cause: Eviction:

The first cause is the eviction part of an eviction case. The landlord is asking the court to force a tenant to move.

Second Cause: Money:

The second cause is the money part of an eviction case. The landlord wants money for unpaid rent or damage the tenant has caused. Not all cases have a second cause. Although the first and second causes are filed together, there are separate hearings for each.

Notice to Leave (AKA 3 Day Notice)

The landlord must give you a written notice to leave the premises at least three days before filing an eviction case in court. This comes from the landlord, not the court.

Notice to Terminate Tenancy (AKA 30 Day Notice)

In a month to month tenancy, either the landlord or the tenant can serve on the other a Notice to Terminate the Tenancy. No reason need be provided for the termination. If a tenant stays beyond 30 days, the tenant is a “holdover tenant” and will likely be evicted. The landlord still must serve a “Notice to Leave” before filing an eviction.

Forcible Entry and Detainer

The legal term for “eviction.” Also called an F.E.D.”

Clerk of Courts

The Clerk of Courts is the office that keeps all court documents.


The legal paper filed with the clerk of courts to start a lawsuit.


The summons is the official notice of your court date. An eviction summons may come in the mail, be attached to your door, or be handed to you in person. It will include a copy of the complaint.


The person who files a lawsuit. For evictions, the landlord is the Plaintiff.


The person who is being sued. The tenant is a defendant in an eviction.


The magistrate is the person who hears eviction cases.


The answer is the tenant’s response to the claims in the complaint.


Counterclaims are the tenant’s claims for money from the landlord.


A continuance is the postponement of a court date.


The “Set-Out” is the physical eviction. The bailiff forces the tenant to leave and all of the tenant’s belongings are moved to the sidewalk.


The bailiff is the court official who is must be present when there is a physical set-out.


The writ is the court order to have a court official physically remove (“evict”) a tenant.

Default Judgment

A default judgment is like forfeiting a ball game. You lose because you did not file an answer or did not show up in court.

This article is meant to give you general information and not specific legal advice.Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April, 2012. CE-63-F196-CLAS