Actually, the length of time that eviction proceedings take depends on a number of variables, such as where you live. If you had lived in China during the preparations for the 2008 Olympics, you could have been among more than two million residents who were evicted from their homes with very little notice so that construction could advance. If you had protested, you could have been arrested. In addition, it depends on why you're being evicted. If the landlord is in the right (you haven't paid rent, you're destroying his property, or you're not following the terms of the lease in other ways), you could be out of the apartment in as little as nine days, if you live in Texas; or in an average of 20 days, if you live in California. Eviction proceedings are one of the quickest legal procedures there are.

Although most states don't allow a landlord to lock out a tenant or turn off the water or other utilities, in some states the landlord can temporarily lock out a tenant who is not paying rent [source: Austin Tenant's Council]. The way eviction usually works is that the landlord sends the tenant a formal letter of notification that the rent is overdue. The letter has to state that the rent must be paid by a certain date (or the tenant has to stop doing whatever violation of the lease he was doing), or he'll have to leave the apartment. If the tenant doesn't rectify the situation, he gets slapped with an unlawful detainer, also known as an eviction.

A judge listens to the landlord and the tenant as they present their sides of the story. If the landlord wins, the tenant may have to pay legal costs and rental fees, and leave the apartment. If the tenant wins, the landlord has to pay the legal costs and the tenant can stay.