Ejectment is the common law term for civil action to recover the possession of and title to land. It is one of the old forms of action used for recovery of the possession of real property.
An action of ejectment was originally intended to protect the rights of a tenant who leased the land. Ultimately, it came to be the principal method for determining the ownership of real property. When the question of title to land became the issue, it was essential to describe the property as carefully as it would be described in a deed to a purchaser. This resulted in enforcement of very strict technicalities by the court. In such cases since there was a chance that the case would be lost on a point of procedure, an action of ejectment became less attractive to plaintiffs.
Today, the old action of ejectment does not exist. However, every state has a statute that outlines a modern procedure for recovering the possession of real property. Despite this, modern ejectment actions still are somewhat slow and expensive. They are most often used by landlords trying to recover possession of their premises from stubborn tenants. Ejectment is a proper action to remove an encroachment by a building owned and occupied by the defendants.[i] States generally have another law that permits the efficient ousting of a tenant by summary proceedings, but a landlord can pursue the simpler procedure only when the tenant has broken the lease in certain specified ways. In some cases, ejectment may be inadequate and thereby justify resort to equity jurisdiction.[ii] The method of ejectment and summary proceedings to dispossess vary greatly from state to state.
[i] Heroux v. Katt, 76 R.I. 122, 68 A.2d 25, 12 A.L.R.2d 1186 (1949)