Evictions

6 Legal Reasons To Evict A Tenant

February 21, 2023

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An eviction is never fun. 

There isn’t a landlord on the planet who wants to deal with one. 

However, they’re sometimes necessary. 

And, if you need to evict a tenant, it’s critical to have a valid reason. 

In this article, we’re going to look at six legal reasons you can evict a bad tenant. 

Misses Rent Payments 

Let’s start with the most obvious reason: a tenant who isn’t paying their rent on time. When a tenant signs a lease, part of the agreement is that they pay rent on time and in full. So, if they don’t follow through on their end of the bargain, you have every right to act. 

Exactly when a missed payment constitutes a valid reason to send an eviction notice varies by state, according to state laws. In some cases, you’ll need to wait out a state law-defined grace period (or a grace period outlined in your lease agreement). Then, you’ll need to send a Notice to Pay or Quit, which acts as a final warning for tenants to hold up their end of the deal before you proceed with the eviction process

Generally, all lease agreements should mention late fees and how you will handle late rent payments. Be specific about the grace period for rent payments, late fees, and how many times you will accept late payments before proceedings commence. You’ll want to document every payment you receive, whether on time or late, to maintain a paper trail in case you ever need to appear in court. 

Property Damage  

Property damage, excluding normal wear and tear, is a valid reason for evictions. If a tenant damages your property beyond minor scuffs on the baseboards or little nail holes in the wall, it might be necessary to evict them.  

So, what kinds of damage constitute eviction proceedings? Things like massive holes in the walls, excessive water damage, or allowing the property to decline so severely that it becomes a health and safety hazard. That said, if the tenant damages the property but is willing to pay for repairs or repair the issues, you may want to consider their offer. A tenant with a genuine willingness to make amends is often a good indicator of their high quality. 

It’s prudent to perform walk-throughs of the property with each tenant when they move in. Taking photos or videos of the condition of the property prior to the tenant’s occupancy will provide a baseline in case you need proof that they caused the damage later.  

Excessive Noise or Disturbances 

Extreme disturbances and noise can infringe on your tenants’ rights. Particularly in multi-family units, people can be evicted for disturbing the peace of others in the unit. If you must evict someone for consistent noise issues and disrupting other tenants, pinpoint the nature of the problematic behavior in the Notice to Quit. Examples include wild parties, loud music, and excessive noise after quiet hours. 

A key part of resolving noise complaints is acting promptly. If you take action quickly, you increase the likelihood of witnessing the noise firsthand, which helps resolve the issue. It also helps prevent the problem from worsening. Furthermore, inaction could violate a tenant’s right to quiet and peace, which could lead to a lawsuit down the road.  

Illegal Activity 

Although it’s fairly obvious, evicting a tenant for illegal activity is legal. For instance, if someone is dealing drugs out of your property, you should evict them.  

However, this also can apply to tenants running a legitimate business out of the unit. This is because operating a business from your property violates standard lease agreements and insurance policies. Beyond that, they could also be violating zoning laws. Thus, you have the right to evict this tenant.  

If you run into a case like this, be sure to serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit, informing them that you are filing for an eviction because they’ve used the property in an illegal way. 

Holdover 

If a tenant stays beyond their lease term and refuses to leave, you have a right to evict them. However, these evictions can be tricky if you haven’t adequately protected yourself or acted in a certain manner. 

A holdover tenant is a renter who remains in a property after the lease expires. It’s important to reject any rent payments made after the expiration of your lease if you don’t want a tenant to stay. If you accept rent from a holdover tenant, the implications change based on state and local laws. In certain instances, accepting payment resets the lease term. What could this mean? Well, if the original lease was for a year, a new year-long lease may start once you collect the rent payment after the first lease has expired. In other instances, accepting payment from a holdover tenant turns the lease into a month-to-month lease. 

This is why it’s important to include a clause in the original lease detailing what happens at the end of the lease period. A year-long apartment rental lease, for example, might specify that once the lease expires, it automatically converts to a month-to-month lease.  

To remove a tenant who won’t leave even though their lease is up, you must begin a holdover proceeding, which is an eviction case that isn’t based on missed rent payments. This process is typically handled in eviction or small claims courts. 

To evict a holdover tenant, you generally must serve them with a notice of termination. The notice precedes the court hearing. 

Violate Lease Agreement 

If a tenant violates specific lease terms, you can evict them. Lease violation examples include subletting the property to people not listed on the lease, violating your no-pets policy, or breaking other policies (e.g., mandates from an HOA).  

In specific circumstances, you may want to give a tenant with a good track record a second chance. Regardless, put any agreements in writing, and make sure you have witnesses. In the same way you can sue to evict a tenant, they can sue you if they feel their rights were violated. Thus, it’s smart to protect yourself and create paper trails. 

It’s typically wise to have a lawyer look over your lease agreements, especially if you’re a newer landlord, to ensure that you’ve covered your bases and complied with local laws. 

Conclusion 

Without just cause, you won’t be able to evict a bad tenant. It’s critical to make sure you have sound reasons for proceeding with an eviction. You also need to create a paper trail and get everything in writing.  

These six reasons are some of the most common, but there are other legitimate reasons as well. The key is to research and understand state and local laws before moving to evict. 

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