Top 5 Legal Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Written on September 21, 2015 by

Reasons for EvictionEviction is just part of the rental business. The worst part.

Oddly enough, many people don’t actually know what an eviction is. Sure, it’s the act of expelling a tenant from property – I know.

But I’d like to modify that definition slightly, if I may.

It’s the act of expelling a tenant from property, LEGALLY

The Formal Eviction Process

In most counties, the formal eviction process is as follows:

  1. Terminate the lease with proper notice
  2. When the tenant doesn’t leave, file an action with the local eviction court
  3. Attend a hearing
  4. Win the judgement
  5. Hire (make an appointment) with the sheriff
  6. Show up on “eviction day” with the sheriff, reclaim possession of the unit
  7. Change the locks

A “self-help eviction” (lock-outs, or utility shut-offs) is usually illegal, and it gets thousands of landlords in trouble every year.

If you’ve ever read through the comments on any of our state law summary guides, you’ll see plenty of examples of landlords who have taken matters into their own hands. It’s not pretty.

Related: The True Cost of Eviction is more than $5,000

To recap above, the first step of any eviction is to terminate the lease or agreement. In order to terminate a fixed-term lease early, you must have a valid reason, or “just-cause”, to do so. Month-to-month agreements can be terminated fairly easily with very little notice – usually 30 days.

When it comes time to go to court, the judge will ask “why are you asking me to remove this tenant from your unit?” What will your response be?

5 Legitimate Reasons to Evict a Tenant

1. Nonpayment of Rent

The most common reason for a lease termination and eviction is nonpayment of rent.

It’s an easy concept to understand: “if you don’t pay, you can’t stay”. Most courts and judges are reasonable about this, and make little exceptions to allowing a non-paying tenant to remain in the unit.

…if you don’t pay, you can’t stay.

With that said, if a landlord is failing to provide a habitable dwelling, then sometimes, nonpayment of rent is overlooked.

Note: “nonpayment of a late fee” is not the same as “nonpayment of rent”. Most courts (that I’ve heard of) will not award a landlord a judgement solely for unpaid late fees.

2. Lease Violation

The second most common reason for eviction is when a tenant violates a lease clause.

Many violations can allow the landlord to terminate the lease if the issue is not corrected quickly (anywhere from 3-30 days). Here are the most common lease violations:

  • Unauthorized Pets
    Having pets when none are allowed, or having more pets than what is allowed.
  • Extended Guests or Unapproved Occupants
    Many residents think that they can move their boyfriend or girlfriend into the unit without asking – for as long as they want. However, most leases don’t allow any occupants other than those listed on the lease (for good reason). Unapproved occupants, or “Rogue Tenants” as I call them, can be a complete legal and liability nightmare.
  • Unapproved Subletting
    Most leases grant a resident “exclusive” rights to occupy the dwelling. This means that the landlord can’t rent it to anyone else, but it also means the tenant is under the same restriction. Most thorough leases prohibit subletting without prior approval, so let’s hope your tenant remembers to ask before putting your unit on Airbnb while spending the summer in Italy.
  • Improper Use
    Many administrative or home-based business are allowed to operate out of a residential dwelling, but sometimes a tenant will take it too far. For example, it would be okay for tenant to open up a Mary Kay business from the rental unit, but probably not a welding shop, car wash, or a doggie day spa. A “residential” lease should be used for residential purposes, and not occupied by a high-traffic business.
  • Nuisance Complaints
    The neighbors (and the police) will only put up with so many loud parties. If “enough” noise/nuisance complaints are filed against your tenants, the police department will actually fine the landlord. At the first sign of trouble, it’s wise to remind your tenants that repeat noise complaints are a lease violation (assuming you put it in your lease).

3. Property Damage

We’ve all heard the wild stories of tenant damage. Sadly, the majority of tenant damage is not intentional – but rather caused by lack of common sense.

  • A tenant who installs a 3,000 gallon hot tub on the 2nd story deck probably isn’t thinking about the structural integrity of the support beams.
  • In the South, pools are common, but if they are not maintained regularly, there can be irreparable damage to the pool equipment.
  • I’ve even heard about a tenant who installed his own skylights because his wife wanted to lay in bed and look at the stars. While romantic, and slightly Swiss-Family Robinson-ish, it caused over $5,000 in roof and water damage.
  • Hoarding can also cause property damage, and can be a valid reason to terminate the lease as long as the person is not claiming that it is a mental disability.

4. Illegal or Drug Related Activity

When a resident is committing a crime, the police, and the local government want to know about it. There is very little grace granted to drug-dealers.

In most states, including Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and Ohio, a landlord can terminate a lease with 24 hour (or sometimes less) notice for drug or crime-related activity.

In Texas, a landlord can even immediately terminate the lease of a tenant who is convicted of public indecency (Sec. 91.003)! Yikes!

5. Expiration of Lease

Every good thing must eventually come to an end. But sometimes, a tenant refuses to move out, and now you have a squatter.

If the lease has naturally expired, or terminated with proper notice, then the tenant no longer has any right to occupy the dwelling. This alone is enough of a reason to file an eviction action in court.

What Else?

What other legitimate reasons can you think of to evict a tenant? I’d love to hear any personal “war-stories” stories in the comments below.

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376 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Haner

    I am being evicted over here say because my sister parked in a tenants spot with shade for 5 min and what someone did that I did not no and a few minor things like that is that right I’m on disability have nowhere to go

  • Kim

    Now that is the most disgusting landlord agenda I’ve ever read. Your daughter should have aborted if she can’t support a life and house herself, yet you have to ruin a tenant’s life over your daughter’s irresponsibility and your own human disregard. Narcissistic beings belong on Mars.

  • Arminda

    I’m evicting someone because they assaulted me on my own property, because I was standing in front of there truck so they thought it would be a good idea to push me to the ground and then kick me, they were leaving with my horse in there horse trailer so assault and theft. Believe me there is a report with the police and I’m pressing charges.

  • sam

    in Canada we have sub section 22 : Landlord not to interfere with reasonable enjoyment
    22 A landlord shall not at any time during a tenant’s occupancy of a rental unit and before the day on which an order evicting the tenant is executed substantially interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit or the residential complex in which it is located for all usual purposes by a tenant or members of his or her household. 2006, c. 17, s. 22. in Canada weed is legal would drug use be aplicable i was told to only smokeit in the back which goes against my resonable enjoyment of a legal substance

  • Cindy

    My son lives in Colorado and is being evicted. Is the landlord required to tell us on what grounds he is being evicted?

  • Erica

    I recently opened up my own business (an adult foster care home) it requires me to sleep over when staff calls in and what not. Being a new business, I don’t have the reliable staff necessary for the entire week. I contacted my landlord about a repair and informed her that my 16 year old is home more than I am and he didn’t make me aware of the problem until now. She replied by asking why am I not home all the time. I said because of work and she responded by saying she wants me to move out and that I will be responsible for remainder of lease due to my son being home alone most of the time. Is this legal? Can she evict me because I’m not home everyday? Please help. Any advice is appreciated.

  • Mariq

    My landlord wants us to move out even tho we just signed a 2 year lease in May we are in August we have been living here 11 years. He went and forged our signature claiming we agreed to the lease termination. His reason is we disrespected him. When all we did was asked him who are these new people you are renting to. He turned the downstair apartment into room rental so now we have a lot of weird men walking in and out. He felt we was being disrespectful because we questioned him. We owe no rent property in perfect condition. What should I do??

  • Barb Flanigan

    On PA, can I evict a tenant because I need to have ” personal use” of my property? I live on the property in a falling down old mobile home. Tenant is occupying a new bldg that I need to convert to insect & rodent proof dwelling for myself. I am 68 years old on SS so cannot afford new construction. They do have a lease but they only pay me $1.00 per YEAR ( crazy, but that is another topic).

  • Mohammad

    I would like to ask if somebody lives in the apartment and one of the units in this building make a lot of noise, such as making a party, blast music from 2 am till 5 am every weekend ( for almost three months) which sleeping for this unit impossible even though I called manager of the property, city of Ottawa, but they didn’t do anything at this conditions, can I sue the manager in front of court and I will not pay the rent till court held. Thanks

  • Lisbeth

    My father rents an apartment in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized building. My mother past away and I came with my kids to live with him because he is ill. I am not on the lease, can the landlord kick me out with my children?

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