Top 5 Legal Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Written on September 21, 2015 by , updated on December 3, 2019

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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404 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Mary E Haney

    My 55 years old brother is in my home. He is getting aggressive with me. Raising him voice towards me. I have told him to leave but he will not. I am disabled. He is trying to intimidate me. I told him that I was going to set his stuff outside. He said it would be an illegal eviction. How can I get him out. O am afraid

  • Mary

    Can my landlord threaten to check my credit at any time, and if I am deemed a credit risk have the right to evict me? This is while I am paying my rent on time and committing no other problems? No unauthorized pets, noises etc.

  • Samir Kumar Shaw

    In which ground a tenant can be evacuated when land lord has sold his property by keeping old tenants ?

  • Tim

    My tenant lives with me. He punched me in the face twice. I called the police. Before they got here my tenant bashed his own head into my wall safe to inflict injuries upon himself that he could blame on me. He even said, “you hit me first.” I was covered with nose blood and he had cuts on his forehead when the police arrived. They talked to us separately. I was told the tenant was also injured and was asked if I wanted to do anything. I said no because I couldn’t imagine a way of proving I was attacked and I didn’t hit him. I told the police I was assaulted but the police report called it a mutual fight. We have eviction court next week. I’m still in danger and there should be a faster way to evict tenants who assault their landlord.

  • Yebel Knox

    If a tenant with no lease attacks me can I kick them out that day?

  • Lori Nelson

    An adult child that is 31 that won’t work, won’t clean or even keep the bedroom clean. They are gone several days but when they do come back it’s ridiculously late disturbing my rest whereas I have to still get up and work. They leave house keys with unsavory people and I fear someone will brake in my home and either rob me or worse. They come in and eat, wash clothes, shower and leave my apartment a mess for me to clean. They get in your face yelling and cursing calling you names like they will physically hurt me. I’ve had a knee replacement and the other knee is also injured. I need her to move out but I’m afraid I can be taken to court. My lease is up in 3 months but I don’t want to move just to get them to move.

  • Steve Mendoza

    Can the landlord kick out the tenant if they want to move in and use for personal use? Even though we always pay our rent on time. He also raised the rent thinking that would make us move out. Need to know if I could make a case out of this.
    Thank You!

  • Victoria

    The management company where I live is trying to evict me they refused my rent they have harassed me they’ve given me a legal notices and the reason is this they state they had a complaint I slammed a door and they do not like my demeanor. In realty it is because I have complained about them slamming their copy machine against my living room wall for 7 months they have been banging against my kitchen and living room wall from their offices I asked them to stop to do something about it that’s when the trouble started. I’ve had a lot of stomping and other noise over my head I’ve had to complain everything I’ve complained about they turned it around on me I’ve never had the police called on me. I’m 73 years old and halfway crippled

  • Regina Sharpe

    We got a 24hr eviction notice from the landlord and there was no reasons other than our landlords sister owns the property our home is sitting home and she took her brother to court apparently to have the home moved off the property or she will take over the residence. Does that give our current landlord the right to evict his tenants bc he did not keep up with what the court ordered? And not only evict us but a vacate the premises within 24hrs when we have not received any other prior notices from anyone except the 24hr notice

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