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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280 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Anthony B

    I have a old girlfriend from years ago come down from Indiana told her i could help her out and stay at my house.
    Well 3 to 4 years later things r taking a turn for the worst and i want her to leave but she won’t go.was wondering what would b the best thing to evict her for (because she said the only way your getting rid of me is to evict me).Iam writing my unconditional written letter to start the process and was wondering what i could evict her for.

  • MICHAEL JAY SHAFER

    Ummm, What if there is no lease and I just have been letting my sister and her husband live with me? I was just having them pay half the rent, but my sister keeps yelling and fighting over the dishes and treating my girlfriend like trash and I feel she needs to leave now as I can’t take the stress anymore? What do I do?

  • Brigett

    I had an argument with the on site manager of the apartment that I rent , she threatened to kick me out for this argument. The laundry room was locked and my clothes where inside I asked for the key or if she could open it and she said no , I let my anger get the best of me and started getting rude . A time previous to this argument I had left my clothes she gave me the key to the laundry room to get my clothes out there was no argument or hassle so I felt like I could go ask this time .

  • Jo honeycutt

    I have a tenant I’m currently drawing up an eviction notice. The property has garbage around outside, people living there not on the lease, and someone also there an order of protection has been served on. The home is unreasonably dirty inside, also a roach infestation. I’m getting the eviction notice together so it can be given to them when the rent is paid.

    • Teresa

      That is some “slumlord stuff” you’re doing. You’re going to give them the 3-day evict notice when they pay rent. Oh, how I wish I knew who the renters are, I would show them the Florida Statute so they would know you actually have to file your eviction in court. I understand your reasoning for wanting to evict them, however, your morals have went out the window b/c you want to take their money, money they could use to help them move into a new place.

      Instead of an eviction, do you understand what a “Notice of Noncompliance, Seven Day Notice to Cure”. You do not even seem to be taken the steps to cure the issue you are having. You seem to have just jumped to the eviction and your going to wait until “rent is paid”.

      • Teresa

        I said Florida, however, I do not know what state you are in. So, I would have to review the Landlord/Tenant statute for your state. Regardless of the state, it is still wrong what you plan on doing and the tenant does have the right to contest the eviction that you file through the court, not just you handing over a notice to vacate or notice of intent to evict.

  • Dodie

    I let a friend move in my home for medical reasons. No rent. He assaulted a paying renter and was arrested, a child was involved. He stated he wanted his things out as they took him to jail. What are my rights as to putting his things out, and what if he doesnt take everything, what are my rights to get rid of it.

  • Manya Nicholson

    Help.
    How do I get a landlord to evict meth dealers who are also meth heads? I own next door. What evidence does the landlord need?

  • Heather Havens

    I have a tenant who is mean to my dog and another tenant. He leaves his laundry in bathroom and never cleans up after himself. How can I evict him? Walking on eggshells

  • William Chappell

    I have been charged with distribution but not convicted. Can the landlord force me to move

  • Sam marler

    I have been renting from my landlord since January 1 2018. Nowhere in the app or lease does it say anything or ask anything about felonies and my landlord is trying to evict me now 8 months into my lease for me having a felony. Can she do that. She only gave me 7 days to move

  • Jack

    I have two roommates who are together and shouldn’t be. I moved in here with them out of necessity so my 6’2, 200 lb self didn’t have to sleep on a 3 foot long, contoured truck bench seat for a 6th month in a row. Got signed on the lease and got in all good. Well, here I am 4 months later, and I am terrified for my f*cking life. The walls are riddled with holes from the main perpetrator…he is a 26 year old child. Not a man child…a child. Instead of finding a new job when he lost his old one (for putting a female employee in a headlock), he signed up for f*cking BAND CAMP!!!! Their arguments are explosive, violent, and not contained, and any time I try to talk to them…they team up on me like I’m the piece of sh*t. HELP

  • zetta

    I have a tenant that rents a furnished room in my home. I just found out yesterday he has infested my home with bed bugs and tried to cover it up by having the room he sleeps in sprayed only. Also he come in my home smelling like weed on a few occasions, I asked him to limit this and its not allowed in my home.

    After I went back and forth with the lies the tenant finally admitted he had bed bugs and it had been going on for a few weeks. However, when the bug man came he said the mattress was infested and the issue has been going on a lot longer and the tenant brought them with him. I want him out of my house NOW!!! Will i be legal if I gave him until the end of the week to get if we broke even with the rent a additional bills paid

  • De

    What grounds can you terminate a student

  • Tonia

    Do I have the right to ask my roommate who also is my tenant in my townhouse which I own, and she pays rent, that I do not appreciate my home address being given out to a criminal. You see I saw an envelope addressed to her from a correctional facility! I am seeing red. I thought it be common sense that if I went over the rules in the lease of no sleep overs with the boyfriend, no illicit drugs, no strangers and or one night stands. I never thought I had to put in the lease no criminals!!!! WTH?!?!!

  • Albert. S

    I argued with my apartment manager she said I threatened her but it’s all because I completed my lease we had a verbal agreement that the lease was up and we were good I go on the date to hand the keys over had a house for rent ready to move in the lady manager said she needed a 30day hand written note that we have to stay an extra month charges us extra fees I called corporate got the fees exsponged now she has it out for me I have two other strikes long story she says I threatened her to evict me all to keep my deposit she’s a crook my tags are expired to one of my cars she put a sticker saying she’s gonna tow my car for exspired tags IDK if they have that have that right but there was other car in the back for a year all flat and broke

  • Jen

    I have been having a problem with my apt HVAC system. I have been changing the filter every week. I have a sore throat and stuffy nose when I’m home. I have asked the apt ppl to look at it on several occasions. They have cleaned the coils and even did an air duct cleaning but still the AC runs when it really shouldn’t. This causes my bill to be extremely high. When I went back after back and forth for over a month the property manager tells me at this point there is nothing else we can do for that apartment and you will never be happy so they will let me come out of my lease. I just also found out that the apt I got is a “special rate” $1179 3b/2b compared to what everyone else pays with the same size or smaller $1495. Can they evict me?

  • George Perrier

    I have been a (33+ years) as a tenant in a one bedroom unit in San Francisco, am 64, disabled.

    Never been late with the rent, in all those years!

    Should a property owner, want me out – will most owners offer a buyout to vacate the residence?

  • Juanita Solomon

    I live in Ga. My landlords told my son that he could stay here never said it’s temporary and now they’re wanting to evict him unless he pays 50 dollars a week which puts the rent at 600 to 650 a month this place isn’t worth that much. They don’t even want to do any repairs in a timely fashion. Water pipes leaking in bathroom still leaking but they say it is fixed. They furnished air conditioner which has stopped working over a week ago. Stove is broken

  • Phil

    Am tired of late payments and dealing with excuses and broken promises.
    Have taken tenant to court three times and she has managed to delay and finally pay up.
    This is a week-to-week tenancyand I would rather just terminate this tenant.
    Would like to re-lease to more responsible
    Tenant. Can I serve notice to quit? Seems easier
    than usual court hassle and waiting for her to pay up. This is in my mobile home park. Just want her out and not accept payments…deposit will handle rent missed.

  • Judi Williams

    Can I evict for unclean conditions. Roach and rat infestation?

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