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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192 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Lynn

    I have a physical disability that prevents me from working. I have my 2 adult disabled children living with me they cannot live alone. Also have multiple ESA pets. Gapko couple owns the house I have been renting for 5 years. Owners take 5 vacations per year. This place has serious mice infestation in the attic, there is NO access to the attic. We have had 4 different fridges in 5 years. The entrance door to the house is hollow/freezes up in winter. There is a ton more problems, no room to list! The owners have friends stop on the road at the end of our driveway, stare at the house/yard. Then tattle on us to the landlords who scold us. we are being evicted because they we are poor renters. we are month-month & moving out before evict hearing

    • Kelly

      I am a property manager and I am sympathetic to tenants on fixed income and special needs. I also want to see that the tenant is doing their part. Some do…
      Unfortunately though, most of the time tenants who have problems don’t take action to minimize their impact, or clear away some of the messy details. They try to explain.
      I’d like to tell them… quit smoking, get down to ONE, well-behaved, well cared for pet, don’t let your kids or your boyfriend move in, if you have noisy friends – meet them off the property, hire a cleaning lady if you hate housework, etc…
      A better situation will probably involve some tough choices. Ask for help. Be willing to change. Take action.

  • Tyeisha Daniels

    I am a 20 year old female & I have a 1 year old son. My landlord called me into the office and demanded me to sign an “Intent to Vacate” paper. After I signed the paper she stated “You didn’t have to sign it if you didn’t want to”. Her reason for evicting me is that I am unstable and she doesn’t want to renew my lease. My rent is always paid and my lights have NEVER been cut off. What can I do ?

  • Mit

    I live on second floor and tenants below me complain to landlord that I make too much noise when I am walking. Their complain is that they can’t sleep at night because of noise. They go to bed early like 8:45 pm and I come home late around 9:3 pm. Landlord has threatened me to take me to court for this violence. I have heavy feet so there is noise when I’m walking. Can landlord throw me out for this reason from my apartment?

    • Dee Dee

      I have same problem as Mit. I just moved into an old 1964 built condo building. Signed 2 year lease . I have one small child. Only 2 weeks in, the neighbor downstairs complained profusely to our landlord about hearing loud noise on her ceiling. She exaggerated the truth and says it is late at night. My child goes to bed at 9pm. Landlord has accused me of repeated noise disturbance and threatened me. No loud talking, no parties, no drugs, no police complaints from anyone else in this building. I can vouch to the lousy flooring because I can hear movement from the people upstairs and it is loud. My place has carpet but his unit upstairs is in violation of Assoc. rules, 100% hardwood floors. Will a judge evict me for such nonsense?

  • ashley Turner

    My landlord is trying to kick me out over a carpet that was black before i moved in and i have witness to prove it was black and i have a son with cp can she kick me out over this since it’s not my fault

  • Elaine

    I’ve been a law abiding resident for over 18 years. Rental payments were made on time. This year I’ve faced some financial hardships, and so rent has been late. However, I’m never behind with payments and fees. I explained the situation to my landlord telling him that I was trying to resolve my situation, and he was not understanding. Recently, I got a to quit notice for being late more than 5 times. I’ve worked in NY real estate for a number of years, and I’ve never heard of a tenant being thrown out because they were late with payments. Especially, when the tenant has a record of timely payments. Everyone goes throught rough patch. I thought tenants got evicted for non-payments. Is this right?

    • K. SUMMERS

      a landlord is looking for dependability. if your late on making rent that affects your landlord and making them late on their resonsibilities. being late 5 times is excessive and yrs you can be evicted. you signed a contract that states when rent is due. if you can’t make rent and the due date then it becomes a problem for your landlord. i would evict a tenant if they were late. most landlords will do it the first time it happens. pay or quit. so given that its happen 5 times.
      a judge will side with the landlord.

  • jackie

    My tenant is consistently rude and obnoxious. does not follow rules. and every time you try to help her she comes back with a very rude comment. is very disrespectful and hard to deal with. can I evict her for being consistently rude & harassing, calling me names, and disrespectful???

  • Jill

    My building manager put her 2 boys into one unit and their friends in another. One of her boys has a drug usage history and was dealing. He was also using in both units. After over a year of this being an issue I figured out that the boys were her sons, different last names because they are from a previous marriage. Property company don’t know about the drugs and I finally went to the city because they are making meth. Two days after the city got involved I got a non renewal notice. Being I live in a state that recognizes landlord retaliation, I am fighting it but have shifted from trying to get the drugs out to trying to get her fired which would get the drugs out. Won’t know if it works or not until the end of January.

  • Charles Myers

    When my dad died , I and my eldest daughter bought his property , allowing my youngest daughter to live there , because they couldn’t get a mortgage . The renting daughter and her husband insisted on having a rental lease . My eldest daughter wrote a 5 year lease , not suspecting , there would be problems. My Son in law began harassing me in several different ways . I had done a lot of work , without charging them i.e..they are family . Then my son in law ,began chasing me off the property , and decided that Family could not use the picnic area on the property . Then he began claiming , that He owns the property , and I am not allowed on it . I had them evicted , but on appeal , the Judge upset the eviction . He /my daughter are friends.

  • Joseph

    I signed a lease on a home with an individual in November. Prior to move-in he stated he served 5 years because a friend had drugs on him when he got pulled over.

    His background check apparently came back good, I assume, as we were approved.

    He is paying $600 a month for one room in the home, while I pay double that. I was the one who found the property, I have made improvement to it aesthetically, and have the utilities in my name.

    Now he feels the garage is his domain, and an extra room which was to be a guest room is now his, and when I was able to find a washer/dryer for the laundry, he said he was moving his own set in.

    I just learned he has multiple drug convictions and unlawful use of weapon. He lied to me, so what can I do?

    • Joseph

      First, I’m not a lawyer but I will say this. Technically, he told you that he served time for drugs. Even if his friend was in possession like he said he would be charged as well with possession if it was his car. They might have very well been his drugs, but proving that will be very difficult unless you can obtain the police report from that arrest. As far as the unlawful use of a weapon, apparently he never disclosed that to you. How did this information come to light? Did you obtain his record or is this heresy? Tenant laws vary from state to state so that needs to be taken into consideration when asking for advice. In order to receive accurate advice I would comment what state and how you now know about his convictions

  • Jocelyn Conwell

    A tenant who retaliates by deliberately running water, so as to increase the water and sewer bill to an exorbitant amount.

  • Gloria Richardson

    Can u mail your neighbor a letter n tell him just how disgusting he I’d n what a big lied he is n how bad he smells

  • Donna

    I rented out my condo ( it is in a trust) for 5 years. My partner is on disability and we are both senior citizens. We need to break the lease for financial reasons. The tenant has done nothing wrong. Can I legally break the lease in CA?

  • Victoria

    I sublet a back house and they have a vicious dog that has broken through my fence and attacked my dog, told them to get rid of the dog and they have not, and I received email last night stating that they have done damage to the house, punched holes in the walls, completely destroyed a door because they claim it got locked and they needed in the room, what can I do as my next step. Can I legally give them 3 days to vacate the property by their admission to punching holes in the walls??

  • Crystal Nelson

    My husband pays mortgage on this house but his grandparents own the house and his mom’s boyfriend is a deadbeat tenant. he won’t get a job he disrespects my husband and the rules of the house the grandparents are working on evicting him but they been saying that for over 2 months I’m wondering if it’s possible that my husband who pays the mortgage of the house can get the eviction notice if his grandparents give him the okay??

  • Tom D’Andrea

    Mom put the deed to her condo in my brother’s name 12 years ago when he agreed to pay off the balance of her mortgage (40k). Now he needs money and wants to evict her so he can sell the condo. I offered to give him his 40k back, but he wants to sell it (worth 109k), and keep the equity she had in the place as well. She is 85 years old. What can she do? There was no written agreement in place. Ideas???



    a landlord is looking for dependability. if your late on making rent that affects your landlord and making them late on their resonsibilities. being late 5 times is excessive. i wouls serve u a pay or quit 1st time it happen.

  • TheLSLewis

    My roommate double charged for the electric bill multiple months and still didn’t pay the bill. I feel this is fraud on some level?

  • Dolores Gercar

    I have a tenant that was found to have a unatherized occupant living on the premises & a dog that was unatherized. I sent him a pet policy to pay a monthly charge for dog. He said his 24 year old son is living on the premises. I told him rent would increase. Later he text son was moving in 2 weeks. Then couple days later he say his son & a friend are waiting for their apartment to ready. Then later says son will be staying until he finds a place. Regarding dog, I found he had a dog a month later when he answered the door holding dog. I told him I wasn’t aware of tenant having a pet since he put no pets on the application. Told him of pet policy charges & informed that it says in lease that they must have permission to have a pet.

  • Noel W. Batlle

    . Thank you. I have a tenant that has told me on January 5, 2018, “I will not pay, and I am not leaving your house. Get me out. She is smoking at the house, but the lease clause it stays that that is not allowed. She is doing marijuana in the room 4 of the house. I live at the property. She has an authorized cat on the property. Expends water and light to make sure that I get hurt in my bills. I am a “Disabled Veteran, ” under Social Security. She is looking for confrontation every time that she can. What can I do? I have filed the eviction in Miami, Fl already. She owns me almost $ 1800 already. The complaint had an error, then the Sheriff could not be served the papers. I wrote to the Judge, and he did give me the right to amend.

  • Thelma ginee GonzaLez

    I remodeled the apart before the tenant moved in. She liked it but since she and her two adults sons move in everything is disappearing. I left some furniture in the balcony an extra medicine cabinet in the bathroom, ornaments, pictures in the hallway. My money, jewelry, chlothes and other things have been stolen from my apt.

  • Dona L Foster

    My daughter, her boyfriend, and 2 kids live with me. My daughter is extremely verbally abusive. My mom owns the house and my sister is POA. They don’t pay rent and are always asking me for money. They keep telling me that they are getting their own place but it never happens. Can they be evicted due to the stress they have caused me?

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