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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430 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Donna Jones

    I’m a landlord and am trying to evict a tenant. I initially did this in such a way it did hurt her housing application but now her behaviour is getting worse. Rubbish at the house attracting mice, complaints from neighbours and now the police breaking into the property after a suicide attempt. Can I still evict and should I now also send a section 8 detailing the other problems in addition to section 21 already served?

    I don’t want to be heartless but have to think of the property and the neighbours

    • Misty

      Tread lightly on this matter and here is why…. The tenant clearly suffers from an existing mental illness or one that has developed over time & is something new so with Dr.’s help & trial and error & adjustments of meds they have to work through it & find what works for them. Is it fair for the neighbors or you? No, But at the same time remember it’s not fair for them either, they have to live w/ it everyday & some days the illness wins & they loose control of it. They can not help this & this is why HUD laws protect them, even people w/ Depression & Anxiety. Engage, be someone they can trust & not attack them. Believe it or not they are ashamed of themselves too & attacking only puts them in defense mode & they will lash out more.

    • Misty

      Attacking will them will only make things worse for you and your neighbors and that only ceates a more hostile living environment for the neighbors. So mean meanwhile while you and your tenant are having this huge eviction war that will only be expensive for you since depending on tenants income and situation they can receive legal aide, the neighbors are the ones who will suffer from the tenants lashing out. Police breaking down a door because of a attempted suicide is life threatening not a criminal matter that created an immediate eviction. For whatever mental illness or reason your tenant felt the only way out was death because they felt no one cares about them enough to help them of be there support.

    • Misty

      Your tenants health and life should always matter . Damages to property can be fixed and repaired and brought back a person’s life can not. Which brings me back to my point. A person who has struggled with mental illness has learned how to accept it and handle it and a bad day for them only gain more control of if the next day. As for some one who has never struggled with it in their life and is now dealing with it don’t know how, it’s all new to them. The more they fail the more they feel like they are loosing control which scares the crap out of them. Then they go through a stage of rage and hate for everyone around and thing around them especially things they see as normal and happy becauae they hate themselves and ashamed

    • MISTY

      Of themselves and also because they want normal and happy themselves and they can’t understand why or know how they can ever have if again. They then teach themselves to just hate and reject it because they become to believe they are not good enough for it so instead of working towards that kind of goal they don’t know how anymore and give up, usually brought on from their failures of trying to gain control again, and feeling as if everyone they ever loved and cared about and even strangers attacking and rejecting them because they are not good enough for them or because their mental problems are just to much of burden and an annoyance for Every one so their self worth becomes non Existence which leads to suicide. So as you can see

      • Mary Lea McTurnan

        Is this a pop psychology chat or a landlord probes solving forum??

      • KimR

        I don’t really see how this is the landlord’s problem. If the landlord was not aware of the tenant’s ‘problem’ when she rented them the apartment, but acquires it after the lease is signed and acts out because of her ‘problem’, then she should be evicted esp if she is a problem to the neighborhood, or the landlord. It is not the landlord’s responsibility to cater to someone simply because someone has mental problems. If she is scary because of it, and people feel threatened because of it, including the landlord, then she should go somewhere else….

    • Misty

      Attacking a person struggling with a life long mental illness or one who has never struggled with a mental illness but now is does will get you 0 results but most Importantly creates more damage to the person struggling with the illness. I speak from experience from being that person struggling. And trust me when I say there is nothing more scarier then watching yourself and feeling yourself loose control like something just came in and took control of you andthere is nothing you can do about it and its destroying everyone you ever loved and cared about who you would never in a million years ever under any circumstance would you ever hurt or do harm to or see harm done to and you can’t even protect them or yourself for that matter and

    • MISTY

      All you can do is fight but in the end it wins and your left tired and not having the strength left to fight it you are left feeling hopeless and helpless and left to watch it destroy yoyr loved ones, and good people who are strangers,and everything you worked so hard for all your life and it’s slowly and painfully being taken away. The fact that it is winning leaves feeling ashamed and yourself then you start hating everyone because they can’t see the real person you are and this ain’t who you are and you hate normal and happy because you can’t be normal and happy. So maybe just try a different approach. And as for damages be understanding but make it known at the same time the tenant is responsible for them and work out a way for them

    • MISTY

      It takes one person to show them they do matter, even to a stranger they barely know, to make adifference,it can be the life changer. But remember sometimes the method does not work & enough is enough just makes sure to protect yourself, document everything & show the judge that you have made an attempt but no results, and that you have stayed within all the statutes including federal ones too. But before resulting in a eviction that will only cost you time and money cause the tenant is not the most outstanding citizen in the world they are human and maybe their behavior is created by something they just may not be aware of or just not know how to accept it and handle if or new to it. I hope this helps you, I’m not a landlord but I’ve

    • MISTY

      But I’ve been that person struggling and kicked out of my home where I’m suppose to be safe and able to let go of the things Inside my home I want no one to see, where I can scream at the top of my lungs for 5 min just to let all my frustrations from the day out. And sometimes I would go so overwhelmed with frustration that my husband couldn’t understand me or what i was feeling I would trigger my anxiety then that scared me so I’d panick and he would have to calm me down usually by a bear hug and me struggling and screaming to let me go and even though we made our neighbors well aware of my condition it b3ing new and learning they would be understanding to my face but the minute another episode happened they were calling the landlord and

    • Misty

      Cops. The landlord we also kept informed about it from the very beginning. But they sold the place and even though they made the new owners well aware of our situation and even let them know that both my husband and I were getting help with it & that since we have started counseling they have seen some improvements and positive results. Well they weren’t as understanding & kicked us out of our home for 3 yrs. & used just cause eviction to try to avoid a lawsuit. Well they still ended up with a lawsuit filed against them & lost costing them $350,000 plus the property. I didn’t deserve that eviction I deserved a chance to continue making progress and that the things they did to us set me back to square one. The point is i was trying.

      • megan

        omg im in a similar situation currently w/ my landlord. i just happen 2 b lookn 4 tenant rites eviction info wen i stumbled across ur story… i can not beleiv @ how accurate ur details were wen u were describing how u teach urself 2 h8 & reject u think @ sum points thru out that sumhow u must deserve this bullshit that life is begging u 2 become even more- hateful, resentful, malious, manipulating, rude, unfair, greedy & blind… 2 walk on whomever, however, wenevr & no matter wat, 2 get wat u want, out of whoevr u want it frm, @ any partitular time- depending on wat kind of an asshole u feel like being that day! this of course this is how i c my situation quickly unfolding. such gr8 detail in ur entries! check out “thought”

    • James

      You can’t be responsible for someone’s issues, you are running a business and you have to consider your other tenants. Whomever said “things can be fixed” has obviously never had to be responsible for anything. You aren’t a charity or a counselor. Give proper notice and let HUD know they can reimburse you for damages and pay rent for any other tenant that decides to leave due to the antics of their voucher recipient. You must consider that your other tenants have a right to “Peaceful enjoyment” of their rented space.Do not hesitate, it’s your business, livelihood and anyone that causes you and other tenants this much problem needs to go. Good Luck!

  • Tracy Sutton

    I have a tenant that rents a room in a 5 bedroom house I own in Texas. Other rooms are rented and it rented out as Airbnb. The lease is a genetic lease on Law Depot. The lease does have rules and regulations that she has never signed. The lease states that the common areas are those outside of the room rented. She has had outbursts with other tenants regarding the men in the house in the common area. She has issues with men we did not know about. We have spoken to her twice and tried to pay her to leave. She says she would be nice and would rather stay. Recently, she tripped another male tenant and acted crazy when confronted. What can I do to get this woman out while trying to keep the peace? HELP!!!

    • Doris Karp

      I leased a room from a man and his trustee who lives in France told him to kick me out. The trustee had the closet and dressers full of their personal items and stayed in the room sometimes for extended periods.She flew in and had my landlord make false statements to the court obtained a TRO & the sheriff remived me without having any notice nor being able to take my cat and items of furniture. Can a trustee fly in from France and break all the tenant rights in California? I was paid up to 4/19/19 on a one year lease but the sheriff removed me on 4/10/19! It has caused me to be homeless rented a motel room until my credit card was maxxed out and I painfully had to relinquish my cat to Humane Society fearing she would be euthanized.


    To pay back the costs by either doing if themselves of signing an agreement that so much per month will be added into the monthly rent till paid back. But make if affordable. Just show them you understand they can always control
    The illness have bad days where they loose the battle but at the same time it doesn’t and the damages created by those days ok either. Believe it or not this will help them. It gives them something to strive for a goal to accomplish. They will try harder to not being aware more of the signs that start showing right before they have those days and will focus more on when its about to happen and what helps when they feel it coming to prevent having to keep paying for those damages it creates.

  • Indu

    My tenant lease expired and it is on month to month basis . What kind of notice to be given to vacate my basement apartment

  • Keta Rodriguez

    My daughter is pregnant and homeless. Can I give my tenant notice to leave so my daughter can move in?

  • Anastasia

    My mother in law moved in with us a little over 6 months ago. She sold her trailer and gave us a portion of the money to help save us from foreclosure. No contract and no word of us paying her back, until more recently. Since moving in she’s plunged in a spiral. She’s always trying to pick fights with me, has made threats against me, is accusing me of A LOT of things I’ve never even dreamt of doing, trying to get my husband to divorce me. She comes home from work at 11ish and she slams things around and yells and rants loudly to herself and it wakes both myself and 1 yr old. At this point she’s put a lot of stress in my life to the point that I don’t want to be in my own home (which is exactly what she wants). Are we within rights to evict?

    • Anastasia

      And a follow up scenario and question.
      We are currently starting the process of filing bankruptcy and now of all times she’s talking about getting a lawyer to get the $2000 she had given to us. I wouldn’t have a problem with giving the money back to get her out if we weren’t already struggling AND her mother started giving her $100 a month as repayment for what we were given. She has not had to pay rent and has only paid two bills that we did not repay her for. She’s talking about only suing me for the money, which I never touched nor saw, she’s just being petty because she hates me. Without a written contract or not even a verbal agreement of repayment, will we have to worry about paying her back?

  • irma G

    2 year tenant, going on 3rd year refused to sign extended one year lease although agreed previously to do so, tenant request kitchen to be remodeled and windows be replaced. Tenant did not pay rent for April 2019 and went to the city of Oakland to request a city inspector to inspect home. City cited me for wall plug cover and a smoke detector(which were there previously, tenant removed) I have repaired the following and city of Oakland will be out to re-inspect, How can I get this tenant to leave my home. there is nothing wrong with my home,

  • David

    I have a tenant who is behind on rent, late every month. She has a dog. During the cold Wisconsin winter she had her dog shit and pee in the basement.

    My questions:

    1) my tenant is behind on rent, but not significantly ($900 or so), does the amount she is behind matter in the courts “eyes” as far as removing her from the home?

    2) the dog issue. This has to be an action worthy of eviction right? It has happened over and over and she does not clean it up.

    3) we agreed verbally to her dog, but nothing in writing. The lease she signed says “no pets unless otherwise agreed upon with written amendment.” Thoughts?


  • Jonathan

    I am from Portland OR I am a landlord of one commercial. Last Friday i git assaulted by my tenant. Can i immediately terminate the lease

  • Mark

    My tenant which has a bad mental illness,he struck me ,the cops didn’t take him to jail,but to the hospital, there he signed his way out,he told the cops he needed help,can I refuse him back into my home? He dose hear voices an such.

  • Linda

    Let’s say someone shot someone in there apt gets arrested….ok violation of lease.said person has family they were notified.came an retrieved some stuff.also said person had a unauthorized person living there acting as a care came an went..apt has all tenent who went to jail stuff in it.i see they are allowing unauthorized tenent to cone in an out w a key,an I’ve seen several people cone an go an taking things out of apt.can manager allow this?

  • Samantha

    What is the matter with you?

  • April R

    I am a tenant being forced to leave my home of 5 years. I had received via email by property management a new lease extension of one year with an additional increase in monthly rent(which they have done every year for the past 5 yrs) within 24 hours of emailed lease extension I receive a retraction email indicating the landlord decided he will not be extending the lease because he’s giving the home to his son. property management would not accept my offer of the deposit as last months rent since I explained that I had not set aside funds for an unexpected move and simply do not have the monies to pay for a deposit /app fees and rent on a new home plus pay this last months rent. I have 2 kids under 15 in the house what rights might I have

  • Sue Calhoun

    I want to evict my tenants who live under my roof but in sep quarters bc they have torn gate off my driveway. Young and i dont trudt them not to damage something else. They are on month to month

  • Sandy

    I started getting sick coughing and breathing issues 3 months after my tenant moved into the basement.My doctor just confirmed it’s my allergies and I need to start taking medication.She used oil plugins and the scent is so strong, it even travels to my watch 2nd floor. What makes it worse is she has a bird and leases says no pets. I let it go but I think that makes my allergies worse. It’s been 9 months and this is no effective my breathing and daily life. Can I at least tell her to cease using the plugins because of my health. To boot…I even hear her coughing was excessively herself. Ive now read that those plugins can even cause cancer which freaks me out more. Any advice?

  • Jorge

    They want to evict me because I didtn put I was on surpervison of probation on the lease cause it didtn ask me that

  • Edward Chiaese

    My daughter was willed her deceased mothers Mobil Home in a co-op park. They filed an eviction notice back in June 2018. She vacated the property at the time.
    Since she was not 55 at the time the Board had her evicted. Now that she is of legal age 55& wants to move into the senior park the board says they will deny her access. They have put locks on both of the doors with hasps, locking her out.
    How long does an eviction notice last? Since she is now the legal owner of the property can they still
    refuse to let her live there? If she pays the monthly association fees.
    My daughter said she will bring the sheriff with her when she moves back in. The board said they will have her arrested & detain her. WHAT ARE MY DAUGHTERS LEGAL RIGHTS?

  • Sabrina

    What your tenant who is living with you free of charge is in the hospital for the 10th time this year. Now he needs a caregiver, due to a stroke and other health related issues ,but does not have one. He is going to a rehabilitation center for atleast a month after. Is this legal grounds to not allow them back since you physically can’t take care of that person? Or do you still have to give 30 days.

  • Roni

    What about tenants who leave children in the apartment alone who are 7 years old and younger? The leasing agent came to have my mom sign her lease and she witnessed the noise level that my mom had been complaining about. When the agent left she said she was going to go talk with her upstairs. Well when she went up there to speak with the tenant her 3 small children were up there by themselves and told her that their mom was downstairs. The agent went to look for her and she was nowhere to be found. Is that cause for an eviction?

  • Barbara Kelly

    Have no lease, Husband and I bought home and let son and girl friend move in the house payment/power/water are all in our name. He was told it was a rent to own, this was about 15 years ago. the last three years he now has a girlfriend with a son, The police are called at least every 3 months which sometime involves us, my son is in jail now and we want to evict all of them, rent is paid to the 30th, she does not work, how does not having a contract hurt us


    i have been renting the same unit for 4 years. eight months ago, the management company rented the unit directly above my unit to new people and they have been nothing but a nuisance since they’ve arrived. they are loud, noisy, messy, and inconsiderate. they leave empty bottles in the hallways, drop debris from their patio onto my patio and has caused an infestation of pests. ive submitted numerous complaints to the management company, but the landlord says there’s nothing they can do, if they pay their rent on time. there has to be something they can do, isn’t there?

  • Janice

    The manager of the house we are renting keeps playing games with us. Not doing the year lease like agreed apon and then will tell us we have 3p days because they need to sell the house then nevermind to tell g us this again. We’ve had no complaints and keep to ourselves, don’t do drugs , no damage and never late on rent. He boyfriend is the actual owner and h3 hasn’t said anything to that sort. What do we do.

  • John

    I am a tenant in Georgia and repairs are not being made through the property Management group. I called the homeowner directly to address the situation. She said that I should be dealing with the property management company and not calling her directly and we ended the call. She called me back about five minutes later and said that if I’m not happy I should move better yet she’s going to call the property management group and tell them she wants me evicted. Does she have grounds to stand on for eviction because I called her?

  • Matthew Steele

    My tenant rents a room in my home and despite many conversations and rule setting sessions continues to take things. They drink alcohol, eat food, use toilet paper, laundry soap, the works that belong to me without asking or replacing. I Have repeatedly told them they are stealing. They say they will stop, but just keep doing it.

    They also regularly leave the house unlocked despite me telling them not to. Rarely clean, take out trash etc. and I’m constantly having to clean up cigarette butts from them and their friends.

    This has all been been discussed, agreed to and are continuous to be a problem. I served them 90 days notice as required in Oregon and the problems have gotten worse. Is this enough cause to evict?

  • Julie Rosensteel

    My Tenants Grandson who’s on the lease snap and tried coming after me to bear me up. If it were not for the grandmother and his cousin, he would have hurt me. He was screaming, and going nuts in the apartment when I walked away. I told him I no longer feel safe for myself or others being on the property. I gave him a eviction notice to be off the property in 5 days.

    I have witness that saw and heard everything.
    I wish I would have called the police as well. Will this eviction stand, or does this tenant have more rights then I do as a landlord and my safety?

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