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.

Get our free newsletter

Join 200,000+ landlords

  • ​Tips to increase income
  • Time-saving techniques
  • ​Powerful tools & resources

433 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

    • Caroline

      Hi I have had the same issue wondering g what the outcome was

      • Jeanette Ervin

        If your husband commit a criminal act where you live and the wife knows nothing about it and finds out only through an eviction note and the judge gives you 3 weeks to move can you ask for more time.

    • Tess neufville

      Your son is sort of right. But you can give his a 30 day notice in writing. After the 30 days, he doesn’t leave call the police..
      Will your son paying any bills.

  • 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!

    • john w cody

      My daughter wants to move into our rental unit. The present tenant has been there several years but will need to be evicted/moved out. His original annual lease has now become a month to month after the first 12 months term. Since its not eviction for NON Payment, is the eviction process different or just give him 30 days notice ( as a month to month ) tenant?

  • 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

    • Caroline

      My tenant harrSsed me and my husband He slapped a iphone out of my hand causing severe damage to the phone and had to replace it. He also pushed my husband out who btw is 66 era records from doctor that states his pain is muscular To this day he still has pain

  • Brenda Lumpkin

    My daughter was told she has 45 days to move. Because her girlfriend and her gf sister got into an altercation with some guys. My daughter’s girlfriend grab a knife from my daughter’s kitchen and went upstairs to her sister’s apartment to confront the guys. In return my daughtelater went upstairs to get her knife. And that’s what the manager has on video my daughter going back into her apartment with her knife in her hand. She didn’t threaten anybody or was she involved in the altercation. It was her girlfriend and the gfs sister. She has lived there since 2015 and never once had she caused a problem. She pays her on time.

  • Melissa

    My downstairs neighbors complains about any little noise we make in apartment above her and kids heads no matter what time of day. This is an old house and so can hear anything going on between the two apartments. My nephew is almost three and has special needs and other than on weekend spends all day at sitters or daycare so only home after 5pm. Have asked the landlord to speak to her but basically says need to work things out on own. She has recently started calling the police regarding the noise and apparently thijgs falling

    • Christina

      I am having some what the same problem. Our downstairs neighbors complain about any little noise I have a 3yr and 8yrs that yes do play around the house, they are children with this pandemic they dont go out plus we dont have an area for kids to play in out apartments. Another thing they play loud music anytime of the day even 8PM-9pm at night. I want to know if there is anyway I can get a form that all the tents can sign to give to landlord to see if he can do something. Other tents/neighbors have also had problems with them since they moved in. They are new tents.

  • Melissa

    My downstairs neighbors complains about any little noise we make in apartment above her and kids heads no matter what time of day. This is an old house and so can hear anything going on between the two apartments. My nephew is almost three and has special needs and other than on weekend spends all day at sitters or daycare so only home after 5pm. Have asked the landlord to speak to her but basically says need to work things out on own. She has recently started calling the police regarding the noise and apparently things falling off walls. Landlord has just served 30 day notice in hopes to solve things and just refuses to try fixing things to make it so when people walk around shakes her walls and ceiling.

    Is there something can do

  • Cimdy Draper

    I have a tenant that broke her lease by not keeping up with the yard, also she is a drunk and slept with my husband. Now I’m evicting her. I came in the home it is damaged so bad I have to knock down walls and rip up the flooring. She filled the toilet with shit (overflowing) this is the worse tenant I have ever had.

  • Jeanette Ervin

    If your husband commit a criminal act where you live and the wife knows nothing about it and finds out only through an eviction note and the judge gives you 3 weeks to move can you ask for more time.

  • Landlord

    My tenant moved his girlfriend and son into his apartment. His son got mad at him and threatened to kill him. After several threats and an assault. He moved out. I asked them to move and when they didn’t, I filled a 3 day eviction notice.
    Now the son has threatened together a gun and kill me also. The mother is disabled. She keeps saying she is looking for a place but can’t find one.
    Is this a legal reason in Ohio to evict someone.

  • JMG

    We have a couple living avobe us for the last 3 year. It has been an ordeal for us. the tapping, constant noise and wasting water is just appalling. Unfortunately, we live in one of those old units that share the main water pipe so it means all of us as owners pay for that water that we have not used. The landord is a person that is only interested in putting money in his pocket and does not care about the situation. actually he gets really defensive. These people have bridged the bylaws of the strata and the have been notified by it.
    Please, help me I dont know what to do. Why some people just take advantage of the system?

    • Christina

      If I my ask what kind or tapping / constant noise are they making? You say you live in old apartments, can you really blame them……? Ppl need to use their feet to walk from room to room.

      • JMG

        For sure if you are in a old building you just use your common sense to not bother people dont you? one thing is tapping and other very different is stumping so please? you can walk around but thumping and dragging things on the ground all day until late at night?
        Tapping continuosly for 5 hours is just rude and malicious behaviour after having denied all of this in front a mediador. it is just a dishonest and dispicable people
        Why someone thinks that have the right to waste water y pretend we have to pay for that?

  • Sgeila

    I moved in with my son an girlfriend 21/2 months ago and my 19yr old to. She has done everything to disrespect me and does so many drugs in fron t of me an my 19yr old. She was fatally obsessed with my older son an made him miserable so bad he left a month ago. He has been back a few times but she is bad. She has asked me to move, then stay back an forth I can’t move I have no money to and the president has us under a stay at home order. She got crazy moved Everything I mean EVERYTHING in her bedroom an locked it then served me a 3 day notice to leave says she is afraid of me an I stole from her. These are lies I can prove. What can I do? She is evil won’t put smoke alarms back up due to her herion smokin. I’m afraid of her

  • Gilber t Arnold

    I rent a tiny home I have been without hot water for a year and three months I just got out of hospital and was derived with paper s to evict I played my rent when I had no hot water and he was chargnig me electric each month raise it up every month more and more it was a big inconvenience for me to have to find a shower and to heatwater. For my dishes. Today he turned power off to. My unit he had other units units useinng. Power. And charging them to do I have rights

  • Sara Griffin

    Can my landlord terminate my lease for asking him to fix my clogged sink? The pipe is clogged up until the basement and I’m on the 4th floor in a 150 year old building and he’s blaming me. My apartment hasn’t been updated in over 20 years and the kitchen sink and cabinets are falling apart and leaking.

  • evelia

    I’m the tenant I’ve lived in my apt for almost 5yrs and been my kids & myself good tenants no trouble no problems with neighbors . Work school home. Recently about 18months ago a friend wanted a relationship with me so we started seeing each other as friends he would come and never stayed in my apt. But got to a point i decided to stop seeing each other cuz he was having mental problems that I was never aware it happen during the time i was GETTING to know him. I stopped seeing him . For some reason he got upset started coming near my apt with my consent or my kids. I started getting upset scared called cops to please ask him to stop coming around me to seek for medical health help. So they did he agreed ended up at hospital was dx with men

    • Mark Brody

      I’ve been on both sides of rentals. In other words, I was a tenant when I was younger but now have been a landlord for couple of decades. Evelia, I really don’t understand what you are saying. Is there a question?

  • Tianna

    I am a full-time military member and a grad student. I have been living in a lovely home for seven years. There are two rooms. Recently, a month ago, a tenant moved in. At first, I thought she was great, but then she started doing very odd things. She uses my stuff without asking, has her boyfriend over all the time and late at night even though I get up at 5 am. When she moved in I had no idea that she was only working 2-3 days a week. This means she will be at home all day. She rearranged my furniture, reorganized my utensils/DVDs, the cleaning supplies under my sink; she uses my stuff w/o asking. She shaves her body and leaves it in the shower (three times). She is disrespectful and acts entitled.

  • Linda Richardson

    I recently finished renovating a basement unit and subsequently rented it out with no problems. After the tenant moved in, I went back to the property to meet a contactor or to install some finishing touches. Trash was everywhere in the unit, but more importantly, we found sheets full of human excrement throughout the unit and in the bathroom. Initially, the contractor said, “Be careful. The dog had an accident.” Since there were no pets allowed in the unit, I knew that not to be true. The tenant walked into the room and calmly claimed the sheets to be his own! This is a horrific situation that I have never encountered as a landlord. Any advice would be helpful, however, the eviction process has begun!

    • JMG

      I feel sorry for you. there are people that should be in a black list for being bad tenants. May I ask you what is the nationality of those tenants? I hope you can get rid off them.

  • Christina

    If I my ask what kind or tapping / constant noise are they making? You say you live in old apartments, can you really blame them……? Ppl need to use their feet to walk from room to room.

  • Delilah Christensen

    My townhomes have thrown my children’s bikes/scooters, that were left outside by my door due to mud on them, in the trash. Luckily we were able to recover those before it was too late. Now they came over and took my children’s toys while they were outside playing and are trying to charge a 100 dollar fine for us to get them back. When we told them the items weren’t even worth that much to just forget it they placed a 3 day comply or vacate due to being a “nuisance”. I’m not even sure if they can do that.

  • Jennifer

    So I have had problems with the people they move upstairs for the past 3 years they have rented to people who party all night or don’t respect the 9 30 pm curfue and. They have left because they say I complain about noise and so he is deciding to let me go because he is saying I don’t like no noise but I actually work 9 to 5 and I do follow the rules

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Be short, sweet and to the point.