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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433 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • William Kingdon

    I have lived in this apartment for 46 years. One day I came home to find an eviction notice in my screen door. It was a 30 day notice to vacate the apartment. I’m on a month to monty rental agreement. I have always paid my rent on time and sometimes early but never late. I have never done drugs. I have done upkeep on this apartment when I felt it was needed. I have never done anything illegal in or out of this apartment. I have never asked for anything exceptional.
    What recourse do I have?

  • Jess Moralez

    I am a landlord of a duplex and i need to know if i can evict a tenant based off harrassment of another tenent. This particular tenent has lived there for years and the new tenent just moved in. The longer tenent calls me every so often about the other tenent verbally, emotionally, and even physically harrassing them. I have spoken to them both already and thought i had resolved the problem. Turns out the longer tenent ended up filing harrassment charges againt the other because they continued harrassing them even after the talk. Can i evict the tenet that is causing the harrassment?

    • Brenda

      Hey Jess…Did Anyone Ever Get Back to You on Your Question? I have a Simular Question…But it Seems that No One is Replying to Most of the Questions or are being Selective…

      • The Educated Landlord

        Hi Brenda and Jess,

        Most regions have some sort of law or rule pertaining to “peaceful enjoyment of their property” for tenants. This involves tenants NOT being harassed by other tenants or the landlord and might cover this type of situation.

        The challenge of course is to prove there is actual harassment and that can be the tough part. As a landlord if this occurs you should be creating a paper trail of warnings and of potential future action if it’s not addressed as this can lay the groundwork for a successful eviction.

        Otherwise it ends up becoming a he said/she said scenario and it could go either way.


        • Jhorlyn Cabrera

          Our landlords wants us to leave on January 31,and today is january 25.He said he wants the house to be renovated so he wants us to leave immediately.what are our rights as a tenant?

  • Jim Kiernan

    I have a tenant whose lease is up on 1/02/17 has been notified that the lease will not be removed. A mutual agreement has been reached that she would not renew the lease and I the landlord will not renew this was four months ago. My tenant has not even started to look for a new place. My tenant has no intention not to move what are my rights.

  • Brant

    So I moved into this house with my girlfriend. Our landlord said we can rent the other rooms out to whoever. Well I rented a room to a friend and he brought an unauthorized puppy into the house. He has not signed any leases and I don’t know how to get rid of him and his puppy, who chews on EVERYTHING. I’ve notified the landlord of the situation but don’t want to get him involved if I don’t have to. I want them both out ASAP. What are my legal options?

  • Cindy Dutton

    Fire starting by neglect leaving brand new stove on. Stove was less then 3 weeks old. Damages

  • Steve

    Tenant has unregistered cars taking up parking spaces and snow plow having a difficult time to plow driveway.

  • Julie Hahn

    I have a Tennant, with no lease, who hasn’t been around except once a month for an hour to check on his puppy and grab a change of clothes before leaving again, not to be seen for a while. How do I get him out when he receives mail at my residence?

  • Amanda

    Can you be served an eviction notice after you have been served a non renewal? The apartment has said they reserve the right to not renew without reasoning and are not giving any reason. I was served this on Janurary 11th and I am supposed to be out April 30th. Am I protected from an eviction notice or can they decide to evict me tomorrow for something as minor as a neighbor confrontation?
    I do not plan to hold rent, damage, violate or start an illegal business from now until then.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Amanda

      It’s true that renewal is not guaranteed.

      You are allowed to finish out your lease, but once your lease is over, you can’t stay there. If you do, then you can be evicted. But please don’t mistake eviction for lease termination. If your lease is terminated or not renewed, and you refuse to leave, then they have to take you to court to remove you by force (i.e. the sheriff). But if they continue to accept rent from you, then you would have a month-to-month tenancy.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Anna Nordin

    I reside in AZ. I received an unjustified notice of eviction 1/26/17. It is now 1/19/17 and I am still fighting it (via Appeals, Special Actions, etc.)
    I am not a nuisance tenant, have never violated the landlord tenant rules and always paid my rent on time.

    The landlord moved three seriously mentally ill people into our community, to be guaranteed of rent since it is being paid by the state.

    One such “SMI” had a paranoid delusion that I was trying to get her evicted, have her dogs taken from her, have her killed, etc. etc. and out of fear and in hopes of having me evicted, slandered me to the landlord and the landlord believed all her stories.

    How do “non-mentally ill” tenants defend themselves against mentally ill tenants?

  • Jhorlyn Cabrera

    Our landlords wants us to leave on January 31,and today is january 25.He said he wants the house to be renovated so he wants us to leave immediately.what are our rights as a tenant?

  • Lesia

    My children are living in a rental property without a lease. The landlord and my kids mutually and verbally agreed on a month to month. Can the landlord ask them to pay $100 more without it being in writing?

  • Debbie yetter

    I have tenants who are doing drugs and moved in a family member without permission
    What can I do

  • Ashley

    My question is for the law if u the person on the lease and u have a friend over n this friend have a warrant n they came to my house to get that person wit a search warrant of what they looking for is it by law ook that my landlord can evicted me because of it it’s really important that I get the awnser to this question asap please and thank you

  • Patricia S

    I have a question. My plumbing got clogged(my fault) the landlord sent her plumber and I asked him how much he charges. He said he wouldn’t tell me because I wasn’t his client and the landlord was.(client privacy) so I told the plumber that I wasn’t going to pay him if we didn’t agree on a price first. He charged me $150 before so I didn’t argue with him and let him finish the job. He sent the bill to my landlord and my landlord paid the bill without telling me she received the invoice. Now she wants me to pay her back $425 for the bill.What should I do? I feel left out of the agreement and she didn’t allow me the right to negotiate with the plumber.

    • Lisa

      Your landlord should’ve told the plumber you were going to pay the bill, but since the landlord didn’t and went ahead and paid the bill, you have a right to contest it. Tell the landlord you weren’t told in advance what it was going to cost and therefore you should not be responsible for the whole bill. Because if I knew I was the one responsible for the clogged drain, then I should’ve called my own plumber or as I said, the landlord should’ve told his plumber you were gonna pay so discuss it with you.

  • JIM

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  • SC

    My “tennant” is a relative who lives in one of my units for free. We are selling the house and have told him that he needs to start looking for another place to live. We tried to give him advanced notice. Told him a year ago! Then told him again 2 months ago that the house is going on the market. We are now ready to put it on for sale. He says he is not leaving. The Real Estate agent said it is possible to find a buyer who will evict, we are in a “hot” market. Do we need to send him a dated letter saying we are selling?

  • Anita Flores

    I have spoken to the tenant that is renting a room at my house about allowing another couple stay there. I have also spoken with that couple & told them they had to leave. They have been there since the beginning of February. What can I do to get them out of here. Need some good advice.

  • Janae

    We deilnfteiy need more smart people like you around.

  • Heather ortiz

    Neighbor complainants on he said she said.

  • Sharon Askew

    I have been living in my apartment since October with my children and my dog and now sense landlord has had a bad day he says my dog has to leave or I will be evicted and I am on a month-to-month lease

  • Douglas W. Allen

    I was disappointed in not seeing the “No Smoking in House” clause mentioned. It is the clause in the rental lease that has been violated at least 2 times and now the tenant’s lease is being terminated.
    I have an eviction notice on the door posted by the marshall with the other tenant’s name on it for failing to pay rent.
    The notice also states “and all other tenants residing in premises”.
    Both separate tenants are being removed from the property of rented rooms in a single house.
    The Marshall said both tenants can be evicted even though only one name is actually mentioned.
    Please confirm that found smoking in house with a no smoking clause is just as serious a violation as no pets. Maybe more so. Greater hazard. Douglas Allen, NYS

  • LaTrice

    My downstairs neighbor constantly slams the door on a regular basis, and her actions has been ongoing since August of last year. Despite contacting Metro and private security several times, the door slamming hasn’t stopped. I addressed the issue to the previous management company, but was told that they have to have legal grounds for eviction. The apartment complex is under new management, so I had the opportunity to address the issue to the property manager. According to her knowledge, she explained about receiving numerous complaints about this woman from other residents and I’m not the only person who complained.

  • Imran Hossain Khan

    What if I just want to move in to my apartment?

    • Lucas Hall

      Generally speaking, if your tenant has a fixed-term lease, you can’t kick out your tenant early just because you want to move in. Your lease would have to accomodate that situation.

  • carol

    Can I be evicted because a visitor committed a crime( hit another car) on the property while driving out of the complex? his way

  • Lydia

    My ex partner smashed my inside window not all the way through. And ive only been here a month and its my first tenency, im 4 months pregnant and im really scared im going to be evicted

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