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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400 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jeff

    I am the onsite manager for a 37-unit building in L.A. I have a tenant who lives directly above me and she has absolutely no respect or sense that she resides in a shared living space. She blasts her radio in her unit at various times of the day and night. Right now, I’m typing this at 4:40am and she has been running back and forth across her apartment like she’s wearing concrete shoes, banging pots and pans in her kitchen, and talking loudly with her windows open, and all of this is in a narrow courtyard that reverberates and amplifies the sound. She props open security doors to the building and leaves them that way unattended. When her kids visit her on the weekends, they run and stomp back and forth and scream. What can I do?

    • William Asper

      It really depends on your lease with her. Now, if police are called because of the noise, that’s one thing, but it’d need to many times. Kids run; that’s what they do, and you cannot evict because of children so you’re SOL on that one. Prop open security doors, there is nothing there either. That’s not a crime and she could always say it was hot inside, or she was moving something in/out. Your only option is noise and pots/pans won’t do it. She’s allowed to do all that at any hour of the day. The music would be the only, and if police don’t catch it, nothing will happen…and noise complaints are not priority, so they may take awhile to arrive (and it could be done by then).

    • Genesis

      Can I get evicted if my 12 year old gets arrested? I had to call the police on him because he was out of medication due to add ADHD and the kids here in the community stoled his phone and bike and has been bullying him constantly. The office doesn’t see these kids behavior instead they get a report that my son was arrested and want to kick me out he is disabled I have no where to go

  • Tray

    We are renting rooms with 2 individuals to a room – We have this one tenant who keeps causing her roommates to move out. This is a rent-controlled property. She’s not threatening to kill anyone yet but she did tell former roommate that she was going to look into her immigration status and took a picture of her when she came out of the bathroom one day. She eventually moved out because she was scared of her. Now we have another roommate who is moving because of her – Now she does subtle things to imtimidate her like keeping her talk radio on all night, keeping her alarm on throughout the day after she leaves at 5 a.m. in the morning for work, telling other roommates what to do, etc. Isn’t this nuisance enough behavior? Can we give 30day

    • Gwen

      I have the same problem. Rent two rooms.. one girl has been there for over 4 years, in that time she got a dog, moved her birds into my family room and now puts all her shopping on my dining room table. I ask her to put it away and she complains she has no room.. Her bed room is packed with crap. Now every time i get a second renter in the other room she tells them crap and lies about me to get them to move out so she can have the house to herself.. she’s retired and I work every day. I can’t keep a second renter because of her. The renter told me everything she says. It’s nasty. I want her OUT!

    • Stephen

      Move or get a job that u are working that time or night. Or ask her Ex-Hisband if you can rent a room from him. He will probably sympathize with you ..

  • Wendy Reese

    How do you get a tenant to move out when the house came with the job and they were terminated from the job ? What steps now ?

  • Scarecrow

    How do I evict a trouble maker tenat?

    49 yr old tenant hasconvinced the other four, tenants to unite against us in order pay less rent. 49’er and crew presented us with a reduction of rent by half, siting electrical problems that potentialy have put their lives in danger. This preceded a brief coup by 49er saying they had no heat as well
    49er’s portable jacuzzi when plugged in, causes the circuit breaker pops if the heater is on at the same time.

    And all tenants want me to leave the property as well and vacate their current lease with me as the landlord. 49’er found hardcore drugs outside in front of the home. Police were called. Nobody arrested. Even though I was not home, 49er got my name included into the report.

    What to do?

  • Brokenhearted

    How do I get my BF evicted? Hes not on the lease but refuses to move out since he put a gas bill in his name he says hes a legal tenant?!

  • Mrs Butler

    Me and my hustand who are separated got into an argument and he lied to the police and the neighbor next door two doors down from me doesn’t like me but she’s cool with him so when the police was called they mad up a lie together. My neighbor called my landlord and told her a faulty lie and I was arrested by the police because the police said since we’re married then I have to go to jail. He spoke to them but I didn’t get a chanxe to because I left not thinking anything about it.5 other pwpple were at my house and my husband doesn’t live at my house. My landlord put a lease violation on my door I tried to call her she hung up on me and I tried to text her and she didn’t return my text. It doesn’t state in my lease about police being called

  • Joeann. Woodin

    I LIVE IN ATLANTA GA MY ADULT SON AND I BEEN IN THE SAME APARTMENT FOR 8 YEAR ON A LEASE.Question I am asking a new company took over the landlord sign for my son and I to stay that year ok lease expire April 2018 I sign the lease but they have a denied my son to sign it until he get a back ground check 2010 when had to apply to get in this same apartment it was approve with background check now 8 years later he asking my son to do another background check is that illegal because he is assuming he is a crimal but he Never been to jail or convicted. Thank you

  • bill gilmore

    been renting for over 3 years .1st year was lease agreement after that just 30 days….but the landlord put in a illegal septic system and got turned in and now wants to evict the tenants.is this legal

  • hector

    have a landlord who is a scum evicting me because she felt threatened n never was, she more racist then real n cant keep it in the guide lines. n threatens me with police n court that i dont scare that easy.

  • Charles R Myers

    After my father passed in 2014 , My youngest daughter and her family moved in , butter unable to get a mortgage.I and my oldest daughter got a mortgage , and agreed to allow my youngest , to live there , with her family. My daughter and her husband said they couldn’t afford the mortgage payments , and asked me to make the payments lower .Having already put $26,500 on the mortgage , I put another $40,000 on the mortgage to make a rental pmt. of $11,000/Mo. I was asked to do several favors , that year, on property , including 22 1/2 acres . Then my Son in law decided I can no longer enter the land , and enjoy the picnic area ,thereon .He insisted on an agreement , which he violated After I filed eviction , He assaulted me . Saga goes on

  • Sarah Johnsin

    I just moved in 2 days ago 3-27-18, ive signed the lease, but have not paid the first months rent yet
    Tonight 3-29-18 I get a TEXT saying : “your background check didn’t clear, you have to be oit tomorrow 3-30-18 by noon and return the keys. This can’t be legal at all! Ive googled Colirado Tenants Rights, and I don’t think he can do this without properly filing because ive already signed. Any advice as to what you think or what should i do…fight it and by myself 30 days????

  • April DeVore

    I’m currently rent a home of mine. Completely remodeled before I purchased it 3 years ago and still looks the same. Tenant paid her deposit and 1st months rent on time. But, now has me literally pulling my hair out and on pins and needles. She has done nothing but complain every month about something and several times about the furnace and water tank that I had serviced before she moved in and had checked since her complaining and nothing is wrong with them. But, she continues to think of something and the last 3 times has told me she will pay and I can deduct from her rent. But, I don’t let that happen. She is costing me unnecessary expense and I’ve been told by an attorney that I can’t do anything about it. Can I evict her? Help!!

  • Sam

    I live in a 2-bedroom 1-bathroom apartment for more than 7 years, since Feb. 2011 when we arrived to the USA.
    By that time we where 4 people, me, my wife and two kids. last year we had a baby. She is 16 months now. About a month ago, we received a mail from the manager of our building giving us a notice to leave the apartment in 2 months because we are 5 people.
    We live in San Diego/ El Cajon CA92021. My kids’ ages are 11 years boy, 8 years girl and 16 months, girl.
    Does the manager/owner have the right to kick us out for that we are 5?
    They renew our leasing agreement last year, what happened now that they want us to leave? We talked to the manager many many times. Her decision is firm.
    We don’t want to leave. Rent is so expensive

  • AR

    Tenant and their guest/family members perform a vigilante physical assault on a neighbor/another tenant.

  • Jessica

    I was hoping someone can possibly provide me with some information. I have been living in my 3 bedroom apartment since October 1st, 2011. My landlord lives on the first floor, he owns two other properties on our street. He is losing one of his houses & his son lives in that house. I received a phone call from him last week and he informed me that he was “selling” his other house and he needs us to leave so his son can have the apartment. My issue is I know he is lying about the situation. His son is already living on the 3rd fl and they want the apt for the son’s best friend & his wife & kid. We are current on our rent and keep to ourselves. We have not be given an official eviction notice, just asked to leave by July. Is this legal in RI

  • Mary Pugh

    The juge he could
    Not evict in good concierge landlord when we return from. Court the landlord said she would not renew my lease for the same reason he did not evict does she have take me back to court.

  • tresa pardy

    i rent out rooms in my house and since i’m the landlord can my boyfriend make deals with tenants. he made a deal with a tenant and didn’t follow through with the deal now her and her son are threatening to beat him up. what can i do

  • Ken

    I have tenant that is a troublesome tenant.. used to work f or the family and got to live rent free.. she does not work for the family anymore. NOw she has been in hospital with some health issues and is unable to walk with any surety.. she lives on second story.. I do not want her to come back and occupy My mothers property again as she would have to climb flight of wooden stairs and cross wooden deck to get in.. I find it scary at the liability if she falls especially horrifying. she does not want to willingly move.. in Florida.. what can I do?

  • Tina Arnett

    My daughter is living here with me and she is not on the lease she wants to evict her cause of her friends coming over she made actuation that she was a prostatute for drugs and My daughter is trying to get her kids back and taking drug test twice a week and passed not right for her to make a threat for that

  • jacob hochstetler

    What if the landlord who actually own the property has passed away and left it to a two party to take over but there is one party who believes he has ownership of the property and is trying to evict you on reasons he is arguing with family members and his troubling times? I am in one of those perdicuments. And would like some knowledge on this fact

  • Linda

    I Rented My Rental Property To My Son-In-Law And Family, { Without Lease} My Daughter Let Someone Else Move In And Refuses To Make Them Leave, Can I Legally Evict Her And Not The Rest Of The Family?

    • Tina Lester

      When I moved into my apartment the landlord did not finish my apartment up and that’s why I did not pay the security deposit

  • Carl

    Our tenants in a single family residence never informed us they established a business in the home, listing our home address as their business address. We asked about certain activities we noticed, and they claimed it was just a hobby. We now just found their business license online. This is in strict violation of their Lease. Is this enough grounds to give them notice (their lease is due to expire) and since they have a history (also only recently discovered) of litiginous behavior, should we take any extra precautions? Thanks.

  • Teina

    If the landlord didn’t fix a problem for years and now want to blame the tenant after 18 years of living in the property

  • Jay

    I moved in 5months ago 2a room a “friend’ gave up 4my daughter and I.He offered it 2me because he knew my situation and wanted 2help so i tooked it 3 wks later he tried raping me threaten me he would kill himself if i leave or callthe police which i couldnt do because unfortunately i have a warrant and a domestic violence charge.Time passed i found out he had lied to his fam sayin i was movin in wHim &he couldnt be in room cuz of my daughter.He hit me he accused me of messin around w his2brosNcuzn live here2 tried burning me w a torch choked me& hit his mom nd I cuz she tried deffending me.2day he grabed me 4rmbehind nd was chokin me2 death i openedUp his head tryng 2getaway his dad came&he letGo know hisDad toldMe either iLeave or heWill

  • Blair

    My new renter moved her boyfriend in and he or both are doing drug out side my house(not on the lease and tried to sale pot to my friend next door. By telling her 1 st grade son he will take care of her if she wants some. And she has 4 people at my house at a time and goes to work and leave them there. And boy ask people for money and smoke. Not napping at my home . I have kids here.

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