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

  • Jeffery

    OK, I have another situation with a problem tenant. This tenant vandalized another tenant’s car, next to which he parks. It was a BMW with motorized retracting side mirrors. I’m guessing in protest to the distance from which they protrude from the vehicle, he bumped one of them really hard with his elbow and another time just pushed it to the retract position by hand. Problem is they aren’t designed to do that and it stripped the motor gears. I have it on security surveillance tape, but the incidents happened 6 months ago. Is there a statute of limitations that would restrict me from using that as the basis of conviction?

  • Tyana

    My friend moved my family into his home and wrote a statement that we pay all the electric but $80. He told us he was sick and dying and that the house would be ours. He has left us have animals also he now says if I don’t become his girlfriend then we have 15 days to move out. What do my children and I do. My son and I both have a disability so I can’t lift things. My friend knows this he is the one that moved everything here

  • judy Ramirez

    call dept. of human services and police if necessary. you need protection now. this guy is a filthy piece of trash– what else is he planning with children so close/

  • John Martin

    A new property owner rented to occupants with out requiring any of the normal information, tenant fails to respond when landlord requested information retroactively is that grounds for eviction?

  • Tiffany A Leffall

    My property manager terminating my lease because he says I’m stressing him out because I want my repairs done because my front door has been kicked in he’s also being discriminated and call me special needs I am right now currently and taking him to court for these reasons and he says he’s threatened by me a young lady who is 30 years old who has no one here but myself I am disabled with PTSD and anxiety and he calls me special needs

    • Brenda

      Tiffany i must ask you a very important question. Is your rent current? Do you pay rent in a timely manner? Your landlord should fix your door. I don’t believe that’s a big favor to ask. If you pay your rent and ask repairs to be made. Your landlord should comply.

      • Jon Mabary

        Can a landlord evict if we have therapy and service animals??? my wife has ptsd and epilepsy theres also been alot of harrassment it is a long story but the first question is the important one

  • Tira

    What about domestic abuse?my son allowed the mother of his child to move in his for 2 1/2 years.She has been verbally and physically abusive the whole time . The last straw was while sleeping she punched him in the back of the head 8 times and hit him in the back with a hammer. Well needless to say she was arrested but her brother bailed her out the next day . We are in Texas and want her gone .

  • Jamie

    Ok so what about this my sister gained my grandfathers land and we all live here no lease no rent for 2 years since he’s passed and she has owned the land for two years and gave me an eviction notice with no reasoning

  • Fay Calhoun

    A tenant has an unapproved guest for over 9 months. Together they badger another tenant consistently, saying nasty, viscous, unlawful, threatening, untruthful , scandalous, hurtful, just attempting to destroy the reputation of another person and get away with it? I don’t think so. This unapproved tenant stalks the bullied tenant.

    I have filed a complaint with the manager/landlord and

    • Silvia

      I live in complex have 2 cars and assigned parking the2nd car can park anywhere..they both have stickers on them..lanlord says to move other car every 3 days..or $50.00 fine then eviction..this is after 5 yrs of living here..this is outrageous..sometimes the same spot is open after car is driven..yet must park way far from my apartment..this just this just cause for eviction? On lease..this is unbelievable to me..who moves there car to diffrent spot every 72 hrs? This is a new landlord and she is out of I said sometimes I dont leave for4 days yet have to go move my car in back lot..when I have a spot by my door..or if I do leave and come back and my spot is there I cant reuse it..this is nuts..

  • Barbara G

    I’ve lived in my rental town house that has 4 units per building for over 5 yrs. Last year, the unit 1 unit over from mine was leased to a HEAVY smoker. Since a/c season is upon us, the smoke smell permeates through my a/c units. Do I have any recourse to this problem? I’m highly allergy to smoke and the smoke is causing health problems. T. Y.

    • Joe smith

      Being almost positive there are 2 separate AC units for your place and the one above you, it’s physically impossible for the smoke from his apartment to permeate through your AC. They are a closed loop system so there is no way for the air from his AC unit to enter the Air in your AC unit. As long as his lease doesn’t prohibit him from smoking inside his unit, I would say you are out of luck.

  • Manya

    I’m a home owner. Next door are rentals, I’ve called police 5 times for noise. A family tribe ,11 people, 2 apartments. I’ve contacted the property owner very slow process. Meth-heads. What can I do? I need uninterrupted sleep. I’m disabled, female veteran, among other things, PTSD. Pretty crazy after dark. Fights, deals and underage cannabis and meth. Fights.

    • Manya Nicholson

      Problem resolved. After calling police 5 times in may, the owner took notice. Each month till the middle of Sept I called when they were in violation of local laws. Ok…fast forward…EVICTED..9 people in a one bedroom. So. Patience, consistency and follow through. I am sleeping. Normal noises like the train or sirens do not wake me up. TY for letting me vent and giving me proper motivation.

  • Lev Neys

    I would like to remodel a 4 unit apartment in California as a new owner. I will offer a substantial amount of”cash for keys” to all tenants. What will happen if they refuse to leave? What are my rights?


  • Susan

    I’m not aloud no visitors and havnt had any I live on ex and he is mentally abusing me every day knowing I don’t have money to move my camper. I pay him for electric and the neighbors are agreeting with me that it’s wrong he verbally gave me one hour to be off property. This stress is killing me I’m 60 years old.


    What if the property management kicks out a tenant and claims it’s not allowed to give you a reason? The closest our office manager came to “giving me a reason” was “we’ve decided to go in a different direction”. Huh???

  • Wilma Howell

    I got a tenant for 5 months renting a room on my home 2 months ago he started to drink heavy and then he come home and @@@@ swear the me I fave him a months notice but nowhe refuse to move can I kick him out I’m scared if him

  • Jo-Anne Wilcox

    Can a landlord evict someone if they are unable to maintain the outside of property for health issues . Thank you .

  • Jo-Anne Wilcox

    Can a landlord evict someone for being unable to maintain the outside of a property because of health issues.

  • Gaby

    Can a property manager evict a family if their child has posed a risk for my own child and property, such as threatening with knives and trying to cause a fire. Unfortunately I did not speak up at the time it happened but can I still bring it up as a cause for concern?

  • Jenna

    My tenant told me he was going to kill me while I was sleeping in the middle of the night. He told it to me again the following night. I recorded his threats, called the police,was granted a stay a order against my tenant and he was by law, unable to set a foot onto my property from that moment on. He was escorted off my property that night and did come back to retrieve his property however he needed a sheriff with him. That ended that very easily.

  • Crystal Thomas

    Our neighbor is having problems with his landlord. The landlord is in violation of freedom of religion and is trying to force him to go to church every Sun morning sun night and Wed night. She is making it as if he doesn’t go he will be effected.

    The thing I need help with is now she is trying to force him to go to AA meetings at a church on Mon nights when he has been going on Wed and he only has two Wed’s left to be cleared from the state to let him get his license back. I feel like she is being unlawful against his disability of being a recovering alcoholic. Yesterday she brought to different pastors to talk to him. Once at his trailer and another when he was with me at my house without being invited. Please help let me know what to do?

  • Sheila

    Im wondering if someone can help me we had a roommate move in. She seemed nice to begin with so we rented to her. She does not respect pur wishes and refuses to do anything we tell her. We were supposed to sign a lease upon move in and she never showed for lease signing. Just moved in. So I have no lease. She threatens every one. I told her before she moved in No Drugs amd she does drugs in the house that reek whole house. I told her before she moved in pets have to be fixed and declawed and potty trained. Her cat is destroying our furniture and its peeing and pooping everywhere all over everything. I gave her a 60day notice as I was told I had to even though we didn’t have a lease. The next day she went to city to lie to health Inspector

  • John

    Hi i have a duplex and a tenant thats been there for about 8 months now and ive had many noise complaints from the front unit. Ive had loud music complaints as well as complaints about their son being hostile and yelling in the street. My tenant is not suppose to have anyone staying with her. She is the only one on the lease and she tells me that he is just visiting which i dont think is the case. I am in the process of installing cameras for the property. On top of that the police has been called out numerous times for yelling in the house and this last weekend the police had to break down the door because the tenant wouldnt open the door and the son was arrested for a warrant. Its a nightmare right now. We are in california. Help!

  • Andrea Hofmann

    Can I be envicted for having a kids pool, 18 inches height.

    Last Year they ask my to take down the pool, 48 height that is legal by the law.
    Now they say I can have a kids pool also.


  • Tasha

    I signed a 12 month rental agree also with a roommate because they claimed my income alone wasn’t enough. Okay so we moved in but maybe 4months later my roommate felt the need to jump ship and leave me alone to pay the rent. I went to the landlord and stated the facts. My question is how can they charge me $4,000 and I cleaned the place from top to bottom and they leased the property to another renter the next day? I’m not understanding the reason for the big over charge and placing a eviction on my credit when I moved with reasons. I live in Ga by the way. Is this right? Can they really do this?

  • Raeven

    My mom’s friend is turning 80 this summer she has health problems due to her weight bad health problems. Her granddaughters and 2year old son lives there and she has a Tenant that is in her 70s but is crazy and disrespectful. My moms friend that’s 80 years old next month took her to court for an eviction and lost due to it being that there was no written agreement loophole was found so the 70 year old is still there today and somehow won the case and is now about to sue my moms friend for $75 because she cleaned her house which no one asked her to do plus the house was already clean so that was a lie. How can my moms friend win this case so everyone can have peace?

  • Torie

    My apartment allows pets and I got a dog half way through my lease and informed the office. they put a note in my file about my dog and said when I renew my lease they will put her on the agreement and I will pay the pet deposit but until then I didn’t need to worry. Well now it’s a new leasing manager in the office. Can they evict me for not paying the pet deposit when the previous manager said to wait?

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