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

  • Brenda Cordell

    I have been renting from my landlord and I’m 1month behind so he gave me a 3 day notice for 11-29-2018 and the next day he told me he sold the building to another guy so a day or 2 after the new owner brings me a 3 day notice for 12-3-2018 so I want to know is that legal

    • Ieiyon

      I’ve been living in backed up sewage in my home for 6 months I finally called The Board of Health and I went up there to the rent office and cuss them out and also had the news involved now all of a sudden I have received the eviction letter saying that I need to be out by December 7th due to me verbalizing in an upset manner my concerns about me and my son’s health I want to know is it right for them to evict me because I cussed the rent office out but my rent and my water bill is paid Faithfully every month I need

      • Charlez

        This is just a scare tactic the rental office is using to get you to move . They then can pull the same scam on another renter who won’t complain in the manner that you have regarding your health. You have a right to live in a place in exchange for money that is healthful unless you signed a lease (agreement ) that states that you Agree to live in dwelling that is full of cockroaches and if you dont like it then they can Force you to leave by serving you an eviction notice.
        The money you pay to live somewhere must have certain conditions to be met by law in order for a landlord can take your money to live in a dwelling.

      • Denise Hamilton

        I’m going through the same thing. I think the judge will be on your side if you take them to court. They sound like slum lords.

    • Charlez

      If the building is now owned by a different person and you are still the person who signed a lease (a bilateral agreement between you and the landlord that allows you to use the dwelling according to the mentioned points in your lease in exchange for money) and you aren’t doing what you agreed you said you would- then it is perfectly legal to receive a notice. Your agreed upon rent has not changed your obligations to pay for the right to dwell in your apartment only the owner of the store has changed.
      If you need assistance with paying rent, there has got to be An organization you can call in your local community to get the assistance you need to pay your rent. I did and am very grateful to them when I was in a bind.

    • Donald

      I believe they need to give you 30 days.

  • Janice Bonilla

    I asked for more time and paid my rent in full for 3 months ahead I don’t have a lease any more I want more time and willing to pay rent but landlord refused

  • Mikayla Bigler

    I rent in florida and have been having problems with my roof leaking. It’s been a complaint for 3 months and when the hurricane hit 2 months ago part of the ceiling fell through. Last week they finally came out to fix it. Last night the caulk they put over my ceiling fell through and water leaked all over the floor and I wasn’t home so It was all over the floor. I texted him a picture and said we needed to get it fixed as soon as possible. He then told me he would get with me on relocating and I’m 9 months pregnant I don’t want to relocate I just want the roof to stop leaking. He is now bringing up the fact my dog has chewed a couple holes in the carpet. I paid a fee and deposit. Can he evict me ?

  • Lupe

    If I’m about to renew the tenant lease.. I as a landlord can make new rules and so for…
    Tenant is complaining about me making rules in the property what can I do?

  • Christie Maxwell

    Hi im renting to a couple and we gave house rules and they have broke Every1 of them day by day. Also leaving my house unlocked all the time when im home and not home . can this be grounds for us to evict them???

  • Carol Sanders

    I kicked my Som and Daughter-n-law who has 3 kids out of my house today due to so much DRAMA and Drug use here, they don’t care how they are affecting the 3 children. They say their getting a Divorce and have been fighting every single morning and Night. They get loud right outside my window and I just can’t take anymore!!!
    They have been asked to leave more than once in the last year and just would not leave. I gave notice back end of April to be out of my house by May 31st and that their Lease would NOT be renewed and it never was and they would not leave, just took advantage of me feeling sorry for the Granchildren. I served another Notice to be out by Dec 31st but I just can’t take it anymore I am Disabled!! Am I in Trouble?


      You poor thing. Get a restraining order. You need to call Al-anon. They will come take you to a meeting. Those babies must be protected. I promise you they future is greatly at risk being exposed to this. STOP enabling them. They are sick and need help and are using you! I’ll pray for you in my own way. Peace from Seattle

  • Denise Carter

    I have a tennant that has turned my house into theirs. I gave them permission to paint baseboards and two rooms. I also gave them permission to replace the carpet with laminant. They had the entire house painted and tried to give me the bill. They replace three rooms with hardwood. They took down my wallpaper that I had just finished. They got rid of my outdoor furnishing. I built a loft in my daughters room and specifically told them not to take it down. do I have legal rights to evict them?

    • Tcaster

      I have a similar situation and was wondering if you have or how you resolved your delema?

    • Tcaster

      I have a similar situation and was wondering if you have ,or how you have resolved your delema?
      I am considering serving them with a 60 day notice to quit without cause since they are on month to month.
      I am concerned however that it could appear as a retaliatory eviction. These people pros I fear.
      They have damaged my redwood paneling beyond repair with two wide screen TVs and speakers, shelving etc, lag bolted into woodwork. No repair putty etc. will restore this mess.
      This was even after I asked them not to put fasteners into the redwood woodwork without consulting.
      They call me a liar, say I treat them like shit, and dare me to evict them as she is on disability.

  • Dawn Richards

    My landlord is trying to evict me just because he doesn’t like me.just cause I’m not a druggie or a alcoholic like just about everyone else here.he doesn’t do his job as a landlord out of all the apartments here there’s only 3 that has smoke detectors and no fire extinguishers & he tells you if anyone bothers u let him know & he will take care of it but never does.he has a maintenance man that’s repairing a apartment he pounds all night long when they can do that during the day come on now use some common sense & the landlord doesn’t keep the upkeep of the property in the winter snow comes in my apartment from bottom of door I’ve told him about it for almost 4 years now I bought a draft blocker for bottom of door & it won’t stay due 2 gap

  • Zelda Hansen

    I found my tenant in bed with my husband. She violated my trust as as tenant and want her removed asap

  • Rosita D Luna

    Can my landlord kick me out for no reason

  • Bethany

    My boyfriend and I are renting our spare room to a family, on Christmas eve we witnessed the father slap the oldest daughter, 6 years old, on the back of her head then push her for simply coming out of the room. Can we terminate the lease for this? We fear for the safety of our own 21 month old daughter, whom they used to babysit.

  • A.H

    Can a landlord evict a family if the husband has a felony if it was not drug related?

    • Eboni

      My landlord is evicted me because he did not pass his Inspection and he can not get paid throw the Housing until he fix it can he do that

  • Alicia

    I just buy a six flex peoperty and just found out that the rental rate in same street is higher of 200 monthly my tenant is paying lesser, and the lease iz made 2017 and now is 2018, i am not allow to increase the rent that much, am i allow to give them a notice to vacate the property because i want to renovate and increase the rental payment?
    Thanks and regards

  • Gerald

    Ive had tenants take out smoke/ carbon detectors & fire extinguishers and then call City & Fire Dept Also had a guy turn heat off in winter and skipped out. Caught this in time as toilet was only half frozen! Now got gal and kid drinking smoking loud disruptive . Rent agrmnt. states no smoking. There’s cause for eviction. Oh so many more but so little space . This site says in Anchorage I can give a 10 day notice of infractions to be corrected I guess that’s nice way but smokers that lie about a habit don’t change. 30 day is better than a 10 & then a 30 day.

  • Colleen peace

    I’ve been renting in my apartment complex for 16 years now. None of the neighborhood kids like me because I’ve caught them breaking things destroying the property Etc which does make the parents of the kids mad at me we just had a huge fire that destroyed one of our towns next to us and so I recorded one of the kids yesterday doing puppets and drive visitation the parent of that child came up to me and we got into a loud argument could I be evicted for that

  • Monique

    My step son, who is now 21, moved in with us about 2.5 years ago, to attend a local college. After 3 semesters, & lying about how he was doing, he stopped going. At this point, & up until about 3 weeks ago, his main relationship was with me, not his dad. His dad always said he’d have to pay rent if he didn’t go to school, so I came up with a doable amount, & he has paid me, not his dad, every time. It was never discussed with his dad. In Dec, he didn’t have the money, so I told him he could work it off. He’s only worked 1/2 of the money off, it’s now January & suddenly claims he’ll only pay his dad. My husband is now showering him with attention he’s craved. Can I evict him for nonpmt, since the verbal contract was with me?


    Theft from person on lease. I have a daughter who moved in with me as she had no place to stay but she started stealing my jewelry and my medication plus she had the nerve to let her boyfriend spend the night without asking.

  • Jeffrey R. Double

    I have lived at my Apartment complex for a little over 5 months now and my Landlord just gave my wife and I a 10 day Vacate noticed.My neighbors have been calling the police saying that my wife and I are fighting,when the police get to my house they see that we have not been fighting or arguing but that we are quite and keep to ourselves.We have had 1 mental breakdown and that was not even at our house,we were walking down the road and was coming to the house discussing the issue at hand.We have made sure that our rent has been paid on time every month and,no one has been removed from our residence due to arrest or any other type of imposed sanctions.The same ones calling the police on us have had police on them due to using Illegal drugs.

  • J

    My girlfriend and I are on mnth to mnth lease, she is now a felon and wont stop drinking therefore violating her probation. I don’t do anything nor have a record, can I evict her for this, because she wont just simply leave

  • Jimi

    Can my landlord give me thirty days notice to move out due to someone else that lives in the same house

  • Annie Morgan

    I’ll let a guy move into my garage based solely on the fact that he was my friend’s nephew, there was no lease, or any kind of signed document. He didn’t pay me for months along with his methamphetamine use, and then he attacked me, physically attacked me! when I told him to leave. now I have to go to court because I defended myself they’re saying it was domestic violence charge, but there was no domestic relationship. I live in Georgia do you know of any kind of law that I can take to court that might help me? I have asked for a jury trial.

  • Ching

    I had a bachelor apt. Only me on the lease now my husband decided to move in with me. But i pay 10% of my rent. Manager keep telling me that my husband is not allowed because its only for one person. So she give me a warning then she said next time a 3 day notice and evictions. She did not give me my lease form. Bachelor apt. Is almost 1000 a month. Is fhat possible that she can evict me. Im afraid because she keep telling me about eviction

  • annoyed

    our neighbor next door was arrested and is currently in jail for selling crack coccaine. 4 felony accounts. Her boyfriend in on the lease and her 17 year old. I saw that drug dealing is taken serious. how soon in PA can they be ordered to evict?

  • Kathy Wilson

    I got my first house in a long time just in time for Christmas. Reindeers candy canes lights, I was excited. Hi. I’m Kathy and I am disabled. 3 weeks in my new house the gardners cut my cable cord. My windows ate painted shut, have been for years. My toilet bleeds blue sweat water? Was told no funds to fix windows. Then the next day the landscapers dump a truck load of river rock on my Christmas things breaking some. I yelled I cryed loud. They give me rocks but cant open my windows! Killed 5 rats. The rat man told my husband he could get keys in office to enter whether or not we were home? So much here I cant write here but all in all 3 months and I’m being evicted for my voice? My handicap? For asking for my windows to open?

  • 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 h=be heartless but have to think of the property and the neighbours

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