Do I have to renew a lease with a “bad” tenant?

Written on August 21, 2017 by

Bad tenants are the bane of landlords everywhere, whether “bad” means noisy, destructive, or constantly late paying the rent.

The good news: you have every right to not to renew at the end of the lease term, in most cases. Here’s how to part ways with bad tenants legally when their leases are up.

You don’t need a reason (most of the time)

In most cases, for fixed-term leases, you don’t need to declare a reason not to renew a tenant’s lease at the end of a fixed-lease term. Neither you nor your tenant need to give a reason if either party chooses not to renew the lease at the end of its term. The legal agreement is no longer binding after the end date on the contract.

The exception is for Section 8 properties. In these cases, the local public housing authority (PHA) rules lease terminations. Here’s what to do if working with a PHA:

  • Contact your local PHA to determine the rules regarding lease termination and whether you must give a reason.
  • Find out what constitutes a valid or invalid reason to be sure you’re following the rules.
  • Keep all information regarding the tenant in writing, so you can document your decision not to renew. Proof works in your favor in these cases.

Give fair notice

Even if you don’t tell tenants why a lease isn’t being renewed, let them know you won’t be renewing ahead of time. That way, they’ll have time to find a new place and make arrangements to move out. Make things easier on yourself and your tenants. Include wording in your written lease that details the amount of notice you’ll give if you don’t renew.

If your lease doesn’t specify a non-renewal notification time frame, you can generally give 28 days to one full month or rental period. This is according to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office. As an example, if the lease ends November 30, notify the tenant by October 31 that you will not renew the lease. Check your state’s laws for specifics, as these rules vary by region.

You can’t retaliate or discriminate

You don’t need to state a reason for not renewing a tenant’s lease. But you’re not allowed to deny renewal as an act of retaliation or discrimination of any sort if the tenant files an action against you. That applies if the tenant follows the terms of the lease and pays rent on time. Discrimination also isn’t allowed. For instance, you can’t decide not to renew a lease just because of a tenant’s political or religious views, family values, or any of the other protected classes.

Month-to-month tenancy

If your tenant rents month-to-month without a specific end date to their term of tenancy, you must give them written notice when deciding not to renew the rental agreement. This applies even if the original agreement is verbal.

Most of the time, you can generally give notice equal to one rental period or month, although this varies by state. Please check your state laws here to determine what’s acceptable in your state. Tenants staying on after a fixed-term lease has ended become month-to-month tenants. The same rules apply for notifying them of your decision not to renew.

It’s in your best interest to ditch a bad tenant as soon as their lease is up so you can welcome better tenants. You just may be doing the neighbors a favor, too.

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8 CommentsLeave a Comment


    ive lived in the same apt building for 19 years I got a non renewal of my lease letter

    they are telling me it was late payment and some other things which they wont say I have never had

    any complaints against me and now I am disabled I have a low credit score and now I will have t

    trouble finding a place to live what can I do I am 56 years old

    • Joe

      You sound like a sad person. Since you have bad credit and bad grammar, I’m inclined to believe you paid your rent late too many times. All I can suggest is move to a cheaper part of the country, or somewhere you can achieve a better income/cost of living balance. I’m not sure what to tell you about how to accomplish this, since moving itself usually costs a few grand. Don’t move to a crime infested part of town that will eat away your psyche; there’s plenty of nice parts of the country that are still cheap. Expensive cities become expensive because they draw certain people in and push others out. The only other, unrealistic, option is changing the law and economy to build more (maybe high density) housing so that the market rate drops.

      • wc

        Landlords are no different than these HR firms in these companies. They just make up a reason as they go along. I bought a building that has a so-so tenet in place.She Has paid 2 months rent early then mailed a money order a day or 2 before the grace period ends. So now its LATE & shes saying “well I always pay ontime, even with the prior owner” I really dont care about none of that. Here and now rents not where it needs to be. So this tenet will probably be getting one of those letters too. 19 years is a good run. With whats going on in alot of cities they want to raise the rent on your unit & your sort of in their way. I know its terrible to call a sick person “in someones way” but thats whats going on in the world right now.

        • Brenda

          No technically your tenant isn’t late. Even the irs allows the post mark to be guide, not when you receive it.Sounds like you don’t like your tenant. It happens No need to put them down ,they aren’t a bad tenant. I can see though, with your attitude, you might have problems in the future, getting renters.

  • nancy coppler

    We have a tenant (Megan) who has 2 emotional support animals. She does not get along with the other tenant (Pam) in the duplex (who we have never had a problem with). Megan had to get a second animal due to the stress of living near Pam. My question is do we have to renew Megan’s lease when it expires? Owner thinks it would be discrimination because she has the animals. I think when the lease is up it is our decision whether to renew.
    Thanks for any advice!

  • Rita

    I have a tenant with 2 boys (11 & 15 or16), who lives in the first floor of a duplex. Upstairs tenants have repeatedly asked her to keep quiet (yelling, swearing, doors slamming).
    She also has started to leave for the weekend, leaving the boys home alone. CPS says, as long as the boys are in a safe place, have food & a means to contact someone in case of emergency, they won’t do anything. To me, it’s a dangerous situation. I know I don’t have to give a reason for a non-renewal, but, if she asks, can I use that as part of the reason?

    • Brenda

      If I were you I wouldn’t. She isn’t doing anything against the law or even unreasonable[concerning the kids].As to noise don’t be so sure the person complaining is in the right. They may be unreasonable in what they consider noise. If so you will have trouble renting any adjacent unit until they move. Always consider source of complaint as well as the complaint itself.

    • Jason

      It’s YOUR house. Was she is the room when you were signing all the purchasing documents. EXACTLY, no she wasn’t. Just say a family member is moving in, you’ve got to BOUNCE.

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