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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