As a landlord, your goal is to keep as many reliable tenants renting your properties for as long as possible.
But sometimes, you simply reach the end of the line with a tenant.
When this happens, it’s time to evict. Evictions are tedious and costly processes, but in most cases where they’re needed, the benefits are worth it. Removing a bad tenant is in the best interests of your company and often other tenants as well.
Having a valid reason for evictions speeds up the process immensely. The more easily you can prove to a judge that your tenant violated the lease agreement, the quicker the eviction process can be.
Here are four legal reasons to evict a tenant.
Nonpayment, or late rent, is the most common reason for evictions.
Paying rent on time is the most basic thing a tenant agrees to do when they sign a rental agreement. As such, evictions due to nonpayment are almost always held up in court, as long as you have adequate records showing the tenant’s default.
One thing to remember when evicting for nonpayment is that each state has their own laws and regulations. Most states require landlords to first send a “pay-or-quit” notice, allotting tenants a certain number of days (usually 5-15) to either pay rent, move, or face eviction. And in some states, a mandatory grace period applies such that you can’t even send a notice to pay-or-quit before waiting out the grace period.
Typically, nonpayment can mean failing to pay rent or utility bills. In some states, however, it’s illegal to evict a tenant for failing to pay late fees alone as long as they are paying the rent due. Make sure you understand these subtleties in your state’s landlord-tenant laws before pursuing an eviction for nonpayment.
#2 Lease Violation
Lease violations are another common reason for eviction.
If tenants violate lease agreement provisions, eviction is in order. Common lease violations include:
- Property damage
- Subletting without permission
- Owning an unauthorized pet
- Exceeding occupancy limits
- Using the property for a purpose that wasn’t agreed on in the lease (e.g., using the unit to run a business instead of living in it)
The trickiest part of evictions for lease violations is gathering sufficient documentation of the lease violation. In the case of property damage, a photograph from a recent inspection of the unit will do. Other violations, such as noise, might be more difficult to prove. Be sure to capture and/or document everything you could use as evidence in court, including statements from neighboring tenants and the names of witnesses who could testify.
#3 Illegal Activity
Illegal activity is another obvious reason for eviction. If you have proof that your tenant is conducting illegal activity on the premises (e.g., manufacturing or selling a controlled substance in the unit), you should remove the tenant as quickly as the eviction process will allow.
In many states, evicting a tenant for illegal activity is quicker than other evictions because the landlord can send an unconditional notice to quit. This eviction notice usually only gives tenants a short time (e.g., 24 hours) or no time (immediate quit notice) to vacate the unit.
#4 Owner Residency
This one isn’t a common reason for eviction, but it does happen. If you, the owner, decide that you want to live in your property as your primary residence, you can evict your current tenant for this reason.
However, keep in mind that you’ll still need to give proper notice and follow the rules determined by your state. In some states, for example, you’ll need to give at least 30 days’ notice and wait until the end of the lease term.
No landlord enjoys the eviction process. It’s long, costly, and never pleasant to remove a tenant from their home. However, in many cases, evictions are necessary for health, safety, or financial reasons. By knowing these four legal reasons for eviction, you can ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
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