7 Perfectly Valid Reasons to Evict Tenants
Renters Warehouse Blog
While all landlords hope for dream tenants who pay the rent on time and never cause trouble -happily renewing the lease every year, unfortunately, things don't always work out this way.
At some point, almost every landlord will find themselves with the painful and difficult task of evicting a tenant. If you find yourself wishing that you could get rid of a less-than-stellar tenant, or, if circumstances have changed and you're hoping to take your rental property off the market, you'll want to ensure that you go about the eviction process the right way -and in compliance with the law.
Wondering if you have grounds to evict a tenant? Here's a look at seven perfectly valid reasons for sending out a notice of eviction.
Failure to Pay the Rent or Habitually Late Payments
In an ideal world, tenants would pay their rent in full and on time every month; but unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. In most states, landlords can evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, as well as for habitually late rent payments. Keep in mind, though, that the exact terms; such as how many days the rent can be late, will vary from state to state. Because eviction is a legal process, you'll need to make sure that you're following the laws of the state where the property sits. In most cases, you'll need to send out a Notice to Pay or Quit, which serves as a warning for tenants to clean up their act, or risk facing eviction.
Tip: As a rule of thumb, all lease agreements should outline a late rent policy. Be clear about the grace period for rent payments, late fees, and how many times a tenant can pay late before legal proceedings will occur. A good landlord should document every payment they receive, whether on time or late, to create a paper trail.
Violation of the Lease
If you discover that your tenant violated the terms of the lease, you are within your rights to evict them. Violations include subletting the property to occupants that aren't listed on the lease, violating a no-pets policy, or failure to abide by other policies -such as those mandated by an HOA. In some cases, it may be worth giving an otherwise-solid tenant a second chance, but tread carefully here. Be sure to put any resolution agreements in writing, and have it witnessed. Keep in mind that the rental agreement goes both ways -a tenant could potentially take you to small claims court for anything you are responsible for, so make sure you hold up your end of the bargain!
Tip: Always protect yourself with an airtight rental agreement. Having a document that's been signed by both parties will be invaluable should you need to prove your case in court. It's also a good idea to run your agreement by an attorney, to ensure that you've covered your bases, and to make sure you're in compliance with state law.
Damage to the Property
While normal wear and tear is to be expected, in some cases, tenant damage may go beyond the minor scuffs on the baseboards or nail holes in the wall. When damage goes above and beyond normal use, it's time to take action. Thing that are considered to be excessive include knocking huge holes in the wall, causing significant water damage, or letting the property decline to the point that it becomes a health and safety hazard. However, if the tenant damages the property and is willing to pay for repairs or make the repairs themselves, it may not be worth pursuing eviction. After all, a tenant who is willing to fix their mistakes is probably a renter that's worth keeping.
Tip: It's a good idea to perform walk-throughs of the property with each tenant at the time of move-in. Taking photos or video footage of the condition that the property is in will help you to prove that the tenants caused the damage, and that it wasn't there before they moved it.
Disrupting Other Tenants
Tenants have the right live free from excessive disturbances and noise, and in multi-family units, occupants can be evicted for disturbing the peace for others in the building. If you go this route, be sure to specify the nature of the disruptive behavior in the Notice to Quit, whether it's frequent loud parties, loud music, or too much noise after quiet hours.
Tip: It's important to act quickly to resolve tenant noise complaints. Taking immediate action will give you a chance to witness the noise for yourself firsthand, which will give you the facts that you need to resolve the complaint. It will also help to prevent the issue from becoming worse, helping to keep the peace. Finally, since inaction could violate a tenant's right to quiet enjoyment, if left unchecked for too long, excessive noise could result in a lawsuit.
Using Property for Illegal Purposes
A tenant can be evicted if they are using the premises for illegal activity. While this includes tenants who are distributing illegal substances out of the property, it also includes occupants who are operating a business out of the home, even a legitimate one. This is because operating a business from the property is a violation of the rental agreement and insurance policy, and could also be breaking zoning laws. As such, the tenant could be evicted from the property. In cases like this, be sure to serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit, notifying them that you are filing an eviction because they've used the property in an illegal manner.
Tip: In most states a landlord can terminate a lease with 24-hours' notice, or less, for criminal or drug-related activity.
By definition, a holdover is a tenant who refuses to leave a rental property once the lease has expired. Holdovers can be tricky to evict, however. Since most leases are designed to switch to a month-to-month basis when they aren't renewed, a tenant can't be evicted so easily, especially if they continue to pay rent on time.
Tip: If you decide that you don't want a tenant in the unit anymore, you'll have to provide them with a Notice to Quit before you can consider evicting them. If the tenant's lease has expired, and they are NOT paying rent, then it's within your rights to pursue eviction.
Owner Move-In or Taking the Unit Off the Market
If you or a family member have decided to move into the rental property or take it off the rental market for a while, you can evict your tenants. However, special care must be taken in this case. Many states have laws regarding how much notice you must give the tenant. Some states require that landlords give tenants with children until the end of the school year before evicting them. In some places, you may not be able to evict the tenant if they have resided in the unit for a set number of years or if they are disabled. Additionally, if you evict tenants for these reasons, your state may have regulations regarding how long you must reside at the property, or keep it off the market for before you can rent it out again.
Tip: If you're taking your rental off of the market, you can file to evict tenants. However, state laws vary considerably regarding the process for this type of eviction and you'll want to check to see what the law is for your state to ensure that you're in compliance.
If you need to pursue eviction for any of these reasons, the best place to start is by reading up on the laws in your state regarding how to start the eviction process. If you're unclear on any of the laws, make sure you consult an attorney for clarification. Be aware that in most cases it's illegal for landlords to shut off utilities or change the locks on tenants. Finally, once you've decided to evict a tenant, be sure to document everything in writing and keep good records. These will be invaluable should you be required to appear in court!
If you're ready to become a landlord, but aren't sure if you want to handle evictions, consider hiring a property management firm instead. Companies like Renters Warehouse handle all aspects of property management: from finding quality tenants to collecting rent, handling maintenance, and evicting tenants if needed. Get in touch with a local Rent Estate(tm) professional today and see how we can help!
Photo Credit: Barn Images
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