Despite your best efforts to lease your rental property only to well-qualified tenants who pass your screening process, not every tenant works out. Some tenants stop paying rent. Others refuse to follow the rules. Eventually, you make the decision to evict and bring in a better tenant.
But before you evict a tenant, make sure you are following the laws of your state. Failure to follow the proper legal procedures can result in plenty of trouble for you, and an undesirable tenant still living in your property.
There are certain reasons you can legally evict a tenant, including staying past the termination of the lease and non-payment of rent. Having a pet, sub-leasing or allowing guests to stay without your permission are other examples of legitimate cause for eviction. Disliking the appearance of their visitors, the food they cook at home or the church they attend are not legitimate causes.
Each state will have its own detailed requirements, so be familiar with your state’s procedures before you start. You’ll be required to terminate the lease and give notice of eviction, in writing, before you begin the filing process. The number of days for the notice to vacate will vary according to the state law. Some states require landlords to give tenants time to correct the problem; others don’t.
Depending on your reason for terminating the lease, you may issue:
- A Pay Rent or Quit Notice, which gives the tenant several days to pay or move out.
- A Cure or Quit Notice, which gives the tenant time to correct the problem, such as having their sub-tenant move out or finding a new home for the cat.
- An Unconditional Quit Notice, which requires the tenant to move out, with no chance to pay rent or fix the problem. These are generally used with tenants who engage in criminal activity, repeatedly break the rules or fail to pay rent on time.
Once you start the eviction process, you may be in for weeks or months of court appearances. Tenants can defend themselves, or look for errors in your documents that give them time to stay. If a tenant thinks you are being discriminatory against him or her, or are retaliating for complaints they’ve filed, you could have a long case on your hands.
Before you evict, make sure you have documented all of your correspondence with the tenant; keep things completely professional and whatever you do, don’t change the locks or turn off the utilities in order to force a tenant out. That’s illegal.
If you follow the procedures outlined by your state, you can usually evict a tenant for cause in a matter of weeks. If you don’t, you could lose your case. You can always consult with a landlord-tenant attorney if you need to. Good luck!
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining legal advice applicable to your situation.