Being a successful landlord requires a variety of skills, one of which is knowing when and how to evict a tenant. Overall, understanding why you can and cannot evict a tenant allows you to be a responsible and lawful landlord while also protecting tenant rights and maintaining a peaceful landlord-tenant relationship.
Understanding Just Cause
One of the first things all property owners should realize is that eviction is a legal process that requires a court order to remove the tenant from your property. Understanding the legal grounds for eviction allows you to comply with local, state, and federal regulations that govern landlord-tenant relationships. Without adequate legal grounds, evicting a renter might result in legal consequences such as fines or lawsuits.
To evict a tenant, you must have what is known as “just cause.” Just cause eviction statutes require that you have a legal justification to evict the tenant, such as nonpayment of rent, property damage, or violation of the lease terms. You cannot evict a tenant unless you have just cause.
Reasons You Can Evict
Nonpayment of rent is one of the most prevalent reasons landlords evict tenants. If your renter fails to pay their rent on time, you can issue them formal notice that they have a set number of days to pay or vacate the property, as required by state law. If the tenant fails to comply, you may file for eviction. Just make sure you respect the conditions of your lease as well as any state and municipal laws that may apply.
Property damage is another typical reason for eviction. If your tenant has caused serious damage to the property that goes beyond regular wear and tear, you can serve them with a written notice requiring them to remedy the damage or depart the property. If the tenant fails to comply, you may file for eviction.
Other reasons for evicting a tenant include breaching other terms of their lease. If your tenant has a pet and your contract prohibits pets, you can issue them formal notice to remove the pet or depart the property. If the tenant fails to comply, you may file for eviction. The same is true for all other lease terms.
Reasons You Cannot Evict
Even if a renter has done something that would seem to warrant eviction, there are a few more reasons why you can’t evict. For example, you cannot remove a tenant because they have requested that you make repairs to the property or have complained about the rental unit’s circumstances. Furthermore, you cannot evict a tenant because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial situation, or disability. These protected classifications cannot lawfully be used as the reason for an eviction, and attempting to do so may result in a discrimination lawsuit.
Carrying Out an Eviction
If you find yourself in the position of having to evict a tenant, there are a few procedures you must follow. First, you must provide the tenant a written notice stating the grounds for the eviction as well as the date by which they must vacate the property. The next step is to file an eviction petition with the court and have the tenant served. If the tenant fails to appear for their court date, you may be able to secure a default judgment in your favor. Finally, if the tenant still refuses to evacuate the premises, you might have the legal authority in your area remove them.
While evicting a tenant is never easy, it is sometimes necessary. By understanding why you can (and cannot) evict a renter, as well as the stages involved in the eviction process, you’ll reduce legal risks, and promote a fair and courteous living environment for all parties involved.
If you are facing a potential eviction situation, you may want to consult a property management expert for advice. Contact your local Real Property Management office to speak to a local rental property professional today!
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