Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship with your tenant, sometimes the relationship goes sour. Even if you’re a good landlord, you’ll probably have to go through the eviction process at least once in your career. Maybe a tenant didn’t pay the rent, maybe he’s disrupting the other tenants, or maybe she’s damaged your rental property. To end the lease agreement early, you must follow the proper legal procedure. If you stray from the set process, you’ll not only lose your eviction case, you may also land in civil court and earn a reputation as a slumlord.
Most eviction cases start with your tenant failing to pay to the rent, which is one of the biggest struggles of buying rental property and becoming a landlord. Landlords generally evict tenants for the these three main reasons:
- Staying on the property after the lease expires, known as being a holdover
- Causing major damage to your property, but you must prove this damage in court
- Breaking specific rules you’ve set out in the agreement, like noise restrictions, guest limitations, or pet rules.
While landlords generally evict due to one of the above three circumstances, there are other lesser known grounds for eviction that can be used in a court of law. These reasons include:
1) Illegal Use of Property: You can file to evict a tenant if they are using the property they have rented from you in an illegal manner. This includes using the property for a legal business or for an illegal business.
The unit you have rented to the tenant is more than likely zoned solely for residential use, not for business or commercial use. If the tenant attempts to operate a business out of that unit, they are using the property illegally.
If you can evict a tenant for attempting to operate a legitimate business out of a residential property, needless to say, you can evict a tenant for attempting to operate an illegal business. Tenants who attempt to distribute any type of narcotics, prescription drugs or other illegal substances can be evicted from the property.
2) Health or Safety Violations: You may be able to evict a tenant if your property has a known health or safety violation that must be remedied. If the situation cannot be remedied while the tenant is residing on the premises, you can file to evict the tenant. An example of this type of health violation would be a property that has to be treated for serious lead paint hazards.
3) Unit is Being Taken off the Market: If you are taking your property off the rental market for the foreseeable future, you can file to evict the current tenants. Each state will have different rules regarding the process for this type of eviction.
4) Owner Move-In: If you, the landlord, plan to move into a rental unit, you can file to evict the current tenant. In addition, if you currently live in the property, you can file to evict the current tenant if you have an immediate family member who plans to move into the unit. If a tenant has lived in a unit for at least one year, you are often responsible for paying a tenant’s relocation costs. In addition, if you have a comparable vacant unit at the property or at any other property you own, you must offer it to the tenant at whatever the market rate is for that particular unit.
5) Refusal to Pay Legal Rent Increase: In most states, you can legally increase a tenant’s rent by a certain percentage each year. If the tenant refuses to consent to this legal rent increase, you can file for an eviction.
Keep in mind that evictions are a legal process. Do not attempt to evict the tenant yourself. Changing the locks to the tenant’s unit or the main door on the complex, removing the tenant’s belongings, or shutting off the utilities can have serious legal repercussions. Most states allow tenants to sue a landlord who tries to self-evict. If you’re dealing with a problem tenant, you deserve resolution. Don’t give up your power by making small mistakes.
If you decide you can evict and want to move forward, get very familiar with the Landlord and Tenant Act, which explains the legal process for evicting a tenant. To win your case, you’ll need to follow the eviction procedure to the letter. If you skip a step, the judge may decide in the tenant’s favor and the tenant may have the right to sue you in civil court. You can get a copy of the Landlord and Tenant Act from your state attorney general’s website. If your state does not post these acts online, get a printed version at a local court office or through a lawyer.
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