No landlord wants to evict a tenant. The eviction process is usually time consuming, stressful, and messy, and at the end of the process you’ll be left without a tenant—and therefore with far less cash flow. That said, there are some circumstances where you won’t have much of a choice.
The laws dictating the eviction process will vary from area to area, so unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint you can use to guarantee a legally compliant eviction. However, there are some “good” reasons and “bad” reasons for evicting a tenant that you can use to determine the legitimacy of your considered actions, and from there, you can talk to a lawyer about whether you have the legal precedent to proceed.
Valid Reasons for Evicting a Tenant
In general, these serve as valid reasons for wanting to evict a tenant, and can spark the eviction process:
- Chronic failure to pay rent. Your property is made available as part of an exchange; your tenants pay you rent every month so they can continue living there. If they stop paying rent, or if you continually face problems with collection, it could be grounds for an eviction. Note that a single missed or late payment probably isn’t a good foundation to evict your tenant. In most cases, it’s better to have a conversation about the issue and try to work out a solution. Only if the issue is recurring, with no effort made to rectify the situation, should eviction be your go-to option.
- Deliberately or egregiously violating the lease agreement. Most good tenants will do their best to stay within the parameters specified in your lease, following the rules and conducting themselves in an orderly way. If they step out of line, a polite conversation or request is usually enough to deter the behavior. However, if a tenant seems to deliberately or excessively violate the terms of your lease, such as misusing the property or having pets when none are allowed, an eviction may be on the table.
- Significant damage to your property. Tenants will inevitably cause some wear and tear to your property, whether they mean to or not. However, some tenants, through intention or negligence, may cause serious damage to your property—like punching a hole through a wall or setting the carpet on fire. If these incidents are repeated without the tenant offering to compensate you for the damage, you should have grounds for an eviction.
- Significant health or safety hazards. It’s important to keep your property in a condition compliant with good health and safety standards. If your tenant violates that, egregiously or repeatedly, you may be all but forced to evict them. This usually involves unsafe or illegal conduct.
- Chronic violations of noise or occupancy ordinances. Some tenants may violate ordinances that make life difficult for you, put you in a bad legal situation, or otherwise negatively impact the neighborhood. For example, if they’re frequently hosting loud parties into the early hours of the morning or if they violate occupancy ordinances in your local area, you may be able to evict them.
- Certain property repairs and maintenance. To keep your building in good condition, you’ll need to conduct repairs and maintenance on a regular basis. Some of those repairs can be done with your tenant present, and most others can be done with the tenant vacating the property for a few hours. However, some repairs and renovations are intensive, or may pose a health and safety threat to the occupant. In these cases, a long-term vacancy may be required, and you may have grounds to evict the tenant to keep the property in good order.
Bad Reasons for Evicting a Tenant
These reasons, while commonly appearing, are invalid motivations to evict someone. Trying to evict someone for one of these reasons could lead to legal action against you:
- Some tenants will be a thorn in your side without breaking the law, or make life difficult for you in a frustrating—but entirely legal—way. In these situations, you’ll be tempted to evict the tenant as a way of punishing them, or as a way to prevent future, similar behavior. This is considered retaliation and is not an acceptable motivation for eviction. For example, if they make a report to the health department that creates hours of work for you, that’s well within their rights. Attempting to evict a tenant after this could be problematic for you.
- Any eviction that could be interpreted as discriminatory may also be disallowed in court. There are many possible forms of discrimination, including discriminating against someone based on their ethnicity, their race, their abilities (or disabilities), or whether they have children. Though it’s unlikely you’ll be directly motivated to evict someone based on prejudice, it’s important that you realize this potential interpretation exists, and that you have a crystal-clear case demonstrating why your eviction is not motivated by discrimination.
- Withholding rent for a good reason. In some cases, a tenant may withhold part or all of their rent as a way to make things fair. For example, if they’ve asked you to patch a leaky roof, but you still haven’t responded, and they hire a contractor to fix the roof instead, they may withhold rent in the amount they paid the contractor. Evicting someone with a decent reason to withhold rent like this is unacceptable.
You also may be unable to evict certain “protected” tenants, depending on local laws. In many cases, tenants over a certain age or those who have lived there for extended periods of time (i.e., 10 years or longer) have more rights than other tenants.
Seeking Outside Help
Managing an eviction isn’t just legally complex, it’s also stressful. That’s why it’s usually in your best interest to work with someone else during this process, even if it costs a bit of extra money. Working with a lawyer is an absolute must, since you’ll want to make sure you’re operating well within the boundaries of your local laws.
However, it may be better to work with a property management firm; property managers will handle most of your property-related management responsibilities, including tenant eviction, new tenant screening, and maintenance.
If you’re interested in learning how a property management firm can make your life easier, and possibly even save you money long-term, contact Green Residential today for a free analysis!