How to Evict a Tenant: A Simple Guide for Landlords

Much discussion centers around land law and property conveyance law, but landlord-tenant law is an aspect of equal importance. Since almost 40 percent of homes in the United States are rented, it may be helpful to explore the laws that regulate the relationship between these landlords and their tenants. An area of tenancy law that generates particular friction is the eviction of a tenant. Of course, the landlord is the permanent owner of the property and has the right to determine who the occupants will be. However, it is also understood that there are legal pronouncements that must be followed if the landlord wishes to deny a further tenant occupancy of his or her property by way of eviction. 

What Eviction Is & When It Applies?

When a landlord signs a tenancy agreement with another party, he or she consents to have the other party occupy the property, often in exchange for monetary consideration. However, the landlord can decide if and when to evict a tenant and deprive him or her of further occupancy of the property. This is precisely what eviction is. It can be seen as the right of a landlord to remove a tenant from a property that has been leased to the tenant. Expulsion of an unauthorized or illegal occupant by the landlord, or lessor, is referred to as ejectment rather than eviction. The tricky part is that the legal tenant, or lessee, also has rights vested in them by the tenancy agreement. This means that there are strict windows within which the concept of eviction can operate, depending on the jurisdiction. 

How the Eviction Process Works

The eviction process serves as a remedy for a lawfully aggrieved landlord to recover possession of his or her property due to misuse or non-adherence to contractual stipulations. The power of eviction buys back some of the control for the landlord. It allows the landlord to repossess his or her property under certain circumstances. 

Eviction Laws by State

Like other pertinent areas of tenancy law, such as rent standards, eviction laws vary by state and jurisdiction. These variations may reflect in certain elements, such as the length of ultimatums given to the tenant. However, the most prominent principles of the laws, like the general processes, are often similar. Therefore, one may want to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney to comply fully with the laws of a particular jurisdiction. 

Why Do Landlords Have To Evict?

Eviction can prove to be a rather strenuous and expensive process to execute. In fact, eviction processes can cost more than $5000. Why, then, does it become necessary for landlords to evict tenants? Rent constitutes a significant source of income for landlords. Most eviction cases are based on the tenant defaulting on payments or damaging the property. These issues can impede the landlord’s rental income. Occasionally, otherwise avoidable expenses could lead to business closure. Whatever valid rationale there is behind the eviction, it has been recognized by law to be a potential inconvenience to the landlord. The landlord may have tried more diplomatic ways to no avail or may have reasonable cause to believe that the tenant would not be favorable to vacating the property. In these cases, eviction is often necessary. 

Common Reasons a Landlord Has for Evicting a Tenant

The most common reasons for eviction include:

  1. Non-payment of rent: Non-payment of rent is, perhaps, the most common reason for eviction. Having a tenant default on payments is a valid and legally-backed reason to evict a tenant within the auspices of the law.
  2. Illegal activities: Upon discovery of a tenant’s illegal activities on the property, the next step would be to file a complaint with the authorities and evict the tenant. This is important for ensuring that the landlord is not deemed complicit in the illegal activities.
  3. Breach of contract: The landlord-tenant agreement usually contains provisions on the terms of the contract, including clauses regarding the approved use of the property. Using the property for unauthorized activities or dishonoring the agreement on other elements, such as erecting additional structures, could constitute a contractual breach and cause the landlord to want to evict the tenant.
  4. Professional tenancy: A professional tenant is like one who defaults on rent, except that the tenant fraudulently signs leases for the houses he or she occupies with no intent to pay. Once a landlord identifies a professional tenant, eviction could help prevent further losses. This problem can be better avoided through thorough tenant eligibility checks.
  5. Destruction of the property: The tenant has obligations to use the property reasonably and decently. If a tenant causes too much damage to the property, the landlord might deem the situation fit for an eviction to protect the property from further damage. 

How to Evict a Tenant

Understanding and adhering to the legal framework for evicting a tenant is essential for successfully removing a tenant from the property. If not done correctly, the entire eviction could be declared illegal and void. Worse still, the move could backfire with the tenant suing the landlord and recovering damages in court. The eviction proceedings may have slight variations across different jurisdictions, but the principles are relatively constant. The following are the general steps for how to evict someone from your property. 

Identifying the rationale

This involves the landlord establishing valid claims for moving to evict the tenant. An eviction process with an illegal or unlawful rationale would probably fail. The landlord must ensure that his or her reasons are firm, such as violations of lease terms or non-payment of rent.

Serving notice

This step is initiated when the landlord serves the tenant with official documentation that notifies the tenant of his or her misconduct. This could be ended with a charge and ultimatum to rectify the situation or an express declaration of impending eviction. Usually, the landlord is required by law to serve the documentation with a specific period of notice, which varies according to the local municipality.

Filing

At this stage, the landlord drafts a legal document confirming his or her intended prejudgment to evict the tenant after a set period. A lawyer can help to prepare the document, or the landlord can download a template to customize to fit the situation. 100% Safe Eviction Notice Template can significantly streamline the drafting process.

Attending the court hearing

Both sides of the case are heard by a judge in a court proceeding. The landlord has a reasonably good chance of winning a judgment if he or she has followed the proper process of eviction.

After the court has approved the eviction, the tenant will be given an ultimatum to vacate the property. If the allowed time lapses before the tenant moves out, the landlord then has the legal right with judicial backing to enlist the help of law enforcement to execute the court’s eviction order. The court may also grant the landlord the relief of past due rent and damages where applicable. 

How to Remove a Tenant without Eviction

For landlords that do not wish to go through the hassle of evicting a tenant, some alternatives exist for getting the tenant to give up occupancy of the property, including the following:

  • One method is through a cash-for-keys arrangement in which the landlord pays the tenant a token to move out and secure a new house. This could prove to be an astute alternative to a potentially expensive eviction.
  • Another method would be a diplomatic landlord-tenant discussion to persuade the tenant to move out on mutually-agreed terms rather than eviction, with an agreement drafted to cement the deal. 

Summing Up

Eviction is the legal concept that empowers a landlord to remove a tenant and revoke his or her occupancy due to specific misconduct. Not all eviction processes succeed, especially those carried out without due recourse to the law. You definitely need a legally binding Eviction Notice Agreement to protect your interests. Consider getting advice from an attorney about the stipulations that apply to your jurisdiction and learn how to carry out a smooth and legal eviction process. Although you can also consider an alternative to eviction, remember that eviction is a standard part of landlord-tenant relationships, so be sure to exercise your rights when necessary. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant?

An eviction could take anywhere from a month to over a year, determined by factors like the court process and statutory provisions. Therefore, learning how to evict a tenant quickly involves the rules of the jurisdiction and the court’s schedule. 

What is the easiest way to evict a tenant?

The easiest way to evict a tenant is by following the legal procedures for eviction. Any extrajudicial evictions could be nullified and might have legal repercussions. 

Can a landlord evict a family member?

Yes, a landlord can evict a family member if necessary. While there may be personal repercussions, the process of evicting a family member is the same as the process of evicting anyone else. 

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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