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January 16, 2024

Legitimate Legal Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Noah Goldman
Chief Operating Officer

As a property manager, you may encounter situations where you need to evict a tenant. It is crucial to approach this process judiciously, adhering to all legal guidelines to guarantee a just and lawful eviction for all parties. Eviction laws vary by state and city, so be sure to review relevant local laws before proceeding!

There are several legitimate legal reasons to evict a tenant in most states. Let’s review those reasons and discuss tips for avoiding evictions altogether.

Potential Legal Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Failure to Pay Rent

One of the most common reasons for eviction is non-payment of rent. Property managers rely on timely rent payments to cover property expenses and ensure a return on their investment. If a tenant consistently fails to pay rent, they have the right to initiate eviction proceedings after providing proper notice, as local laws specify.

Partial Rent Payment

A lease agreement outlines the terms and conditions that both property managers and tenants must observe. Suppose a renter violates any of these terms, like causing property damage, engaging in illegal activities on the property, or even subletting without permission. In these cases, the manager likely has grounds for eviction. Communicating lease terms to tenants and tracking and documenting any breaches is vital.

Misconduct or Illegal Activities

Participating in or encouraging illegal activities on the rental property is a legitimate reason for grounds for eviction. This includes drug-related offenses, property damage, or any activity that violates local laws. Landlords should work closely with law enforcement and follow legal processes to address these situations.

Property Damage

Excessive property damage is another reason landlords may opt to evict. Normal wear and tear is one thing; however, if it’s noticeable that the unit is trashed during an inspection (or maintenance visit), a property manager may strongly consider taking legal action.

Nuisance or Disruption

All tenants have a responsibility to maintain a peaceful living environment. If a renter engages in disruptive behavior – such as excessive noise, harassment, or creating trouble – the property manager may have a good reason for eviction. It’s strongly encouraged to keep a record of occurrences of disturbance and follow proper legal steps to a tee.

Having a Pet Without Permission

If a landlord suspects that a renter is keeping a pet that hasn’t been agreed upon, it’s a smart move to get photographic documentation, if possible. Then, follow through on the terms of the lease agreement.

Inform the tenant that it’s time to move forward with an eviction if they don’t comply with the request to remove the unauthorized pet. Renters should also be informed of any fines incurred due to the lease violation and that they are responsible for any damages caused by the pet.

Illegal Subletting

In general, renters can’t sublet their unit if the lease agreement clearly states it’s not allowed without the landlord’s consent. Note that some states require property managers to accept a tenant’s proposal to sublet. However, a renter should still notify them of any plans and follow lease agreement guidelines to avoid violations or possibly getting evicted.

End of Lease Agreement

When a lease agreement expires, property managers can choose whether to renew or not. This doesn’t necessarily qualify as an eviction but rather an organic wrap-up to the contractual relationship. Keep in mind that property managers are required to give proper notice as required by local laws – they simply can’t terminate a lease in a discriminatory or retaliatory fashion.

When You Can’t Evict a Tenant

Unfortunately, there are various situations when you simply can’t evict a tenant even if they have done something “eviction-worthy.” For example, a landlord can’t ask a tenant to move out if they request improvements to the unit or complain about the rental unit’s maintenance.

Landlords and property managers are also restricted from removing a tenant against their will based on disability, color, race, religion, gender, familial situation, or national origin. It’s illegal to evict a renter based on these protected distinctions – and any attempt to do so may generate a lawsuit.

Follow Fair Housing Law Practices

One of the most critical responsibilities is establishing a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community for renters. And while numerous legal protections are in place in the U.S. to prevent discrimination, unfortunately, it remains a pervasive issue.

As a result, it’s vital to take proactive steps to prevent discrimination. The Fair Housing Act is a federal law enacted in 1968 that prohibits discrimination in the purchase, sale, rental, or financing of housing – private or public – based on race, skin color, sex, nationality or religion, disability, and family status. The act was developed on the principle that every American should have an equal opportunity to seek a place to live without fear of discrimination due to factors outside their control.

Here are some tips for following fair housing law practices:

  • Provide accessible rental features. Whenever possible, offer parking spots, ramps, elevators, and modified living spaces to create an environment that promotes independence and equal opportunities for all renters.
  • Implement a fair, comprehensive screening process based on objective criteria. Review credit history, conduct a background check, run income verification, and review the applicant’s rental history.
  • Review policies and procedures. Landlords need to stay informed. Review policies and procedures regularly, including assessing marketing materials, lease agreements, and screening criteria to ensure they align with local, state, and federal laws.

How to Avoid Bad Tenants

A good first line of defense for guarding against bad tenants and avoiding evictions is through proper tenant screening. Not only will this allow landlords to weed out possible fraudsters or troublemakers, but it also can provide peace of mind for all parties involved.

In addition to reviewing a prospective tenant’s credit report and rental history, property managers and landlords should confirm employment status and income and run a background check to uncover any criminal record data. It’s also smart to check references from previous landlords.

Strive for a Positive, Professional Relationship

When deciding whether to evict a tenant is not to be taken lightly, property managers must be informed and educated about their legal rights and responsibilities.

Knowing the legitimate legal reasons to evict a tenant – and following proper steps and processes – is essential to protect both managers and renters. Transparency, clear communication, detailed documentation, and adherence to local laws will impact the process, helping to foster a positive landlord-tenant relationship over time.