How to Lawfully Evict a Tenant Without a Lease

Working in real estate brings about many unique challenges that can be difficult to resolve without previous experience. Housing laws frequently change, and tax codes can be intricate and difficult to navigate. One problem that most landlords won’t need to deal with is having a tenant without a lease or rental agreement. However, under special circumstances, you may decide to allow someone to live at your property without a contract. What happens when you need them to leave the property? How would you go about removing them?

Fortunately, there are guidelines on how to evict this type of tenant, although they vary based on the situation. This guide will explain how to effectively and lawfully remove them from your property.

Many landlords worry that the law isn’t on their side in such situations, but there are laws that limit and benefit both parties – tenant and landlord. It’s essential to understand your legal rights, as well as what is considered unlawful. If you break any laws, you could potentially lose some of your property rights, receive a fine, or even go to jail. So, here’s a brief overview of some lawful – and unlawful – reasons for eviction.

Lawful reasons to evict a tenant

  • Illegal drug use
  • Property damage
  • Breaking rental contracts or agreements
  • Refusal to pay rent
  • Not paying required utility bills
  • Unauthorized pets
  • Expiration of the lease
  • Health or safety violations
  • The property is being removed from the rental market
  • The owner is moving into the property

Unlawful reasons to evict a tenant

  • Racial, religious, or other types of discrimination
  • Retaliation for complaints made by tenants
  • Withholding rent until a health issue is resolved
  • Attempting to evict a tenant without a court order

With these in mind, there are still ways you can lawfully evict a tenant who doesn’t have a lease. It’s important to remember that no matter what the situation, you should always go through the proper channels and never try to remove a tenant yourself.

Evicting an Inherited Tenant

One of the most common ways to end up with a tenant without a contract is when you take possession of a new property. This can be a property that you bought or inherited that already has a tenant living there. In most cases, you can give such tenants a notice to quit. These types of evictions generally take longer since the tenant had a valid contract with the previous owner of the property. If you didn’t make an agreement with the tenant to move before you acquired the property, then you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Serve the tenant with an official notice to quit with the proper waiting period

  2. File for eviction with your local court if the tenant doesn’t want to move

  3. Prepare documentation explaining that you didn’t intend to keep the tenant when you acquired the property or why you need the tenant to leave before the original contract ended

  4. If the court rules in your favor, bring the court order to your local authorities to carry out the eviction.

Evicting Squatters

A squatter could be a tenant that stays on your property after the rental contract has ended or someone who moved into your property without permission. Evicting a squatter is similar to evicting renters; you’ll need to give them notice that you’ll be filing an eviction suit. Every state has its own set of rules about the length of time between providing a notice to quit and filing for eviction, so you’ll want to check your local laws. Once you’ve given them adequate warning, you can file for eviction. If the court sides with you, take the court order to the authorities to remove the squatter from your property.

Evicting an At-Will Tenant

A tenant that you’ve allowed to live at the property without a lease is called a tenant-at-will. In these situations, there’s usually a verbal or written agreement between the landlord and the tenant. These tenancies are often month-to-month and can be terminated by either party with a 30-day notice.

To evict a tenant-at-will, you’ll need to give them a minimum of a 30-day notice to quit. If the tenant isn’t paying the rent according to the agreement, you may give them a 14-day notice to quit window. With these types of tenancy, you’re not required to provide them with a reason to leave other than you’d like the tenancy to end. If the tenant refuses to leave within the 14 or 30-day timeframe, you can then file an eviction suit.

What’s a Notice to Quit?

All of these eviction situations require serving a notice to quit to the tenant. A notice to quit is an official way to let a tenant without a lease know when they must leave the property. If a tenant has a lease and refuses to leave after the contract period ends, the lease ending is generally considered to be a notice to quit. In this case, it may be beneficial to give them an official notice to quit.

A notice to quit is only legally valid in court if there’s confirmation that the tenant received it, so it’s recommended to send these by certified mail.

Another Option: Cash for Keys

The eviction process can be long, so some landlords may opt to offer cash for keys. In this process, the landlord will pay a flat fee to the tenant in exchange for their keys to the property. This can often entice reluctant tenants to leave quickly. This method is a good alternative to bring about a resolution without the need to go through the court process.

It can be stressful when you have a tenant overstay their welcome at your property, but there are legal steps you can take to remove them lawfully. One essential step to prevent such situations is to conduct a thorough screening of tenants during the application process. While this won’t prevent inherited tenants or those who moved onto your property without permission, it can help you choose tenants who have a solid, responsible rental history. Our tenant screening services allow you to make an informed decision on tenants, minimizing the risk of problems arising.

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