How to Legally Remove a Bad Tenant Without an Eviction

As a landlord, few situations are as unpleasant as dealing with an unreliable tenant. Bad tenants may consistently pay their rent late (or not at all), cause trouble with your other tenants, or repeatedly break the rules outlined in the lease. Unfortunately, once they’ve signed the lease, there’s not much you can do legally to break it. Since a lease is a legal contract, you’ll most likely need to use a legal process like eviction to end it early. Regardless of how problematic your tenant is, it’s essential to make sure you’re dealing with them lawfully.

Eviction can be a long process; it can take weeks, sometimes even months. Landlords may go through the entire process only to end up being legally required to give the tenant a second chance. Understandably, many landlords would prefer to avoid eviction entirely. While eviction may be unavoidable, there are a few steps you can take to coax a lousy tenant to leave on their own.

Common Tenant Issues Landlords Face

Screening your tenants will weed out many problematic applicants, but there’s still a chance that you’ll end up with a bad one. It’s an unfortunate part of the rental business that all landlords should be prepared for. Here are some of the most common tenant issues that landlords deal with:

  • Late payments
  • Failure to pay rent
  • Property damage
  • Neglecting the lawn or yard work
  • Parking illegally
  • Illegal activity at the property
  • Fighting with the neighbors
  • Disturbing the neighbors
  • Having pets despite a clear “no pets” policy
  • Allowing additional people to move into the property permanently

Some of these issues are significant enough for legal eviction, while others are more of a general annoyance. That’s why it’s essential to understand how you can get a tenant to leave while still staying within the confines of the law.

Legal Considerations with Bad Tenants

If a tenant breaks the rules of your lease, you have legal grounds to evict them. If they’re doing things you don’t like but aren’t clearly outlined in the lease, the eviction process can be challenging – and exhausting. While it may be tempting to resort to other tactics to get them to leave, it’s essential to make sure that your actions are lawful.

As you’re likely aware, it’s illegal to force, threaten, or blackmail a tenant to leave. That being said, we’ll cover a few ways you can convince a tenant to leave without the eviction process. If you choose to try them, it’s important to be mindful of how you treat your tenant and come from a place of mutual benefit for both of you.

Things to Avoid

Being kind and following the law goes a long way with how your tenant will react – and can prevent you from having a legal battle. When dealing with a bad tenant, make sure to follow these rules:

  • Don’t change your tenant’s locks without notice.
  • Don’t try to physically remove your tenant yourself. Even if you have an eviction ruling, this should be left up to the proper authorities.
  • Don’t harass your tenant. This includes calling them, stalking them, or showing up at their property without notice.
  • Don’t turn off the utilities in an attempt to force them to leave.
  • Don’t remove items from the tenant’s home.
  • Don’t attempt to blackmail them into leaving.

While these may seem obvious, some tenant situations may cause you to feel desperate to make them leave. Regardless of their behavior, the above actions should be avoided at all costs.

As the landlord, you have a responsibility to keep your property habitable and harassment-free until the lease between you and the tenant has ended. However, there’s the possibility that you can talk to your tenant and encourage them to leave without the need for eviction. In many circumstances, your tenant may be just as unhappy as you are.

Cash for Keys

Cash for keys is the most common way landlords get tenants to move out without an eviction. It’s very straightforward: you pay the tenant to move. This can be an effective method for when you want a tenant to leave as soon as possible.

If you choose this method, begin by explaining the situation to the tenant. Tell them why you’d like them to leave. Some tenants may not be aware of their behavior or that they’re causing problems. They even might be willing to change, but don’t count on it. Clearly state why they’re in the wrong and let them know that you’ll file for eviction if things don’t change.

Once you’ve explained why you’d like them to move, offer the tenant a lump sum to move out as soon as possible. Explain how the lump sum will save them money in the long run and how avoiding an eviction will protect their credit. The lump-sum amount should be determined based on the average cost of rent in your area. Let the tenant know that you also forgive any money they may owe you.

If the tenant agrees, write up an official agreement outlining the terms. Make sure that you and the tenant both sign it. This agreement is your legal proof that both parties agree that the terms of the lease no longer apply. Return any of the security deposit they’re owed. Once you have the keys back, change the locks on the property.

Cash for keys can save you and the tenant a lot of time and grief.  Many tenants are pleased to accept money to leave a situation they’re not happy in. If they refuse, you can move on to the eviction process.

Have an Honest Conversation with the Tenant

If you feel uncomfortable (or unwilling) to offer cash for keys, you can opt for an open, honest conversation with them. Let them know that you’re planning to file for eviction. Clearly outline the parts of the lease that they’re breaking and let them know whether or not they have a chance to redeem themselves. Then, ask them if they’re willing to move without going through the eviction process.

Many bad tenants aren’t purposely trying to be evicted, and many of them may not even realize that their behavior is a problem. They could be dealing with personal issues or simply be unaware of the trouble they’re causing. Once they realize they’re in the wrong, many tenants would rather leave than have an eviction on their credit record.

Tenants who agree to leave often appreciate help in finding a new place to live. You can offer them recommendations on rentals within their price range or offer to call resources like the local Public Housing Authority. This can be beneficial to you and the tenant – they’ll leave sooner, and you’ll be helping them find a new home.

When to Evict

Unfortunately, you may still end up with a situation where the tenant refuses to leave. In that case, there’s no alternative. You’ll have to file for eviction. Once you’ve decided that eviction is the best option, you should file as soon as possible. The sooner you provide your tenant with an eviction notice, the sooner you can begin the court process.

It may be easy to avoid dealing with the tenant, but you should take action to remove tenants who are causing property damage, not paying their rent, or breaking the terms of your lease.

Avoiding Bad Tenants

Ultimately, the best way to avoid situations with bad tenants is by avoiding them in the first place. While there’s no sure method for avoiding them entirely, you’re less likely to run into issues by choosing low-risk tenants from the beginning. Here are a couple of steps you should take when selecting tenants:

  • Conduct a thorough screening using our screening services.
  • Don’t rent to tenants who avoid filling out the entire rental application.
  • Call their references
  • Check their pay stubs and employment information with their employer.

For more information on our tenant screening services, visit our services list here, or contact us at 800-523-2381.

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