The eviction process can be difficult for both tenants and landlords. To avoid legal complications and the potential for costly disputes, every landlord should know when evictions are acceptable and how to evict a tenant correctly.

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Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Evictions can stem from many reasons, such as:

  • The tenant is not paying rent. 
  • The tenant is causing damage to the unit or shared areas. 
  • The tenant is engaging in illegal activities. 
  • The tenant is violating other terms of their lease. Rental agreements often include clauses regarding noise, pets, parking, and other issues that impact the rental property and the experience of other tenants. Tenants who violate these terms may face eviction.
  • The landlord wants to evict the tenant for other reasons. In some cases, a landlord may want an eviction without cause. For example, the landlord may decide to live in the unit themselves or to remodel the unit. An eviction without cause may be possible under state law with proper notice. If the tenant’s lease is ending or the tenant is in a month-to-month rental arrangement, the landlord may be able to send a notice of nonrenewal.

Can a New Landlord Evict Current Tenants?

When new owners take over a property, they may have plans for the property that do not involve the current tenants. However, new owners may need to adhere to the terms of the rental agreements already in place. If the lease is ending soon, or if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, you may be able to evict the tenant, as long as you follow state laws and provide the required notice. 

If you purchased a foreclosed property, the situation may be different. The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act requires landlords to provide at least a 90-day notice when evicting tenants after a foreclosure, and it prohibits landlords from evicting tenants before the end of the lease unless the new owners want the property to be their primary residence. Some states may have additional requirements. 

The Eviction Process – Step By Step

The eviction process is subject to state law. So-called self-help evictions, in which a landlord evicts a tenant without going through the formal legal process, are generally prohibited. Landlords must review the eviction laws in their state to ensure that they know how to evict someone in a way that is compliant.

In general, the eviction process consists of the following steps.

  1. Determine whether an eviction is appropriate. To do this, you need to consider your reasons for wanting to evict the tenant. You also need to review the lease and state laws to determine whether your reasons justify eviction.
  2. Serve an eviction letter to the tenant. This may be an unconditional quit notice that tells the tenant they are required to leave. Alternatively, it may be a pay/cure or quit notice that gives the tenant an opportunity to fix the problem in question by a specific date in order to avoid eviction. Make sure the notice adheres to state requirements.
  3. File with the court and prepare for the hearing. An eviction is a legal process, so it needs to go through the court. Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork, including leases and evidence of the cause for eviction. A lawyer can help with this process. 
  4. Evict the tenant under court order. Law enforcement may handle the eviction process under state law. State law also dictates what can be done with property that the tenant leaves behind.

How Long Does It Take to Evict Someone?

Depending in the state laws, the eviction process can take weeks or even months. If there are disputes, incomplete paperwork, court backlogs or other delays, the process may take longer. The reason for eviction may also impact the time required.

Grounds for Immediate Eviction

In some cases, a landlord may desire an immediate eviction, for example, if the tenant represents a threat to property or safety. However, it is still important to follow state eviction laws. In addition to serving an eviction notice and filing with the court, the landlord may need to contact the authorities for additional help if the tenant poses an immediate threat. 

evicting tenants
You can help speed up the eviction process by making sure that your paperwork is complete 

Tenant Rights and Eviction

Landlords may own the property, but tenants still have rights. In addition to federal laws, such as the Fair Housing Act, state laws also provide tenant rights on eviction and other matters. The HUD has a directory with more information for individual states, but requirements often include the following:

  • Landlords must keep the property safe and habitable.
  • Landlords must give proper notice when increasing rates. Increases and fees may be further restricted.
  • Landlords must follow the state’s legal eviction process. Eviction without cause may not be possible if the tenant has a valid lease and the term is not expiring.

Furthermore, laws can change. New laws may give tenants additional rights, either on a permanent or temporary basis. A significant example in recent years has been the COVID-19 eviction mortarium. 

Can You Evict a Squatter?

Depending on the state, squatters who have resided on a property for a certain number of years may be able to claim adverse possession. Former tenants and owners may also have certain rights. Landlords should review squatters’ rights in their state before taking proper action to evict squatters.

How to Evict a Tenant Quickly

A legitimate eviction can take time. You might be tempted to speed things up by changing the locks, shutting off power or otherwise making the unit uninhabitable or unpleasant. However, this can be considered an illegal self-help eviction and harassment. It’s important to follow the law.

You can help speed up the process by making sure that your paperwork is complete and by hiring a lawyer to avoid problems that can lead to delays.

Another option may be a “cash for keys” solution, in which the landlord offers to pay the tenant to leave. If the tenant agrees to the deal, this may be allowable under state law. However, double-check that you are not running afoul of state laws, self-help eviction bans or the Fair Housing Act’s anti-discrimination rules.

Navigating evictions can be tricky, and it’s just one of the challenges that landlord’s face. To protect your investments, having appropriate landlord’s insurance is essential. Do you need help securing coverage? Contact us.