Can I evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?

Dealing with tenants who fail to pay rent is more than just an inconvenience. It can lead to a domino effect of problems, from impacted cash flow to not completing maintenance tasks to a negative atmosphere among your other tenants. If you have a tenant who consistently misses their rent, you might be wondering, “Can I evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?”

In this guide, you’ll discover when and how you can evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. We cover everything you need to navigate these tricky situations confidently and legally.

When can you evict a tenant?

If you’re facing issues with a tenant who doesn’t pay their rent, it’s important to understand the legal actions you can take. Eviction is a serious step, but there are specific circumstances where eviction is necessary.

We outline the conditions where you can lawfully evict a tenant:

Non-payment of rent

Non-payment of rent is one of the most common reasons for eviction. If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, you have the right to initiate eviction proceedings.

Non-payment of rent differs from late rent. Non-payment means the tenant has not paid rent at all, while late rent means the tenant has paid, just not on time. The distinction is important because some states may provide a grace period for late rent, impacting how quickly you can act on an eviction for non-payment.

Before starting the eviction process for a non-paying tenant, it’s important to first communicate with them. You may find that the tenant is experiencing financial difficulties or is confused about the payment process. By communicating early, you may be able to resolve the issue, helping to maintain a good relationship with your tenant and avoid the eviction process.

Violation of lease terms

Violating lease terms provides a valid basis for eviction. Your lease agreement specifies the behaviors and responsibilities expected of your tenants, giving you legal grounds for eviction if these terms are not met. Understanding your state’s laws is crucial to ensure that any lease violations legally justify an eviction.

Common lease term violations include:

  • Using the property for illegal activities, such as drug selling.
  • Refusing your entry to the property when access is legally permitted.
  • Subletting the property without permission.
  • Keeping pets in properties that prohibit them.
  • Regularly causing disturbances that affect other tenants or neighbors.

When a tenant violates a lease term, it’s also essential to communicate with the tenant. For example, a tenant who has an unpermitted pet may be facing a challenging situation that requires the pet to stay with them. Approaching the situation with understanding and discussing possible solutions can help maintain a positive relationship while addressing the violation.

Damage to the property

Significant damage to the property that goes beyond normal wear and tear can also be grounds for eviction. Examples of such damage include large holes in walls, broken windows, or extensive water damage from negligence. This kind of destruction affects the value of your property and can impact your other tenants, making it a serious concern.

You will need to thoroughly document any damage before pursuing the eviction process. You should also give the tenant a chance to fix the issue or cover the repair costs. If the tenant fails to address the damage adequately, you may then proceed with the eviction process according to your local laws and the terms of your lease agreement.

What eviction notice do I give for non-payment of rent?

To get back on track with successful rent collection, you will need to begin the eviction process. This starts by serving the tenant with a formal eviction notice. This notice legally informs your tenant of the need to either pay the overdue rent or vacate the property.

Pay or quit notice

A pay or quit notice is an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. This notice formally requires the tenant to either pay the outstanding rent within a specified timeframe or vacate the property.

It’s essential to include all the necessary information in the pay or quit notice to ensure that it’s legally valid and communicates the required actions to the tenant.

Here’s what you need to include:

  • Date of notice: The date the notice is issued to the tenant.
  • Tenant’s name(s): The full legal name(s) of the tenant(s) bound by the lease agreement.
  • Rental property address: The complete address of the rental unit, including unit number if applicable.
  • Amount of rent owed: Specify the total amount of rent that is overdue.
  • Payment deadline: Clearly state the deadline by which the rent must be paid. This deadline is determined by state law and can vary, so it’s important to be aware of your local regulations.
  • Instructions for payment: Provide detailed instructions on how and where the tenant can pay the overdue rent.
  • Notice of eviction process: Inform the tenant that failure to pay the overdue rent by the specified deadline may result in eviction proceedings.
  • Certificate of service: Detail how and when the notice was delivered to the tenant. This written notice will need to either be delivered to the tenant in person or by certified mail, depending on your local laws. You may choose to do both to ensure that the tenant receives the notice quickly and you have a documented delivery record.
  • Landlord’s signature: The notice must be signed by you, the landlord, or your authorized representative.

Other types of eviction notices

Besides the pay or quit notice, there are other types of eviction notices that you might need to use. Understanding which one to use is vital for a successful eviction.

Cure or quit notice

This notice is issued when a tenant violates terms of the lease agreement other than non-payment of rent, such as having unauthorized pets or causing disturbances. The cure or quit notice provides the tenant with a specified period to correct, or “cure,” the violation. If the tenant fails to address the issue within the given timeframe, they must vacate the property.

Unconditional quit notice

With this notice, the tenant is instructed to vacate the premises by a certain date without the option to correct the issue, leading directly to eviction proceedings if the tenant does not comply. This may be issued for repeated violations, significant damage to the property, illegal activities, or serious breaches of the lease agreement.

Steps to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent

If your tenant ignores the pay or quit notice, it’s time to start the eviction process. It’s important to know how to report tenant for non-payment of rent, as this ensures you’re following the law and treating the tenant fairly throughout the eviction.

The eviction laws can differ across states, but these are the general steps to help you manage the process properly.

Review lease agreement and local laws

Before taking any eviction steps, it’s vital to review the lease agreement you have with your tenant. This agreement outlines the specifics of rent payments and the eviction process, ensuring you act within the terms of the contract. You should also familiarize yourself with any local laws that could impact the eviction process.

Rent payment software can be a valuable tool during the eviction process. It offers a documented history of all rent payments, which is crucial evidence in eviction proceedings. The ability to track communication and send automated reminders through the software helps maintain a professional relationship with the tenant, ensuring you have done your part to remind them of their obligations before proceeding with eviction.

Serve pay or quit notice

Once you’ve confirmed that eviction is aligned with the terms of your lease agreement and local laws, the next step is to serve a pay or quit notice. This notice must be delivered in the correct way and include all the essential information. If your tenant complies and pays the outstanding rent, you won’t need to proceed with the eviction process.

File an eviction lawsuit

If the tenant fails to pay the overdue rent or vacate the property within the given time frame, the next step is to file an eviction lawsuit. Start by gathering all necessary documentation, including the lease agreement, records of non-payment of rent, and any correspondence with the tenant regarding the issue.

You will then need to visit your local courthouse to file the eviction notice and pay any associated filing fees. The court clerk can guide you through this process and provide the specific forms required in your jurisdiction. Finally, you’ll need to serve the tenant with the lawsuit, following your state’s laws on proper service, to officially inform them of the eviction proceedings.

Attend court hearing

Once your eviction lawsuit is filed, a court hearing date will be set. You and the tenant will then need to attend the court hearing to argue your sides of the case. It’s important to come prepared with all necessary documentation so that you can secure the eviction.

Evict the tenant

If the court rules in your favor, the next step involves legally removing the tenant from the property. This must be done with the assistance of law enforcement to ensure it’s carried out legally and safely.

FAQs about evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent

What are landlord rights if tenant doesn't pay rent?
How long does it take to evict a non-paying tenant?
How far do you have to be in arrears before eviction?

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Learn about how Severn Management Company, a real estate development company based in Annapolis, M.D., uses RentPayment to reduce the time and workload of processing payments and improving the payments experience for residents.

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