If you’ve been threatened with eviction or even been served with an eviction notice, but don’t think you did anything wrong, you may be wondering if your landlord can evict you for no reason.
In this article, I am going to answer that question and also discuss some of the most common grounds for eviction. I’ll also cover the general process for an eviction proceeding, so you have a sense of what to expect if you are faced with this unfortunate situation.
It’s a lot to cover, but if you want the quick answer to the overall question, it is as follows:
A landlord may not evict you for no reason. Your lease is binding on your landlord and if you have not breached it, they may not evict you. However, some exceptions may apply in cases where crime or hazards to health and safety are involved.
Now as you can imagine, the devil is in the details when addressing issues of eviction, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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What is Eviction?
Eviction is defined as the removal of a tenant from a rented property. Laws on rental properties and eviction may vary by country and state, but in almost anywhere in the world, there is a formal legal process that must be followed.
Understanding Your Lease Agreement Is Key
As I mentioned above, your landlord may not evict you for no reason. But in my experience, it is very rare for a landlord to start an eviction proceeding for absolutely no reason. Usually, there is some rationale for them wanting to evict a tenant and the most likely suspect is a violation of the lease agreement.
So take a careful read of your lease to see if there are any grounds for an eviction (and if you can’t find any, just ask your landlord why they are evicting you). In almost all jurisdictions, a notice of eviction should include a description of the reason for the eviction.
Now, in most cases, it is possible for your landlord to not renew or extend your existing lease. In this case, they do not need a reason to do so. They may simply want to rent to someone else, see if they can get a higher rent, want to sell the property, or even move in themselves. Of course, certain jurisdictions like New York City may limit a landlord’s ability to do even this, particularly in rent controlled states or localities. Source.
So, except for these types of situations, if you are on a month to month lease or do not have a written agreement (which in many states will operate like a month to month lease), your landlord can simply give you notice that they do not intend to extent the lease beyond the month and you are then obligated to move out upon the expiration of the current term.
Bottom line: it is important to understand your lease and its terms.
What are Some Common Grounds for Eviction?
As mentioned at the top, let’s turn to some of the most common reasons for a landlord to evict a tenant. If you want to keep your landlord happy and be secure in your living arrangements, you want to make sure you steer clear of these eviction pitfalls.
Failure to pay, or even an incomplete payment, may be a cause for eviction. Depending on which state you’re in and your lease terms, even a late payment of three to five days may be enough for your landlord to issue you some sort of notice to pay or quit (which is often the first step in an eviction).
This is probably the number one reason for eviction proceedings, so if you want to make sure you can stay in your place, make rent payments on time, every time.
A tenant may be evicted for committing certain unlawful acts. Here are some of the criminal acts that may get you kicked out of the rented property:
- Handling of controlled substances
- Possession and selling, or buying, of unregistered firearms
- Possession of smuggled or stolen goods
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it goes without saying that if you are running a criminal enterprise from your home, this may spell the end of your tenancy, even if your lease agreement is silent on the issue.
A landlord may evict a tenant who engages in domestic violence. Thus is usually done through a process called bifurcation and is permitted through the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. Source.
Again, a landlord may have the right to evict on these grounds, even if your lease does not directly address this situation.
Disregard for Health and Safety Standards
Another responsibility of the tenant is to be considerate of his neighbors’ health and safety. Therefore, it’s only right to keep the area immediately outside his rented property clean and habitable as well.
Endangering the community’s safety may prompt a landlord to evict a tenant after enough warnings.
Violating Rental Terms
There may be many terms and conditions in a rental contract, but some of the most common issues would be housing unauthorized tenants or pets. Most of the time, this is specifically declared in the contract and is therefore a valid reason for eviction.
Another common violation is subletting the property when it’s clearly prohibited.
Damage or Significant Alterations to Property
If you make changes to the property without landlord consent, this is often disallowed under the lease.
But many times tenants don’t bother reading the lease or assume it is ok. Sometimes, minor things like hammering small nails onto a part of the rental property to put up pictures is allowed, but not always. Again, read your lease carefully to see what is permitted and when in doubt, ask your landlord first before you do anything.
Of course, if you actually intentionally damage the property, that could also serve as grounds for eviction. If you damage the property by accident, you can probably talk with the landlord and offer to repair the damage. In most cases, I suspect the landlord will be ok with this, depending on the scope and frequency of this type of stuff happening.
The Eviction Process
As mentioned, there is formal legal process for eviction in almost all cases. Even if you breach your lease agreement, a landlord does not have the right to kick you out without adhering to the applicable eviction procedures in place for your state and locality.
Now, I would highlight that there is a wide range eviction laws across the various states and some states may be far more lenient toward the tenant than others. It is best to check with your state and local governments (or hire a competent lawyer to do so) to find out what the eviction process is for your situation.
Issuance of Notice for Eviction
In almost all cases, the first step in an eviction is some form of written notice to the tenant that has been validly delivered in accordance with applicable rules and regulations.
In many jurisdictions, you can’t move onto the next step of the eviction until a certain period of time has passed after this formal notice, so landlords will often issue it quickly.
Some more lenient landlords may verbally warn a tenant first before issuing a formal notice, but this isn’t always the case. Many professional property management companies will issue a notice first and get the clock ticking so they can rapidly file an unlawful detainer or eviction lawsuit in court.
Filing of a Lawsuit and Trial
If a tenant fails to vacate the property despite the notice, the landlord may file a lawsuit against the tenant. The tenant will likely be issued a summons to appear in court to respond or defend against the action.
If the court favors the landlord, they often secure a writ of possession or eviction and present it to the appropriate agency (sheriff’s office, for example). Only then will the tenant be compulsorily removed from the property.
So there you have it – a clear answer to whether your landlord can evict you for no reason, along with examples of common grounds for eviction and a brief summary of what to expect in an eviction proceeding.
I hope this has been helpful and happy renting.