How To Evict A Tenant (The Right Way)

When someone is renting from you and doesn't hold up their end of the bargain, you need to evict them, but doing it wrong can get you in legal trouble. Follow these five steps to evict a tenant the right way and make sure things go as smoothly as possible. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

video play icon

5 Steps To Evict A Tenant The Right Way

  1. Be prepared for this to happen. Have your tenants fill out all the necessary paperwork, including a complete rental application and background check forms, so you have the information you need before renting to someone.
  2. Know your local laws. Different states have different rules regarding why you can evict someone and how to do so. Make sure you're aware of the laws in your state.
  3. Give proper notice. Provide your tenant with an eviction notice and an adequate time frame in which to move out.
  4. Know what to do if they won't move out. If your tenant refuses to move out, you may be dealing with a serial evictee. Understand the legal process and get ready for a possibly lengthy court battle.
  5. Get professional help if necessary. You don't want to have to navigate the courts alone, so find an attorney who can help you.

If A Tenant's Lease Is Up, Are They Expected To Move Out?

It's a bad idea to just "expect" someone to do anything, since you're bound to be disappointed. Often, when an initial lease is up, tenants stay in the unit on a month-to-month basis. Your tenants are likely expecting to stay, which is why you need to provide them with proper notice that you want them to vacate when the lease is up. Send them with a notice stating that the lease is ending, and do so with ample time left. Generally this is 30 to 60 days before the lease is up, depending on your state. That way, your tenants know that they are expected to move out, and they have time to make other living arrangements.

Types Of Eviction Notices

Notice Type Situation What It Means
Pay Rent or Quit Tenant is behind on rent Rent must be paid in full by the date given or tenant must vacate the apartment by that date
Perform Covenants or Quit (or "Cure or Quit") Tenant has violated the terms of the rental agreement in a way that can be remedied (such as owning a pet without permission or housing guests that are not permitted by the lease) Tenant must correct the violation within the supplied time frame or move out
Unconditional Notice to Quit Tenant has violated the terms of the lease repeatedly or in ways that cannot be remedied Tenant must vacate the unit within the time frame given
No-Cause Notice (or "Notice of Non-Renewal") Tenant's lease is up or is month-to-month Tenant has a set amount of time (generally 30 to 60 days, but varies by state and type of lease) in order to vacate
Tenancy-At-Will Notice Tenant does not have a firm lease Tenant must vacate, usually in a shorter amount of time if the tenant has not been in the unit for long enough to establish full tenancy

I've Found Someone Who Will Pay A Lot More For This Unit. Can I Offer The Current Tenant A Buyout To Get Them To Leave?

The process of buying out tenants is common in cities where rent stabilization exists. It is possible that you can offer a cash amount to a tenant to entice them to move out. However, if they say no, you'll have to honor the lease agreement you've made. You also need to be careful and not violate the law. Buyouts have often been used as an intimidation tactic to force low-income individuals out of housing, and landlords have been accused of misleading tenants and not paying them what was promised. It'd be a good idea to consult an attorney before going ahead with any plan.

Eviction Laws By State

Rank by population State Information Resource
1 California California Courts
2 Texas Texas State Law Library
3 Florida Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
4 New York New York State Unified Court System
5 Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act
6 Illinois Southern Illinois University School of Law
7 Ohio Franklin County Law Library
8 Georgia Georgia Legal Aid
9 North Carolina North Carolina Bar Association
10 Michigan Michigan Legislature

What If I Got My Tenants To Sign A Lease That Gives Them No Grace Period? Can I Force Them To Move Out Immediately?

In short, no. Each state has specific laws regarding what you can evict tenants for and how long you have to give them to vacate. Those laws supersede any lease you've drawn up. This is to prevent predatory landlords from taking advantage of tenants who don't speak English or who are tricked into signing an altered document. Even if you got your tenants to sign a lease which says you can kick them out with one day's notice for any reason, they still have the same rights. That's why you need to make sure your lease is in accordance with the rules for your state, because if the lease is deemed to be invalid, then your right to evict your tenants will be in jeopardy.

Metropolitan Areas With The Highest Eviction Rates

Rank City State Eviction Rate
1 Memphis Tennessee 6.1%
2 Phoenix Arizona 5.9%
3 Atlanta Georgia 5.7%
4 (tie) Indianapolis Indiana 5.6%
4 (tie) Dallas Texas 5.6%
6 Las Vegas Nevada 5.5%
7 Louisville Kentucky 5.3%
8 Houston Texas 5%
9 Virginia Beach Virginia 4.9%
10 Cincinnati Ohio 4.8%

Can I Sue A Former Tenant For Unpaid Rent?

If you have a rental agreement, then both parties are bound by it, which means you are owed the money stipulated in the lease. If you have to evict a tenant, then the likelihood that you'll be paid depends on what the tenant does after receiving the notice. If they don't leave and you have to go through the legal process, then depending on the laws in your state, the tenant may have to pay the outstanding amount to the court, after which you should receive what is owed to you. If they move out and simply disappear, then you'd have to locate them in order to collect. But if they leave, you'll at least be able to rent the apartment out to new tenants. It's up to you and your attorney to decide if the amount owed is worth the trouble to pursue legal action.

In Depth

Congratulations, you've ventured into the world of being a landlord by renting a house or some apartment units. Though we sincerely hope things go well, the fact that you're here means problems have arisen. If you need to evict a tenant, following these five steps will ensure you do it the right way.

Step #1: be prepared for this to happen. You probably think you're a good judge of character, and those tenants seem like nice people, but you can never tell. If you rent for long enough, you'll end up with a nightmare tenant, like the people who left their landlord with $30,000 in damage, or the ones who left the house in ruins after a six-month battle.

Don't just rent a room on a handshake agreement. Have a proper rental contract, and do a full background check during the application process so you know who your tenants are and have a plan for what you'll do if they disappear after destroying your place. Discover more information on the necessary documents on our full guide to evicting a tenant. You can find it right on this page. Get started now below this video.

You can find it right on this page.

Step #2: know your local laws. To protect tenants, there are rules regarding what you can and cannot evict a tenant for. If they don't pay rent, if they violate the lease, or if they damage your property, you can get them out. But you can't just do it because you want to.

In some places, people will do anything to stay in an apartment. Take the New York woman who was adopted by her neighbor right before he died, and inherited his $100-a-month apartment thanks to rent control. The landlords weren't happy about it, but it was legal.

There are some cities where rent controlled apartments are so potentially valuable that landlords will hire brokers to buy out tenants, offering them thousands of dollars in order to vacate. We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but you probably shouldn't let your tenants hear about these stories if you ever want to be rid of them.

There are some cities where rent controlled apartments are so potentially valuable that landlords will hire brokers to buy out tenants, offering them thousands of dollars in order to vacate.

Step #3: send a proper eviction notice. You need to give your tenants a written notice that they have to leave, and adequate time to move out, because you never know if they'll fight you over it. Michael Rotondo's parents probably didn't think they'd end up in court to try and get their son to move out of their house, but it happened.

And this isn't just for those who own rental properties. People who rent their places out on Airbnb also have to follow the law when it comes to evicting someone. Those laws vary by state, so make sure you know the rules in your area. Check out our full guide by scrolling down this page. You can find it right beneath this video.

Step #4: know what to do if they won't move out. Even if you take the necessary precautions, it's possible your tenants won't heed your written notice. The legal process for an eviction takes some time, and certain habitual squatters take advantage of that fact to live rent-free.

Even if you take the necessary precautions, it's possible your tenants won't heed your written notice.

Elizabeth Abel of Berkeley, California, found this out the hard way when she rented her house to a man who didn't pay rent and refused to leave. It turned out he'd done this over and over, living somewhere until he was legally forced out, then doing it again to someone else. To add an extra layer of irony, he was a professor who taught a class called "Ethics and Politics of New Technology."

Step #5: get professional help if needed. We know you're a big tough guy, but you can get in a lot of trouble if you physically force your tenants out or toss their belongings on the street. Arguments can get heated, like the one with the landlord in France who dumped piles of trash on his tenants' new home to get them back for leaving his place dirty.

If people are angry at you, they can be scary. Just Google "How to get revenge on a landlord" and you'll see how many folks out there are spending their free time concocting ways to hurt those they rent from. For your own safety, don't try to take care of things on your own.

For your own safety, don't try to take care of things on your own.

Instead, you should seek out a good lawyer who can help you navigate the entire legal process. Maybe things will go well and your tenants will leave, but if they don't, you'll want to be ready. Read our full guide which can be found right beneath this video.

Advertiser Disclosure: To support this website, receives advertising revenue from contextual ad networks run by big companies such as Google and Microsoft, and also from some of companies whose products and services we discuss in these pages. We may earn revenue when you click advertisements or links from this website. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information provided on this website is accurate at the time of writing, the information provided is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice.