How to Evict a Tenant

From time to time, circumstances arise that may necessitate the eviction of a tenant. It could be due to non-payment of rent or the occurrence of illegal activities on your property. Landlords who fail to take prompt action to evict tenants expose themselves to the potential devaluation of their property due to the loss of rental income and damage caused by the tenant.

This comprehensive article delves into the workings of residential evictions and provides practical advice on the process of evicting a tenant.

Violation of Lease Provisions

Evicting tenants for violating one or more lease provisions is a common occurrence. For instance, discovering that a tenant has a pet or an unauthorized roommate, or repeatedly incurring fines from the homeowners association (HOA) due to tenant-inflicted infractions can warrant eviction.

These violations are typically curable, meaning tenants are given an opportunity to rectify the issue promptly. However, ongoing monitoring by you or your property manager becomes crucial to ensuring the tenant does not violate the lease again.

While some tenants may comply with their promises, others may not. Tenants who repeatedly breach lease terms and conditions may ultimately face eviction. Keeping accurate records is essential in case the situation escalates to court proceedings.

Property Damage

Tenants who cause excessive damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear may also be subject to eviction. Severe damage, such as punched holes in walls or broken windows, can be identified during routine property inspections.

While some states permit landlords to use the tenant's security deposit to cover damages, the deposit amount often falls short. This shortfall arises because states typically impose limits on the security deposit amount a landlord can request from a tenant, usually equivalent to one or two times the monthly rent.

When tenant-inflicted damage reaches a point where it begins to devalue your property and raises concerns regarding health and safety, eviction becomes a necessary consideration.

Understanding the Necessity of Tenant Evictions for Landlords 

The eviction of tenants is a situation that no landlord desires, yet at times it becomes an inevitable course of action. Delaying the eviction process can lead to a rapid decline in cash flow and potential property damages worth thousands of dollars caused by troublesome tenants. Several common reasons compel landlords to evict tenants, including:

Nonpayment of Rent

Nonpayment of rent stands out as a primary reason for tenant evictions. Unfortunately, even the most responsible tenants may encounter unexpected hardships that hinder their ability to meet lease obligations. Reduction in working hours, job loss, business closures, significant medical conditions, or changes in family circumstances are among the situations that can hinder a tenant's ability to pay rent, despite their willingness.

However, rental property ownership is a business like any other. Although some landlords may opt to establish a written payment plan for tenants falling behind on rent, there may come a point where eviction becomes the only viable option.

Dealing with a "Professional" Tenant

A "professional" tenant is someone who deliberately rents a property with no intention of paying rent beyond the first month. While these tenants may provide upfront payments, such as the first month's rent and security deposit, they subsequently refuse to pay any further dues.

Professional tenants possess a thorough understanding of the eviction process and exploit loopholes within state landlord-tenant laws, allowing them to live rent-free for extended periods until eviction is finally possible.

One indication of dealing with a professional tenant is their urgency to move in swiftly. They are aware of the time gap between a recent eviction appearing on a rental history report and securing a new rental before their previous eviction becomes public record.

Engagement in Illegal Activities

Engaging in illegal activities such as drug sales, prostitution, gambling, or conducting a business within the rental property are all grounds for eviction. Allowing such unlawful activities to persist in a rental property not only violates the implied warranty of habitability for other tenants within a multifamily property but also creates issues for the entire neighborhood.

In many cases, landlords possess the ability to expedite the eviction process when tenants are involved in criminal activities. Consulting with a local attorney regarding jurisdiction-specific laws can help you understand your rights in such situations.

Effective Steps to Evict a Tenant

The process of evicting a tenant can vary depending on your jurisdiction, but typically involves the following eight steps:

Familiarize yourself with relevant landlord-tenant laws 

Before initiating an eviction, it is essential to ensure that you are well-versed in the applicable laws. Take the following steps:

Establish a valid reason for eviction 

After familiarizing yourself with the laws, determine if you have a legitimate reason to evict a tenant. Common grounds for eviction include non-payment of rent, engaging in illegal activities, having unauthorized roommates or pets, and repeated violations of lease terms and conditions.

Attempt to reason with the tenant 

In some cases, it may be prudent to have a conversation with the tenant to explore the possibility of their voluntary departure without resorting to eviction. Evictions can be time-consuming and expensive, and most tenants prefer to avoid negative marks on their credit reports. Offering a monetary incentive, such as "cash for keys," can motivate cooperation and help evade the costly eviction process.

Serve a written eviction notice 

The next step involves delivering a written eviction notice to the tenant, complying with the requirements dictated by your jurisdiction. Depending on the situation, this notice may include:

File for eviction through legal channels 

Many landlords opt to engage a knowledgeable real estate attorney who specializes in residential evictions to handle the legal proceedings. This approach can be cost-effective, ensuring compliance with each step of the eviction process to avoid restarting or incurring additional expenses. Alternatively, if you choose to proceed without legal representation, you must prepare and file the necessary documents, pay court fees, and ensure proper service of the eviction notice.

Prepare for the court hearing 

If the case proceeds to court, you or your attorney should gather the following documents to present your case:

Carry out the eviction 

Assuming you have followed the eviction process according to your jurisdiction's guidelines, the court will likely rule in your favor. You will receive a court order, often referred to as a Writ of Restitution, granting you the legal right to remove the tenant from your property. This writ is then provided to local law enforcement, who will visit the premises, allow the tenant a short time to pack their belongings, and physically evict them if necessary.

Recover past-due rent 

When you successfully win an eviction case, the court may also award you a judgment for unpaid rent and any damages caused by the tenant. Many landlords choose to engage a collection agency to pursue the money owed. The agency will file the judgment with credit bureaus, track down the tenant if they have disappeared, and initiate wage garnishment or asset seizure to ensure collection of the owed amount.

Remember to consult with a legal professional to ensure compliance with the specific laws and regulations in your jurisdiction throughout the eviction process.

By proactively researching and understanding the eviction laws specific to your state and locality, you can navigate the process more effectively and ensure that you are well-informed of your rights and obligations as a landlord. Remember, consulting with a qualified attorney is always a prudent step to obtain personalized legal advice tailored to your circumstances.

Understanding State-Specific Eviction Laws 

It is crucial to recognize that eviction laws can vary significantly from one state to another and even within different cities within the same state. To ensure compliance and a smooth eviction process, it is important to familiarize yourself with the specific landlord-tenant laws in your state and locality. Here are some effective ways to gain a better understanding of the eviction process in your area:

Utilize Legal Resources: 

Websites like offer a wealth of information on landlord-tenant laws, including state-specific regulations regarding termination due to nonpayment of rent and unconditional quit terminations. Take advantage of the articles and resources available on such platforms to educate yourself about the legal aspects relevant to your state.

Seek Professional Guidance: 

Depending on the size and complexity of the rental market in your property's location, you may find attorneys who specialize in residential evictions and offer their services for a fixed fee. Consider reaching out to your property manager or local real estate investing groups, as they can provide recommendations for reputable real estate attorneys with expertise in eviction cases. Online directories such as and Avvo can also assist you in finding suitable legal professionals in your area.

Alternative Approach: Resolving Tenant Issues Without Eviction

Dealing with the lengthy and costly process of eviction can be a significant burden for landlords. However, there are strategies you can employ to encourage a tenant to vacate the premises without having to resort to formal eviction measures. Consider the following approaches:

Face-to-Face Communication: 

Arrange a meeting with the tenant in a neutral setting, such as a local coffee shop. Engage in an open and honest dialogue, explaining the potential consequences of an eviction, including negative impacts on their credit report and rental history. By highlighting these ramifications, you may encourage the tenant to voluntarily leave the property.

Agreement Documentation: 

If the tenant expresses a willingness to depart early, it is essential to formalize the agreement to prevent any potential change of heart. Prepare a written agreement that both parties sign, clearly stating the agreed-upon terms for early termination and move-out. This agreement can serve as a safeguard in case the tenant attempts to renege on the agreement.

Incentivize with Cash for Keys: 

Offering financial incentives, commonly known as "cash for keys," can be an effective way to motivate a tenant to leave voluntarily. Propose a mutually beneficial arrangement where you provide the tenant with a sum of money or cover certain relocation expenses, such as the first month's rent at a new place or moving costs. The cost of these incentives is often more reasonable than the expenses incurred during the eviction process.

By employing these approaches, you may be able to resolve tenant-related issues in a more amicable and cost-effective manner. It is important to approach these discussions with professionalism and seek legal advice to ensure that all agreements align with local laws and regulations. Remember, maintaining open lines of communication and seeking mutually agreeable solutions can lead to a smoother transition for both parties involved.

In conclusion, when faced with the necessity of evicting a tenant, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with local laws and adhere to the appropriate eviction process specific to your jurisdiction. Evictions can be time-consuming and costly, prompting many landlords to explore alternatives such as offering cash for keys. 

By implementing comprehensive tenant screening practices and maintaining open lines of communication, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of eviction-related issues and foster positive landlord-tenant relationships.

Effective Strategies to Reduce Eviction Rates 

Taking proactive measures to lower eviction rates begins with thorough tenant screening. Utilizing online tenant screening services can provide valuable insights, and while landlords typically access these services for free, tenants may be charged a nominal application fee. The reports obtained through these services encompass various aspects, including:

Credit History: 

Assessing a tenant's credit history provides insights into their financial responsibility and payment patterns.

Background Check: 

Conducting a background check helps identify any potential criminal history that could raise concerns.

Rental History Report: 

Reviewing a tenant's rental history report allows you to gauge their past behavior as a renter, including their track record of paying rent on time and taking care of the property.

Social Security Number (SSN) and Identity Verification: 

Verifying the tenant's SSN and identity ensures that they are who they claim to be, reducing the risk of identity fraud.

Multi-State Criminal and Sex Offender Reports: 

Checking for criminal records across multiple states and identifying any sex offender status helps ensure the safety and well-being of the property and other tenants. Upon receiving the reports, thoroughly review the information provided. Additionally, consider contacting the applicant's current employer to verify their income and reaching out to previous landlords to gain insights into their rental history.