Landlord Rights to Evict a Tenant

by Jill Stimson J.D. ; Updated July 27, 2017
Landlords may not use self-help measures to forcefully evict tenants.

State laws dictate when landlords may evict their tenants and the legal process landlords must follow to evict them. All states prohibit discriminatory rental practices and evictions based on a tenant’s color, religion, family status, origin or disability or use of eviction as retaliation against tenants who exercise their federal and state legal remedies.

Notice Laws

State laws generally require landlords to provide written notice to tenants before pursuing a legal eviction. Notice laws require landlords to give notice to tenants based on the term of their tenancies. For instance, landlords may have to provide a longer notice period to tenants with longer lease tenancies than they do for tenants with periodic tenancies or undefined tenancies. Most states require landlords to provide this written notice even when they enter into oral lease agreements.

Summary Evictions

Some states provide landlords with a summary eviction procedure allowing them to expedite the legal eviction process when evicting tenants who violate laws or do not pay rent. States may allow landlords to quickly evict holdover tenants that stay beyond their legal lease terms. Some states may allow landlords to evict tenants in small claims courts, while other states disallow this approach.

Termination Grounds

Generally, landlords cannot terminate tenants without cause before the end of their lease terms. States may allow landlords to terminate tenancies for no cause when there is no lease agreement. States that allow landlords to evict tenants at-will or periodic tenants typically require advance written notice prior to eviction. States such as New York have rent control and rent stabilization ordinances that specifically outline how landlords may evict tenants.

Pay or Quit and Cure or Quit Laws

Some states require landlords to provide tenants with an opportunity to cure their lease violations within a reasonable time, typically three to five days. When tenants cure their breach or defaults, landlords in these states must allow them to remain in their rentals. Similarly, some states require landlords to provide tenants who are delinquent in rent with an opportunity to pay their entire delinquency within a reasonable period, typically three to five days. In these states, tenants may have to pay landlords delinquent rent, court fees and attorney’s fees.

Eviction Procedures

State laws determine how landlords can obtain judicial evictions or sheriff-assisted evictions. Typically, states provide tenants with an opportunity to voluntarily vacate their apartments before a sheriff escorts the tenant out of the rental unit. Landlords may never evict tenants by removing their personal possessions without obtaining a police escort or sheriff’s assistance.

Considerations

Since real estate laws can frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

About the Author

Jill Stimson has worked in various property management positions in Maryland and Delaware. Stimson worked for the top three property management companies in the commercial industry and focuses her career on property building logistics and tenant relationships. She holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • apartment for rent image by dead_account from Fotolia.com