Even the best landlord-tenant relationship can turn problematic if a tenant fails to comply by the lease agreement. When the tenant fails to abide by the lease agreement, the landlord may have no other choice but to evict the tenant. Not following the proper procedures when terminating a lease agreement can cost the landlord a lot of time and money and with one simple mistake, force them to start the process over from the beginning. Before starting the lease termination process, consider these guidelines.
A landlord must have a legal reason to evict a tenant
The most common reason to evict a tenant is failure to pay rent. A landlord simply cannot allow a tenant to continue to live in the unit for free. Another reason for eviction is the tenant damaging the property or not abiding by the terms of the lease. Perhaps the tenant has a dog in the unit when the lease agreement stated no pets were allowed. A landlord has the legal right to evict if the tenant uses or is dealing drugs in the unit. If the landlord does not have cause to terminate the lease agreement, then they must wait until the end of the lease term.
The first step in terminating the lease agreement should be a written notice to the tenant. The reason for terminating the lease will determine what type of notice should be given.
- Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord should give the tenant a 5- day notice. The notice lets the tenant know that unless payment is received within 5 days, the landlord will proceed with eviction of the tenant.
- Ten-Day Notice to Quit: If a tenant violates any part of the lease agreement, they should be given a ten-day notice to quit. This notice gives the tenant 10 days to move out because of failure to comply with the lease. If the tenant does not move out within the 10 days then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
- Unconditional Quit Notice: This notice should be given to a tenant that is using or selling illegal drugs in the rental unit. The notice informs the tenant that the tenant has five days to move out and if they don’t comply, the landlord can terminate the lease and begin eviction proceedings against the tenant.
It is illegal for a landlord to try to force a tenant out
This is one of the most common mistakes landlords make in the eviction process. A landlord may not change the locks or shut off the electricity; such lockouts and utility shut offs are prohibited and should be avoided. Taking matters into their own hands could potentially lead to a lawsuit from the tenant and certainly delay eviction efforts. Even if the tenant agrees to the notice or the lawsuit has been won by the landlord, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a sheriff or constable.
Security deposits must be returned within 45 days of the tenant’s move out
It might be tempting to hold back that security deposit to help offset any damages or unpaid rent, but that idea could cost more in the long run. Any security deposit wrongfully withheld is subject to double damages should the tenant seek legal action.
Landlords should seek experienced guidance to navigate the rules and regulations of eviction to ensure the process doesn’t cost more than what has already been lost due to a bad tenant. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process to avoid a costly mistake. Churchill, Quinn, Richtman, & Hamilton Ltd. has experience working with many clients through landlord-tenant litigation. We are committed to helping our clients through all aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, including lease agreement termination. Contact us at 847-223-1500 before starting the eviction process.