Tenancy agreements help to protect both landlords and tenants. In some cases, though, you might find yourself renting to someone without a lease. When this occurs, it’s important that you understand how to evict a tenant without a rental agreement.
How to evict a tenant without a rental agreement
When you’re dealing with evictions, you’ll generally be looking at both the laws of the state and the language of your particular lease. If your tenant does not have a lease, however, he or she can still be evicted even if he or she doesn’t want to leave. As a property owner, it’s up to you to understand both your rights and the situations in which a tenant can be evicted.
Evicting a tenant without a lease
Evicting a tenant without a lease is actually fairly easy, at least in theory. When a tenant is renting from you without a lease, he or she does still have certain legal protections. However, he or she is not entirely immune from the process of being evicted. In fact, the tenant can actually be evicted fairly easily – at least, if you follow the rules correctly. When you deal with a tenant who does not have a lease, what you’re essentially working with is a tenant who has nothing but the most basic rights under the laws of the state in which he or she lives.
This does not, however, mean that you can simply remove a lease-less tenant from a home whenever you like. You’ll still need to follow the proper procedures and follow the laws. The most important thing for you to remember as the property owner is that you still have the right to remove this person from the property and that his or her lack of legal paperwork does not mean that he or she is suddenly immune from being evicted.
When you can evict a tenant
If your tenant does not have a lease, it can be difficult to figure out when you can evict him or her. The good news, though, is that you don’t necessarily have to provide a reason why you choose to evict the tenant. Because there are no clauses of the lease to violate, the tenant is unable to cure specific behaviors. Most tenants who do not have leases are evicted because they fail to pay rent on time, but many tenants are also evicted because they have committed an offense that’s deemed to be dangerous or illegal.
Timing does matter in eviction, though. If you have a month-to-month tenant without a lease, you must give him or her thirty days notice before you evict him or her. If the tenant is week-to-week, you must give the tenant ten days notice. If you are evicting for failure to pay, you have to give the tenant five days notice. Evictions for dangerous violations, however, only need a twenty-four-hour notice if you wish to evict.
Tenancy at will
Most tenants who live in a property without lease are considered tenants at a will. Tenancy at will is a kind of agreement between a property owner and a tenant that either party may cancel at any time and for any reason. Essentially, the idea is that the tenant lives at your property because you have agreed to do so for the time being – there is no set period of time in which the tenant will live, nor are most of the other assumptions about tenancy necessarily true in this kind of agreement.
Tenancy at will is difficult because it does lack the contractual relationship. It’s almost always better to have tenants sign a lease because it clearly lays out the responsibilities of both parties. If you do have a tenancy at will, however, you should still be aware that the tenant is allowed a certain grace period before he or she can be removed from your property.
Legal reasons to evict a tenant
If your tenant does not have a lease, you don’t actually have to give him or her a reason for evicting the tenant. Because evictions do generally happen for cause, though, it’s important to know the most common reasons why tenants are evicted.
Most landlords remove tenants from their properties because they’re ready to rent to someone else. They might want to raise the rent or they might need to do repairs, but having that particular tenant just isn’t working any longer. In a tenancy at will, tenants can be removed for this reason at any time.
Many tenants also get evicted for failure to pay rent. If you are citing this as a reason to evict, you should be aware that your tenant has to be given a five-day grace period before you can evict him or her. Likewise, many tenants are evicted because they do something that causes harm to the property – essentially the same thing as failing to pay rent because the tenant is doing something that places an undue financial burden on the property owner.
Tenant legal defense
Knowing how to evict a tenant without a rental agreement doesn’t mean that your tenants are defenseless against being evicted. The most important defense is that the landlord did not follow the proper protocols. This generally means that the landlord provided a reason for the eviction and then did not give the tenant the agreed-upon time to cure the problem. Another common legal defense is that the landlord attempted a DIY eviction – locking out a tenant or removing their possessions from the property can actually count against a landlord. In most cases, a tenant’s defenses really come down to the fact that the landlord did not follow the law.
The best way to avoid the problems related to evicting a tenant is to have tenants who won’t need to be evicted. If you want to avoid eviction issues, make sure to work with a property management company that will screen your tenants and ensure that problems are handled properly. We will even help you to properly evict your tenants if the worst does come to pass. When you’re ready to take care of your problem tenants, make sure to download the free five-day eviction template below.