Reviewed by Frederic Goodwill

Frederic Goodwill

If you’re a landlord and want to evict a tenant, you need to have a legal reason for doing so. In other words, you can’t evict a tenant just because you don’t get along with them or because they’re a little messy. And while laws are in place to keep folks in the property they’re renting, there are four common reasons you can evict a tenant in nearly every state.

Get started Start Your Eviction Notice Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

1. Tenant Violates the Lease or Rental Agreement

Since lease and rental agreements are legal contracts, violation of their agreements can be cause for eviction. For example, if the apartment you’re renting has a “no pets” clause and you discover that your tenant has a dog, you may be able to start the eviction process.

Keep in mind you need to keep up your end of the agreement as well. If you’ve agreed to pay certain utilities or make certain repairs, you could open yourself up to a small claims case by neglecting your contractual responsibilities.

2. Tenant Does Not Pay Rent on Time

Some cities and counties allow a buffer period for rent payment, but a tenant who is habitually tardy can often be evicted. And, obviously, if your tenant has simply not paid rent in a certain month (or several months), this is absolutely grounds for eviction.

If your tenant is late on rent, create a paper trail by sending the tenant a Late Rent Notice. Keep a copy for yourself. This way, should your case end up in court, you can prove you’ve given the tenant proper notice.

3. Tenant Damages the Property

Here, it’s important to distinguish between real damage and “wear and tear.” Scuffs on the hardwood floor or fingerprint smudges near light switches do not qualify as damage. But if your tenant knocks out a wall or runs their car through a garage? That’s a different story.

Keep in mind that this reason may or may not be valid if your tenant makes the repairs his or herself. In our garage door example, if your tenant picks out a replacement and clears it with you, then pays for the door and installation, you can’t very well kick them out for damage. That said, your tenant should not make any major changes or repairs to your property unless those changes are cleared by you or are covered in your lease agreement.

4. Tenant Uses Property for Illegal Purposes

Lastly, you can evict a tenant if they use for property for illegal purposes. Converting an apartment into a supper club or selling narcotics from your property are two such examples.

Now, realize that you must follow a series of steps to actually evict a tenant and that there are several actions you’re legally disallowed from doing (such as changing the locks or shutting off utilities). You can read about those in our “How to Evict a Tenant” article or look at a sample eviction notice. Also, if you’re planning on evicting a tenant, make sure you create a paper trail.

Get started Start Your Eviction Notice Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Eviction Notice Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

About Frederic Goodwill

I am a trial and transactional attorney with over twenty years of experience in courtrooms and boardrooms across the country. I specialize in employment, environmental, insurance, and education law as well as business, estate planning and real estate law. View my website at for more information.