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Can a landlord evict a tenant in order to move into their unit or property?

There are many reasons why rental property owners may want to move into their own rental properties. Some common reasons include:

  • Avoiding capital gains tax when planning to sell the property. 
  • Buying an occupied rental property to be your home.
  • If you or a family member want to live in the unit.

To evict a tenant, property owners and landlords are required to follow state and local laws. Even if you or a family member needs a place to live urgently, a tenant cannot be forced or kicked out without a court order and the assistance of law enforcement.

In most states and counties, a landlord may refuse to renew a Lease Agreement at the end of the agreement's term. The length of the lease, or term, depends on the type of tenancy or Lease Agreement. If a tenant does not move out after the end of the lease and receiving a timely Notice of Non-Renewal, a landlord may then send an Eviction Notice to the tenant to start the eviction process outlined by their state or local laws.

Generally, getting a tenant out before the end of a lease can be more costly, but may still be possible, even when a tenant has not violated any of the lease terms. Some places allow rental property buyers to end the lease early after a change in property ownership. 

How does rent control impact evictions?

Rent control laws impose additional rules that shield tenants from eviction proceedings. Rent control ordinances may limit evictions to only certain types of lease violations in order to protect a rent-controlled tenancy.

If your city or state has rent control, or strong renter protections, just cause, such as a missed rent payment or more serious lease violations, may be required to evict a tenant. Additionally, a tenant may have the right to renew their lease even if you prefer that they did not. Even a month-to-month tenant may have a right to continue renewing, depending on how long they have lived there, the terms of your agreement, and state or local law.

If your city or state allows you to end a tenancy so you or a family member can live in the unit, regulators may require proof that you lived there for a certain amount of time to prevent wrongful evictions. You may also be required to offer your displaced tenant another unit in the same building, if you have one available, or their old unit back if you or your family member decide to move out.

How much notice do I give for an owner move-in?

If your state or locality allows you to evict a tenant for an owner move-in, there may be a certain amount of notice time required by law to give a tenant a reasonable opportunity to relocate. This may be as short as 30 days, but state and local laws may provide longer notice periods.

Notice requirements may also vary under different circumstances, such as:

  • Ending a month-to-month tenancy.
  • Not renewing a lease.
  • Terminating a tenancy when buying a rental property for personal use as a residence.

Due to the requirements varying from one state or city to another, it can be helpful to ask a lawyer about your specific situation and local requirements. For example, in San Francisco, a city with particularly strong renters protections, an owner move-in is prohibited during the school year if the tenant has children in school. Technical notice mistakes, or mistakes in the eviction process can cause delays, which can lead to higher costs.

When can a landlord evict a tenant before a Lease Agreement ends?

Typically, unless a Lease Agreement allows a landlord to end the lease early, Landlords may only evict a tenant when they breach the terms of the lease, or after the lease ends. The most common reasons for eviction include:

  • Nonpayment of rent.
  • Habitual late payment of rent.
  • Causing excessive damage to the rental unit or common areas.
  • Failure to follow important terms in the Lease Agreement.

In some cases, you may be required to first give a warning or an opportunity to cure a minor violation. For example, laws often do not allow you to evict after a single late payment of rent, however, repeated or habitual late payment may provide a legal reason to evict.

Even if the tenant violates the Lease Agreement, you cannot reduce services, amenities, change the locks, or turn off utilities. Doing so can lead to fines from the local housing authority, or even a costly lawsuit from the tenant you want to evict.

How can I get a tenant to leave if I cannot evict them?

If you do not have a legal reason to evict a tenant, you can ask if the tenant is willing to leave early. They may be considering a move or they may be willing to negotiate.

One option, known as cash for keys, or a tenant buyout, involves the landlord paying the tenant to move before the lease ends. A landlord may also help the tenant find new rental housing, or provide other incentives. It is not an eviction because the tenant and landlord mutually agree to terminate the lease.

Depending on how much time a tenant has left on the lease, you may want to offer to waive the last month's rent (or two months rent) or to return the full security deposit even if there is minor damage to the unit. In areas with strong renter protections, or if a tenant has a long time left on the lease, offering more money or discounts may help. In rent-controlled areas where tenants have the right to renew, buyout amounts can be significantly higher. If you agree to a buyout with your tenant, a signed written agreement can help make sure things go according to plan.

If you have more questions about moving into an occupied rental property that you own, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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