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Can I replace or evict a tenant who has not signed a lease?

In most situations, a tenant without a signed Lease Agreement will be considered a month-to-month tenant. This means that either you or the tenant can end the tenancy in any given month as long as you give proper notice. In areas with strong renters protections, a landlord may not be able to end a month-to-month lease for no reason if the tenant qualifies for those protections.

In most places, however, proper notice usually requires a full month based on the rental period. Often, a notice to end a tenancy requires 30 days notice in advance of when rent is due. For example, if rent is due on the 1st of the month and you want the tenant to leave on January 1, you may be required to notify them on or before December 1. If you notify them on December 5, their move-out date would usually be February 1 rather than January 5.

Several exceptions commonly apply to the one-month or 30-day notice requirement:

  • The tenant had an expired lease that called for more notice.
  • Your area requires a longer notice period. For example, your local law might require a minimum of 60 days notice rather than 30.
  • A small number of locations may give the tenant an automatic right to renew even a month-to-month tenancy.

In most situations, you can require a tenant to sign a new lease or move out if you give proper notice. If they do not move out after refusing to sign a new lease, you may need to send an Eviction Notice and follow through with the eviction process. Consult with a lawyer if you are not sure about the rules that apply in your location.

Can I remove a subtenant who does not have a lease?

There are two things to check if you want to remove a subtenant without a lease. First, does the primary tenant have a lease that prohibits subtenants without your approval? If you have no restrictions in your lease or no lease at all, the subtenant may have the same rights that primary tenants have under your lease. If your primary tenant does not have a lease, it would typically result in a month-to-month situation as discussed above.

Second, does your local law give tenants the right to have subtenants or provide strong renter protections? You may not be allowed to restrict subtenants in your lease, or you may be required to approve any subtenant who meets your usual screening criteria. Additionally, in areas with strong renter protections, subtenants may be eligible for the same protections as regular tenants.

It usually does not matter if the subtenant has a sublease or Roommate Agreement with the primary tenant, if the tenant did not have your permission or the legal right to sublease. You can generally remove, or evict, an unauthorized subtenant when you evict a primary tenant. If the primary tenant is nowhere to be found, you can still usually evict a subtenant, but you may want to ask a lawyer for help, as the process can get complicated.

How can I convince a tenant to sign a lease?

Unless your area has strong renter protections, you usually have the right to require a tenant to sign a lease or move out. This is similar to how you can raise the rent at the end of the lease and the tenant can decide whether to stay and pay, or move out.

It can help to maintain a good relationship with the tenant if you explain why you need them to sign a lease and how the lease also protects them. In some cases, it may be worthwhile to provide a direct incentive, such as locking in a rental rate or providing a small signing bonus.

What are my rights if there is no signed rental agreement?

If there is no signed rental agreement, both you and the tenant generally have the default rights and obligations provided by state or local law. These include timely rent payments, the landlord maintaining the property in a livable condition, and the formal eviction process. Typically, without a signed agreement, tenants will be considered month-to-month tenants.

If you want a tenant without a lease to follow new rules, you usually need to provide notice a month in advance, just like if you were giving notice to end the tenancy. It may be preferable to ask the tenant to sign an updated Lease Agreement or a Lease Amendment.

Without a signed lease, the tenant will be considered month-to-month, and you may still have the option to simply end the tenancy with a Notice of Non-Renewal. In a month-to-month situation, many states consider each month's rent as a renewed agreement for the next month. This means that if a tenant without a lease vacates without notice, a landlord may only be able to collect one month of rent from that tenant.

Is a lease valid if it is not signed by the tenant?

A lease is a contract, and, generally, contracts must be signed to be valid and enforceable. Signatures, however, can come in different forms. Over the last several years, electronic signatures, like RocketSign®, have become increasingly common and popular. Electronic signatures are legal and enforceable, as well as cheaper and easier to get than physical signatures.

A tenant who will not sign a lease can be a very problematic situation. Landlords may want to avoid renting to new tenants who refuse to sign a Lease Agreement. Written Lease Agreements provide predictability, which can be helpful when things go wrong. If a tenant moves in without signing a lease, they will generally have a month-to-month tenancy that follows state or local laws.

Both contract and landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state, and many cities or counties have their own rules to protect renters. If you have legal questions about your Lease Agreement or rental property, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice and to avoid costly legal mistakes.

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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