Eviction is the worst part of being in the rental business. To evict a tenant means to forcibly remove them from the property.

The first step of any eviction is terminating the lease. Month-to-month agreements can be terminated fairly easily by giving proper notice, which can be as little as 30 days. If you want to terminate a fixed-term lease early, you must have a valid reason, or “just cause.”

There are further steps in the eviction process. To read about every step, check out our step-by-step guide to the formal eviction process.

So-called “self-help evictions,” which include changing the locks to lock the tenant out and shutting off the utilities, is illegal in almost every state.

Landlords often rely on the court system and law enforcement to evict their former tenants. If you do decide to go to court, it’s inevitable that the judge will ask something along the lines of: “Why are you asking me to remove this tenant from your unit?”

Here are five of the most common, and legally justifiable, reasons for eviction.

5 reasons to evict a tenant

1. The tenant violated the lease

One of the most common reasons for eviction is when a tenant violates a clause of the lease. Many violations can allow the landlord to terminate the lease if the issue is not corrected quickly. The most common lease violations include having an unauthorized pet; letting guests live in the rental unit for lengthy periods of time or having unapproved occupants; subletting the rental without prior approval; improperly using the rental for business purposes; and a high amount of nuisance and noise complaints from neighbors.  

2. They didn’t pay the rent

Another common reason for a lease termination and eviction is nonpayment of rent. Most courts and judges make little exception to allowing a non-paying tenant to remain in the unit.

That said, if a landlord fails to provide a habitable dwelling, then nonpayment of rent is sometimes overlooked.

Note: “Nonpayment of a late fee” isn’t the same as “nonpayment of rent.” Most courts won’t award a landlord a judgement solely for unpaid late fees.

3. The lease expired and the tenant doesn’t move out  

Every lease expires at some point. Tenants either renew the lease or move out. But sometimes, a tenant refuses to move out, and a landlord has a squatter on their hands.

If the lease has naturally expired, or terminated with proper notice, then the tenant no longer has any right to occupy the dwelling. This alone is enough of a reason to file an eviction action in court.

4. The tenant caused property damage  

The majority of damage tenants cause is not intentional, but some of it can be costly and cause further damage to the rental unit. Here are some examples of damage that would warrant an eviction:  

  • A tenant who installs a 3,000-gallon hot tub on a second story deck, potentially causing damage to the structural integrity of the support beams.
  • In the south, pools are common. But if they are not maintained regularly, there can be irreparable damage to the pool equipment.
  • A tenant who installs their own skylights, causing thousands of dollars in roof and water damage.
  • Hoarding can also cause property damage. If your tenant isn’t claiming that it is a mental disability, hoarding can be a reason for eviction.

Knowingly allowing a tenant who engages in illegal activities, including possession or dealing of illegal drugs, can make the landlord liable.

In most states, including Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and Ohio, a landlord can terminate a lease with 24-hour (or sometimes less) notice for drug or crime-related activity. For example, in Texas, a landlord can immediately terminate the lease of a tenant who is convicted of public indecency.