What can a landlord do if their tenant has fallen behind on rent, or has
violated one or more terms of his or her lease? For starters, we recommend
that landlords speak to the tenant and try to come to an agreement. If
back rent is the issue, perhaps the tenant lost their job, or had to go
In the best case scenario, the
tenant may simply need additional time to catch up on their rent. If your tenant
has violated the terms of the lease in another way, perhaps they are not
aware of their violations. It may be a misunderstanding.
If your tenant has otherwise taken care of the property and paid their
rent on time, you may decide that it is better to avoid an eviction by
speaking with your tenant and reaching an understanding.
However, make sure that whatever agreement you reach, whether it is temporary
or permanent, is put in writing and signed and dated by both of you.
We generally do not recommend oral agreements, and they can be much harder
to enforce in court. Instead, get the agreement in writing and ensure
that each of you have your own copy of the signed agreement.
What if your tenant is unwilling to reach an agreement? In that case, send
your tenant a letter, advising him or her that you expect them to follow
the terms of the lease agreement.
If the lease states that the tenant cannot have any dogs over 35 pounds
and you allowed your tenant to have a 75 pound Labrador, who subsequently
tore up the house and back yard, you cannot evict them unless you give
them proper notice first.
In this case, proper notice would be a formal, written letter notifying
your tenant of your intention to enforce the lease. Additionally, you
would need to give your tenant enough time to follow the terms of the
lease and find a new home for their dog.
When You Still Want to Evict
If you still want to evict your tenant and find a better fit, it is not
a bad idea to contact your tenant and try to negotiate with him or her.
Perhaps you can offer to let them leave early, before the lease is up,
by promising not to try and collect the balance of the rent.
If all other attempts fail, and you are unable to reason with your tenant,
you will have to go to court for what is called an “Order for Possession.”
From that point forward, you ask the Sheriff to help you enforce it.
Note: If you do have a lease, you cannot evict your tenant just because
you don’t like them, or because you decided to rent the unit to
someone else. In order to evict a tenant, they must have failed to pay
rent, or violated one of the terms of the lease.
To learn more about the legal procedure for an eviction,
Rifkind Patrick LLC.