How to Evict a Tenant Without a Rental Agreement

Even though a tenant might be in a rental property you own without a lease or rental agreement, that doesn't mean they don't have any rights. Some landlords believe that they can turn off the utilities or change the locks on the doors, but that isn't the case. An eviction process must be followed because these tenants without a lease are considered “at will” tenants. In some communities, at will tenants can be evicted in 7 days.

In some locations, however, it may take 30 days or more for an eviction to occur.

An Eviction Can Occur Without Reason

The one benefit that a landlord has with an at will tenant is that in nearly every circumstance, a specific reason for the eviction does not have to be given. A rental agreement is a business contract, which means if a tenant doesn't have one, there aren't all of the specific guidelines that both parties must follow in a lease. A 7 day notice may be sufficient, but a 30 day notice is usually the best practice as it eliminates the possibility of a discrimination or illegal activity argument coming against you in court to delay the process.

The one area where many landlords fail with this type of eviction is that they have accepted rent from an at will tenant and then send a Notice to Quit on the tenant before the end of the paid rental period. If a tenant pays for the month of August, a Notice to Quit cannot be valid until at least September 1st. With a 30 day notice, you would need to serve the tenant around August 1st in order for a successful legal eviction.

If a notice is given for an eviction that occurs within a period for which you've already accepted payment, you will be forced to begin the eviction process from the beginning if the tenant challenges the process. You may also be required to compensate the tenant for lost rent as a landlord is not entitled to rental compensation when a unit is not occupied.

A Notice to Quit Must Clearly Convey Tenant Rights

The other error that is commonly found in this specific situation is that the Notice to Quit does not contain any advisement of what a tenant's rights happen to be in this situation. Even a tenant without a rental agreement has the right to contest an eviction in court. If a landlord does not spell out the local laws that allow this in the notice that has been served, it can be successfully contested by the tenant and could cost a landlord the legal fees and costs of a tenant in addition to needing to start the eviction process over from the beginning.

Even if a tenant has an oral agreement for a lease, the law says that this tenant has an at will status until an actual document is signed. Section 8 housing falls into this category as well if the building falls into foreclosure.

By following the regular eviction process, you'll be able to successfully evict a tenant without a lease and not prolong the process. Make sure to follow these steps because otherwise you may just find yourself having to start over.
Posted on Jul 29, 2014


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