Most landlords have experienced the annoyance of a tenant breaking a lease before the term is up. There are also situations, though, when you may need a renter to vacate your property prior to the lease's renewal date. While several methods exist to evict prior to the renewal date, only a few won't land you in hot water. By following the appropriate legal avenues, you stand a good chance of evicting your tenant.
What Landlords Can't Do
It's just important to identify techniques that you can't use to evict a tenant. For example, it's never okay to make living in the rental property miserable in an attempt to force the tenant out.
One method that some landlords have undertaken is to cut off utilities to a home. Much like directly harassing a tenant to get them to leave, this could get tenants out. Changing the keys may work as well. Of course, all of these methods are highly illegal and may damage your reputation.
If you engage in any of these tactics, your tenant can sue you. A judge may decide that the tenant doesn't have to leave, and may be entitled to a substantial payment from you for breaking the law.
What Landlords Can Do
There are many valid reasons to evict a tenant, but what if no valid reason, at least from the lease's perspective, exists? Even if a tenant is a nuisance, there's a chance they're not violating the lease. Luckily, there are ways of handling this legally.
One increasingly popular way of getting rid of a tenant with a lease is by offering them money to leave. This is known as a "cash for keys" agreement, and it simply states that the renter agrees to vacate the property early in exchange for a lump sum payment. Make sure to have this agreement in writing, though, so the tenant doesn't try to renege.
Not every tenant can be "bought out." In this case, it's important to check the lease. Did the initial rental agreement call for a month-to-month lease, or has it since lapsed into one? If so, you need only give appropriate notice to have the tenant vacate. Make sure you understand how to appropriately write an eviction notice to ensure compliance.
Down to the Line
If the tenant refuses to accept a cash payment and their lease isn't providing any immediate remedy, you may also offer them free rent for a certain period of time in exchange for ending their lease term early. Once again, a valid written agreement must be in place.
When all else fails, you should look towards local law. Evictions in San Francisco and several other cities, mostly those with rent-controlled apartments, allow you to break a lease if you or a family member needs to move into your rental property. There are several rules and exceptions to these laws, and you must undertake these evictions in good faith. But if you meet the requirements for this type of eviction, it's usually an effective option.
Being a landlord isn't a simple job, and, unfortunately, undesirable tenants make it more difficult. Thankfully, there are a few legal solutions. In the end, it's much better to wait out a lease than face the legal repercussions of a wrongfully terminated agreement.
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