can you evict a tenant without a lease

Can you evict a tenant without a lease?  Yes.  In fact, getting a tenant out of your property may be easier without a lease because the arrangement is just month-to-month anyway.  

In most states, landlords must provide a tenant with 30 days notice to end a month-to-month tenancy.  If a tenant remains in the property after giving them proper notice, then you can file an eviction (aka unlawful detainer) to get them out.  

However, I would strongly urge you to only consider an eviction as a last resort.  Trust me. It works out better for tenants and landlords if both parties can come to an agreement without using the courts.  Here are some suggestions before sending a notice to your tenant to vacate.

Speak with the tenant

This may seem like a no-briainer, but I think it’s still worth mentioning.  Calling up a tenant and explaining the situation and why you want them out will help keep you on good terms with them when they do receive your “official” notice to vacate.

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Quick Return of Security Deposit

Landlords oftentimes have up to 30 days to return a tenant’s security deposit.  As another way to keep the peace and encourage your tenant to comply with your request to vacate, offer a quick return of their security deposit.  

You might even offer to meet them at the property the day they move out with their deposit in-hand, and if the property is in acceptable condition, you’ll hand over the deposit right then and there.

However, in some cases, no matter what you do, tenants refuse to comply and remain in the property.  At this point, you should file an eviction.

The Eviction Process

#1 File paperwork & pay a fee

Call the city, and ask them which office handles evictions (likely the clerk’s office).  Fill out paperwork and pay a fee to process the eviction.

#2 Serve the parties being evicted

You’ve filed the eviction paperwork.  The next step is to serve the court summons paperwork to the parties you are evicting.  Known as “service of process” this is someone hand-delivering the court summons to the defendants.  

While states differ on who is allowed to serve these papers, it’s usually done by a deputy sheriff or a private process server.  Some states may allow anyone over the age of 18 to serve. Check with your state.

#3 Appear in Court

Your day in court has arrived.  If the defendant(s) do not appear in court, it is likely a default judgement will be filed against them, and you win automatically.  

If they do appear and contest the eviction, then an eviction trial will be set for a later date.  At the eviction trial, the judge will hear both sides of the story, and make a decision.

Be sure to bring a copy of the lease, lease ledger, and any other supporting documents you feel will add value to your case.

Assuming You Win

Assuming the judge rules in your favor, a judgement of eviction and a writ will be issued.  A writ orders the Sheriff to evict the tenant and anyone else that has occupancy of the property.

The defendant(s) will be given a certain amount of time to vacate the property and likely be ordered to pay monies owed including back-owed rent, late fees, & even court costs and legal fees.  

However, remember, this is a civil matter.  If your tenants or guests still don’t pay what they owe, then what do you do?  For answers, check out these two blog posts

“What Is A Writ Of Execution & When Do You Need One”
“How To Collect Unpaid Rent From Former Tenant After Eviction”

Final Thoughts

Can you evict a tenant without a lease?  Yes, an eviction should be your last resort not your first choice.  The expense to evict someone can likely range from $400-$1000.  This will depend on where you live, whether or not you hire an attorney, and the number of parties involved in the lawsuit.

Additionally you need to factor in the time your property will be without a paying tenant. Plus, in many cases tenants will leave your property trashed or damaged which can easily creep up into the thousands.  

To help mitigate these unfortunate situations, be sure to screen your tenants well.  For hep screening tenants, check out my post “How To Screen Potential Tenants For A Rental Property.”  

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