No Written Lease – Now What?
Question: I don’t have a written lease and I want my tenant gone, can I just kick them out?
Answer: When you don’t have a written lease, generally, what happens is that the law deems you to have a month-to-month lease. Exactly what this means will vary by jurisdiction. But generally speaking:
- You have to give written notice to the tenant that you want to terminate the lease. How much notice will vary by jurisdiction, so you need to check. Thirty days is common. It could be more, it could be less. Make sure you follow all of the requirements for termination. Failure to do so may mean you have to start over again and so lengthen the time it takes to get the tenant out.
- If the person refuses to leave, you will have to go to court to evict them. Self-help eviction is generally illegal. What is self-help eviction? Changing the locks and putting the person’s stuff outside. Physically removing the person on your own and so on.
Understand, failure to follow the law with a tenant, even if there is no written lease, can be extremely costly. It is much cheaper to go through the proper process, in the long run. The laws tend to be pretty straight forward. You may be able to handle this by yourself. But it is probably better, and again cheaper in the long run, to consult with a landlord/tenant attorney in your jurisdiction to make sure you do everything correctly. In some jurisdictions violating the law can result in substantial penalties.
Get a Written Lease Next Time
I hope it goes without saying, but I will write it anyway. Please get a written lease next time. The written lease will help protect both parties. In this case, the tenant is engaging in bad behavior so the landlord urgently wants them out. Written leases can include rules that, if violated, are a basis for evicting a tenant.