How To Evict a Tenant: A Simple Guide for Landlords

Updated August 3, 2023
16 min read
How To Evict a Tenant: A Simple Guide for Landlords


Since almost 40 percent of homes in the United States are rented, landlord-tenant law is an important topic. Exploring the laws that regulate the relationship between landlords and their tenants may be helpful. One area that generates particular friction is tenant eviction laws. As the property owner, the landlord has the right to determine who the occupants will be. However, a legal process must be followed to evict a tenant if the landlord wishes to deny a tenant further occupancy of their property. 

What Eviction Is & When It Applies

When a landlord or lessor signs a tenancy agreement, or lease, with another party, they consent to allow that party to occupy the property listed in the agreement. This is often done in exchange for monetary consideration or rent. However, a landlord can later decide to deny the tenant further property occupancy. This is precisely what it means to evict a tenant. 

Tenant eviction can be seen as the right of a landlord to remove a tenant from a property that has been leased to the tenant. The expulsion of an unauthorized or illegal occupant is referred to as ejectment rather than eviction. The tricky part with the process of evicting a tenant is that the legal tenant, or lessee, also has rights through the tenancy agreement. Therefore, there are strict windows within which an eviction can occur, depending on the jurisdiction.

How the Eviction Process Works

The eviction process serves as a remedy for a lawfully aggrieved landlord to recover possession of their property due to misuse or non-adherence to contractual stipulations. The process of evicting a tenant allows the landlord to regain control of the property. However, eviction allows a landlord to repossess their property only under certain circumstances. 

Eviction Laws by State

Like other pertinent areas of tenancy law, such as rent standards, tenant eviction laws vary by state and jurisdiction. These variations may reflect certain elements, such as the length of ultimatums that must be given to the tenant. However, the most prominent principles of tenancy laws, like the general processes, are often similar. If you have questions about how to evict a tenant, consider seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney in your jurisdiction or study the topic based on a reliable resource

Why Do Landlords Have To Evict?

Evicting a tenant can prove to be rather strenuous and expensive. In some jurisdictions, eviction processes can cost more than $5000. Why does it become necessary for a landlord to evict a tenant? Rent constitutes a significant source of income for many landlords. Therefore, most eviction cases are based on the tenant defaulting on payments or damaging the property, as these issues can impede the landlord’s rental income. 

Whatever valid rationale there is to evict a tenant, it has been recognized by law to be a potential inconvenience to the landlord. The landlord may have attempted more diplomatic methods to remedy the situation but have failed. The landlord may have reasonable cause to believe that the tenant would not be favorable to vacate the property voluntarily. In these cases, eviction is often necessary.

Common Reasons a Landlord Has for Evicting a Tenant

The most common reasons for a landlord to seek the legal way to evict a tenant include:

  • Non-payment of rent: Non-payment of rent is, perhaps, the most common reason to evict a tenant. A tenant defaulting on payments is a valid and legally-backed reason for eviction within the auspices of the law.

  • Illegal activities: Upon discovery of a tenant’s illegal activities on the property, the next step would be to file a complaint with the authorities and begin the process to evict the tenant. This is important for ensuring that the landlord is not found complicit in illegal activities.

  • Breach of contract: The landlord-tenant agreement usually contains provisions on the terms of the contract, including clauses regarding the approved use of the property. According to tenant eviction laws, using the property for unauthorized activities or dishonoring the agreement on other elements, such as erecting additional structures without permission, could constitute a contractual breach and allow the landlord to begin the eviction process.

  • Professional tenancy: A professional tenant is like a tenant who defaults on rent, except that this tenant fraudulently signs leases for the property they will occupy with no intent to pay. Deciding to evict a tenant once a landlord identifies the circumstances could help prevent further losses. This problem can often be avoided through thorough tenant eligibility checks.

  • Destruction of the property: Tenants have obligations to use the property reasonably according to the agreement. If a tenant causes too much damage to the property, the landlord might consider the situation fit for eviction to protect the property from further damage.

How to Evict a Tenant

Understanding and adhering to the legal process to evict a tenant is essential for successfully removing a tenant from the property. If not done correctly, the entire eviction could be declared void. Worse still, the move could backfire with the tenant suing the landlord and recovering damages in court. The eviction proceedings may vary slightly across different jurisdictions, but the principles are relatively constant. The following are the general steps to evict a tenant from your property.

Identifying the rationale

This first step involves establishing valid claims for deciding to evict a tenant. An eviction with an unlawful rationale would probably fail. Therefore, the landlord must ensure their reasons are legally valid, such as violations of lease terms or non-payment of rent.

Serving notice

This step is initiated when the landlord serves the tenant with official documentation notifying them of their misconduct. The document may include a charge and request to rectify the situation or an express declaration of impending tenant eviction. Usually, the landlord is required by law to serve the tenant with a specific period to resolve the reason for the notice, which varies according to the state or local municipality.

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In this step, the landlord drafts a legal document confirming their intent to evict a tenant after a set period. An experienced contract lawyer can help prepare the document, or the landlord can download a customized template to fit the situation. This 100-percent safe eviction notice template can significantly streamline the drafting process.

Attending the court hearing

Both sides of the case are heard by a judge in a court proceeding. The landlord has a reasonably good chance of winning a judgment if they have followed the legal process to evict a tenant.

After the court has approved the eviction, the tenant will be given an ultimatum to vacate the property. According to tenant eviction laws, if the allowed time lapses before the tenant moves out, the landlord has the legal right to enlist the help of law enforcement to execute the court’s eviction order. The court may also grant the landlord the relief of past due rent and damages where applicable. 

How to Remove a Tenant without Eviction

Some landlords wish to avoid going through the process to legally evict a tenant according to tenant eviction laws. However, some alternatives exist for getting the tenant to give up occupancy of the property, including the following methods:

  • Use a cash-for-keys arrangement in which the landlord pays the tenant a token to move out and secure a new house. If the tenant is agreeable, this method is an astute alternative to a potentially expensive eviction.

  • Engage in a diplomatic landlord-tenant discussion to persuade the tenant to move out on mutually agreed terms rather than be evicted. Draft and sign an agreement to cement the deal. 


The legal way to evict a tenant empowers a landlord to remove a tenant and revoke their occupancy due to specific misconduct. Not all eviction processes succeed, especially those carried out without adherence to the law. 

A legally binding eviction notice template — or another real-estate-related document — will help to protect your interests if used correctly. Consider getting advice from an attorney about the stipulations that apply to your jurisdiction so you can legally evict a tenant. Although you may consider an alternative to eviction, remember that eviction is a standard part of landlord-tenant relationships, so don’t hesitate to exercise your rights when necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant?

Taking an example from U.S. law, specifically in the state of California, the eviction process duration can be broken down as follows: 


1. Notice period: The landlord must first serve the tenant with a notice, which could be a 3-day notice for issues such as non-payment of rent or violation of terms, a 30-day notice for month-to-month tenancies less than a year old, or a 60-day notice for tenancies over a year old.

2. Waiting for tenant response: If the tenant doesn't rectify the problem or move out voluntarily within the notice period, the landlord may file an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit. 

3. Court proceedings: If the tenant responds, a court hearing will be scheduled anywhere from 20 to 70 days after the tenant files an answer to the lawsuit. If the judge rules in the landlord's favor after the hearing, the eviction order (writ of possession) can be issued.

4. Eviction by the sheriff: After the Sheriff posts the eviction notice, the tenant typically has five days to leave. If the tenant doesn't leave, the sheriff will return to remove the tenant forcibly.

What is the easiest way to evict a tenant?

The easiest way to evict a tenant starts by thoroughly understanding and adhering to your local jurisdiction's landlord-tenant laws. These can vary from state to state in the U.S., so specific methods might differ slightly. Generally, though, it begins with having a legal reason for the eviction – be it non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms or any other legally recognized reason. 


Once a legal cause is established, typically, the first step in the eviction process is to serve the tenant with a written eviction notice. This notice should clearly state the reason for the eviction and, in some cases, offer the tenant a chance to rectify the situation (e.g., by making up missed rent payments). Suppose the tenant doesn't resolve the issue or voluntarily moves out within the stipulated time in the eviction notice. In that case, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit, or Unlawful Detainer action, with the court.


If the eviction case is ruled in the landlord's favor, the court will issue a writ of possession or writ of execution, which will allow the local sheriff or marshal to oversee the eviction. Any attempt by the landlord to personally remove the tenant or the tenant's possessions, change the locks or discontinue utilities, known as "self-help" evictions, are typically illegal and can incur legal consequences.


In all steps of the eviction process, it's crucial to maintain professional conduct, keep thorough documentation, and consider working with a legal professional to ensure the eviction process is carried out correctly, making the process easier and quicker.

Can a landlord evict a family member?

Any landlord can, if necessary, evict a tenant who is a family member. While there may be personal repercussions that prevent some landlords from choosing to evict, the process of eviction is the same for a family member as for any other tenant.