When to end a tenant’s lease

First an advisory note. This information is meant to be helpful under normal circumstances, not during a worldwide pandemic when evictions and other forced move-outs are not in your or the community’s best interests, or not legal.

Your tenant has some issues that you’d like to correct. He or she leaves their unit in a mess and you know the security deposit won’t cover what they’ve done to the unit. You’re also not sure if they’re violating the lease, and they seem nice and pay rent on time.

Or they have a contentious relationship with another tenant, and that tenant, another good renter who you’d like to keep, is thinking of moving because of this. The other tenant tells you things this tenant is doing that sound shocking! So you confront this tenant and this tenant denies the accusation and makes one about the other tenant.

It’s a quandary!

If there is a clear violation of the lease, they are to be given their notice to fix the issue or vacate. But short of that, you still may not want them around any more. They could be poisonous to the community culture and completely incompatible with your goals of creating a safe, nurturing, supportive, family-oriented community. You just have to wait until their lease ends, though.

Here are some guidelines I have found which help to determine if a tenant needs to be told their lease will not be renewed. These guidelines assume your state laws allow the landlord to make these decisions. It’s not meant to be legal advice, though, so don’t interpret it that way.

– Have you told them about the issue yet, given them an opportunity to fix the problem? If so and the problem is still there, they should leave.

– Is there a safety issue? Although this is probably covered in your lease, if they’re doing something which could create any kind of safety risk to the property, their neighbors, the cars, or themselves, they should leave.

– Is there so much filth in the unit that it is nauseating to enter? Pets urinating on the floor? Never vacuumed or cleaned since they moved in? That’s just flagrant, unsanitary, and likely causing much more damage than their security deposit. Give them a short window to clean it thoroughly and prevent pets from further damage, then have them leave if they don’t comply.

– Has more than one tenant complained about them? Just one tenant complaining about another tenant may not be enough to ask the other tenant to leave. You may not be getting good information. Look for a way to substantiate the complaint.

– Have other tenants reported things to you about this tenant? Don’t let this go too long because tenants who report issues are people you very much want in your property, and won’t wait too long for the problem to be fixed. They’ll just leave. Then you still have a bad tenant and lost a good one.

– What is your vacancy and financial condition? If you have a tenant who is dirty but pays their rent on time, is nice, and doesn’t affect other tenants, as long as they’re not creating problems with roaches or rodents, it may be okay for them to stay until the property is more stable.

– What is going on with the tenant personally? Did they just have a baby or a family tragedy? Although we don’t operate property ownership as a charity, we are in this game to improve lives. Look for a way to accommodate this person for some period of time. Offer assistance. This is not the time to end their tenancy.

A good property manager has no trouble making these decisions, but even then, they will want your guidance. Our compassionate hearts should not lead us to expensive problems.