Can I be evicted from my rental for no reason?

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Question:

 My landlord evicted me from my apartment after 6 months of my stay for no apparent reason.  I paid all the bills, didn't cause any damages, etc.  Is it legal for landlords to evict a tenant without any reason?

 

Answer:

Although you say that your landlord “evicted you” for no apparent reason, chances are you’re talking about receiving a termination notice, telling you to move within a certain number of days or face an eviction lawsuit. When tenants don’t move and landlords proceed to court and win, the tenant typically has a few days to move voluntarily. If he doesn’t, a local law enforcement person will show up and remove the tenant and his belongings. Only the court can order an eviction, and only a designated officer can carry it out.

Whether your landlord’s attempts to terminate your tenancy are legal will depend on whether you are a month-to-month tenant, or have a lease; and for some tenants, where you live.

Month-to-Month Tenants

Month-to-month tenants have a rental agreement that self-renews every month unless one side decides to terminate it. In most states and cities, landlords can evict month-to-month tenants for no reason, as long as their motivation is not to discriminate illegally or to retaliate against a tenant who exercised a protected tenant right.

  • Under federal and state laws, landlords may not terminate (or take other onerous actions) against tenants on account of their race, religion, national origin, familial status, or status as a person with a disability. Many states and cities expand this list to include, for example, marital status and gender identity.
  • Most states protect tenants against termination if they have exercised a protected tenant right, such as complaining to a fair housing agency in good faith.

If your landlord’s motivation was not based on illegal discrimination or retaliation, in most situations his termination of a month-to-month rental agreement will be legal. The notice period is 30 days in most states, though some give tenants more or less time. See below, however, for exceptions

Month-to-Month Tenants: Just Cause Protection

In cities that have rent control (in California, New York, and Maryland), and in Washington, DC and the states of New Hampshire and New Jersey, landlords may not terminate month-to-month tenants unless they have a reason, or “just cause,” that’s enumerated in the rent control ordinance or state law. Check your ordinance or law for the list of reasons that will justify a termination.

Tenants With Leases

Tenants who have a fixed-term lease cannot be terminated with a “no reason” termination notice. After all, that’s the whole point of a lease—you get to stay as long as you don’t violate the lease terms, fail to pay the rent, bring-in an unauthorized occupant, conduct illegal activities on the premises, and so on.

Landlords who want to terminate a lease mid-term must do so for one of these reasons, and must state the reason in the termination notice. If the tenant decides to stay and fight the eviction, the landlord must prove the reason in court.

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