Can a Landlord Sue a Tenant for a Breach of Lease?

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State landlord and tenant laws consider a lease agreement to be a legally binding contract between the landlord and his tenant. If the tenant violates the terms of the lease, the landlord has the option to pursue legal action according to his state's laws. In most cases, the legal recourse is eviction, which is a civil lawsuit brought against the tenant. If the landlord wins the eviction suit, the tenant cannot legally live in the home and the landlord may rent it out to another person.

State Statutes

Eviction and landlord tenant laws are established on a state to state basis through the state statutes. Additionally, some counties and cities may have additional laws that landlords are required to follow when pursuing legal action against one of their tenants. The tenant may get the opportunity to fix the lease breach before he can begin a lawsuit against him, depending on the nature of the breach and state specific laws.

Lease Breach

The landlord's lease clauses on the tenancy agreement are considered legally binding. The tenant agrees to the lease clauses when he signs the lease paperwork, with the exception of any illegal clauses. Common lease clauses include the amount of time a guest can stay in the home, the number of animals permitted in the residence and other rules for inhabiting the dwelling.


The landlord's lawsuit for a lease breach is called an unlawful detainer. The purpose of this lawsuit is to grant the landlord possession of the property, as he cannot enter the premises without cause or the tenant's permission and he is unable to force the tenants to leave without a court order. If the tenant is also behind on rent, the landlord may sue for back rent and legal fees on top of the possession suit.


The tenant is not formally evicted unless he refuses to leave the property following the court's order of landlord possession. If the tenant does not leave by the court-ordered date, the landlord files a motion for a Writ of Possession. The writ enables a sheriff, constable or similar legal figure the authority to enter the landlord's property and remove the tenant from the dwelling. The tenant receives at least 24-hours advanced notice of the impending eviction action, and he may choose to leave on his own instead of dealing with the police or court official.


About the Author

Tiffany Garden has been a freelance writer since 2002, working in the commercial copywriting field. She has been published in a number of technical and gaming magazines, as well as on numerous websites. She also runs her own websites on a number of subjects, runs a handcrafted jewelry business and is a CompTIA A+ Certified computer technician.