How to Evict a Month-to-Month Tenant

the notice of eviction of tenants hangs on the door of the house
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When a landlord or property owner decides to evict a month-to-month tenant, they can't just throw that person out and change the locks, even if the tenant violated the law or their lease agreement in some way. Whatever the reason for the eviction, the property owner must follow legal processes set forth by their city or state; if they don't, they may face a lawsuit by the tenant. Currently, eviction bans are in place in some locations as the result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which may expire or be extended in the coming months.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

A month-to-month tenant has no commitment to a fixed or long-term lease. They may have started with a fixed contract, but after that time ran out, they went month-to-month, or they may have had a month-to-month rental agreement with the landlord from the very beginning. Month-to-month tenancy allows for flexibility for the tenant as well as the landlord. If the tenant needs to leave, they can simply give notice, or they can stay for as long as the landlord allows them to rent the unit.

A landlord can also decide that they no longer wish to rent to the tenant and end the tenancy as they see fit. However, month-to-month tenants have the same rights when facing eviction as do tenants on fixed leases. Therefore, the process a landlord follows to evict a month-to-month tenant from a rental property is the same as it would be for someone on a fixed lease.

Pros and Cons of Month-to-Month Tenancy

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a month-to-month tenant. On the plus side, renters can come and go much more easily if they avoid a long-term lease. They can just give 30 days' notice to the landlord to signal their departure. The renter does not have to worry about breaking a lease or finding someone else to take their place if they want to move.

Conversely, landlords can choose to end the rental arrangement in a short amount of time, which gives them more control of their property. However, when a month-to-month tenant tells the landlord they intend to move, a property owner can be stuck with a unit on short notice. On the other hand, the tenant may have to find a new place to live in a shorter time than they thought. Tenants who live month-to-month may also pay higher rents than those on fixed leases.

Eviction Process for Landlords

Ending a month-to-month tenancy is relatively easy, depending upon the property's location, but evicting someone for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons is always illegal. In some places like New Hampshire, New Jersey and in rent-controlled cities, landlords may need a proper reason to evict a tenant, also known as "just cause." Some reasons include nonpayment of rent, damage to the unit, criminal activity on the property, or other acts that violate the lease terms. In this instance, a landlord can evict someone quicker than they normally would, within three to five days; the renter usually has to vacate within that time or face litigation.

Unless the lease says otherwise, a tenant does not need to give written notice on the day they pay rent. If they provide proper notice during the middle of the month, for example, their tenancy will end thirty days from the date of the notice or in the middle of the following month.

Rules and Statutes for Eviction

Each state and some cities have their own specific rules on how the termination of a tenant occurs, sometimes down to how they write the notice. If a landlord doesn't follow the particular requirements when creating a notice, they may serve the tenant with an invalid document. In most states, the time given to increase a tenant's rent or change part of term of a lease is the same amount of time as the notice requirement for ending a month-to-month tenancy. For example, if a rent increase requires 30 days' notice, the notice period for terminating the tenancy is also 30 days.

Most states give a tenant 30 days' notice to move out. However, some allow renters 60 days, and others give them much less time. For example:

  • Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia: 30 days.
  • Colorado: 21 days.
  • Connecticut: 3 days.
  • Delaware, Georgia: 60 days.
  • District of Columbia: 30 to 120 days.
  • Florida, Pennsylvania, Utah: 15 days.
  • Hawaii: 45 days.
  • Idaho: 15 or 30 days.
  • Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia: one month.
  • Louisiana: 10 days.
  • Massachusetts: If the tenant pays rent in periods of less than three months, notice can be equivalent to the time between the days of payment or 30 days, whichever is longer.
  • Minnesota: Duration between when rent is due and three months, whichever is shorter.
  • New York: 30 to 90 days.
  • North Carolina: 7 days.
  • North Dakota: one calendar month.
  • Oregon 30 to 90 days.
  • Washington: 20 days to 120 days, depending on the reason.
  • Wisconsin: 28 days.
  • Wyoming: no specified time.

Eviction During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has changed how and if a landlord can evict fixed and month-to-month tenants. Due to safety and economic issues, many states and local governments have placed limits on evictions. Some entities have banned any actions relating to them, while others have postponed hearings for a later date.

Some places may still hold eviction hearings, but will do so virtually instead of in person. Landlords can file proceedings in court, but they may find their case postponed for a number of weeks or months, depending upon their location.

The nationwide eviction ban ends on July 31, 2021. However, each state has its own rules regarding pandemic evictions that may supersede that date. California, for example, has extended its eviction ban until September 30, 2021. There is also an extension of New York State's COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 until August 31, 2021. As the pandemic continues, more state eviction ban extensions may follow.

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