Can You Evict Someone Without A Lease?

When managing rental properties, there may be times when you take over a rental with existing tenants who don’t have a written lease. Despite the absence of a formal contract, these tenants still have rights that you must recognize before you can evict them.

This article will guide you through the process of evicting a tenant when there’s no lease agreement. To guarantee a lawful eviction, you must follow the appropriate rules and procedures, even without a written lease.

Keep in mind that this article is not legal advice, and consulting with a property law expert is recommended before taking any action.

Rental agreement contracts vs verbal lease agreement

Rental agreements serve as legally valid contracts between landlords and tenants, specifying terms such as lease duration, rent amounts, and security deposits. These documents outline the responsibilities and rights of both parties, which helps to prevent disputes and protect their interests.

A verbal tenancy agreement occurs when the owner lets someone occupy their property and accepts rent payments without executing a written, valid contract. For example, a landlord may have verbally agreed with a tenant on a monthly rent amount.

Can a tenant be removed without a lease agreement?

While it is possible to evict a tenant without a lease, the process can be more complex and subject to local regulations. Even in the absence of a written lease, if the property owner has accepted rent from a tenant, the law generally recognizes this as an implied agreement to rent the property.

This implied agreement means that both the property owner and the tenant consented to the rights and obligations associated with renting the property. And the lack of a formal lease can lead to potential complications.

Without a clear, written contract outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy, disagreements about rules and expectations are more likely. These misunderstandings can complicate the eviction process and potentially result in disputes.

Valid grounds for eviction

When a property manager takes over a property where there isn’t a rental agreement, there are several legal grounds that you can use to evict a tenant, even in the absence of a lease. Here are some common reasons:

1. Non-payment of rent

Tenants are obligated to pay rent even without a written lease. If the tenant fails to pay rent, you can serve a notice to pay or quit and initiate eviction proceedings. The timing of this eviction can vary based on when you received period rent and for what quantity.

2. Violation of local housing codes or laws

Rental housing must comply with all applicable building codes, safety regulations, and housing laws set by state and municipal authorities. If a renter’s occupancy of the property directly violates any of these legal housing standards, you may have grounds to pursue eviction.

 Common violations include situations like overcrowding that exceeds maximum occupancy rules, illegal building alterations compromising safety, and harboring unauthorized pets. Failure to properly maintain the premises and causing fire hazards or unsanitary conditions could also constitute violations.

3. Holdover tenancy

A holdover tenant is someone who continues to occupy a rental property after their lease has expired, often transitioning into a month-to-month or other periodic tenancy. In the absence of a lease, the tenant’s occupancy may be considered a month-to-month or periodic tenancy.

In such cases, you can terminate the tenancy by providing proper notice as required by state laws, typically 30 or 60 days.

4. Material non-compliance

One of the most challenging issues to prove without documentation is material non-compliance, as it typically requires clear evidence of the rules established by the landlord and the tenant’s failure to adhere to them.

5. Substantial damage to the property

If the tenant causes substantial damage to the rental property exceeding normal wear and tear, the landlord has two potential grounds to seek eviction. One basis is the tenant’s material non-compliance with the obligation to maintain the property’s condition. The other is a violation of the implied warranty of habitability, as excessive damage can render the premises. uninhabitable.

6. Illegal activity

For occupants who engage in illegal activities, such as drug dealing or other criminal acts on the premises, you can pursue eviction on the grounds of illegal activity. Alternatively, you can cite a breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment as grounds for eviction.

7. End of the owner’s interest in the property

If the previous owner’s interest in the property has ended (e.g., through sale or foreclosure), the new owner or property manager may have grounds to terminate the tenancy and evict the tenant.

Invalid grounds for eviction

There are certain reasons that are considered invalid or unlawful for evicting a tenant, even in the absence of a written lease agreement. Here are some common invalid reasons for eviction:

1. Discrimination

It is illegal to evict a tenant based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. This would be considered discriminatory and a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

2. Retaliation

Evicting a tenant in retaliation for exercising their legal rights is generally prohibited by law. For example, a landlord cannot evict a tenant for complaining about poor living conditions.

3. Personal dislike or arbitrary reasons

A property manager cannot evict a tenant simply because they don’t like the tenant. Eviction must be for reasons related to the tenant’s conduct or compliance with rules and regulations, not arbitrary reasons.

4. Failure to renew a lease

If the tenant is occupying the property under a periodic tenancy (month-to-month or week-to-week), the property manager cannot evict them simply for failing to renew a lease. Proper notice must be given according to state and local laws.

5. Non-payment of late fees or other fees (not rent)

While late fees and other charges may be enforceable, non-payment of these fees alone is typically not grounds for eviction. The eviction must be based on non-payment of rent.

6. Renovations or personal use (without proper notice)

A property manager cannot evict a tenant solely to renovate the property or use it for personal reasons. The legality of such evictions varies by jurisdiction, often requiring a specific notice period or, in some cases, additional compensation for the tenants. Always check local laws to determine the appropriate procedures and requirements.

Attorney’s role in no-lease evictions

Here’s how your attorney would handle a no-lease eviction:

Step 1: Issue a notice to vacate

Your attorney will first serve the tenant with a formal written “notice to quit” or “notice to terminate tenancy.” This eviction notice informs the tenant they have to move out by a specific date. How much notice you give depends on where the property resides—it could be as short as 3 days or as long as 30 days or more.

Step 2: Initiate eviction proceedings

If the tenant doesn’t leave by the date your attorney gave in the notice, the next step is to take legal action by filing for eviction with the local court. The tenant will receive a notice to appear in court for an eviction hearing.

Step 3: Execute eviction

If the court rules in your attorney’s favor, they’ll issue a paper called a “writ of possession” or “order for eviction”. This authorizes law enforcement officers, such as sheriff’s deputies or marshals, to physically remove the tenant and their belongings from the rental unit if they do not vacate by the court-ordered date.

You cannot change the locks, shut off utilities, or use other self-help measures to force tenants out. These actions can have legal consequences and potential lawsuits.

Why you might have a tenant without a lease?

Inherited tenant

When you take over a rental property from an owner, you may have tenants already living there. They become your tenants even if they didn’t have a written lease with the previous owner. You can either put a formal rental agreement in place or give them proper notice if you want them to leave.


Squatters live on property without permission from the owner or any legal right to be there. They might have moved in when the property was empty or stayed even after their lease ended. Getting squatters to vacate a property includes legal steps for the formal eviction process.


An owner may have let someone stay in their property without a formal lease. This tenancy-at-will has no set time for how long they can stay. In tenancy-at-will situations, a verbal or written agreement has been made between the owner and the tenant. 

Wrapping up: tenant without lease eviction

Hiring a lawyer is your best bet for evicting a tenant without a lease or rental agreement. They’ll make sure you follow the rules and keep in mind that tenants still have rights, even without a written agreement.

FAQ about evicting someone without a lease

Can a landlord evict a tenant without a lease in NY?

Yes, you can evict tenants without a lease in New York, but it’s more complicated than evicting someone with a lease. Work with an attorney on the details and be sure to give the tenant proper notice to leave, usually 30 days for a month-to-month tenancy.

What is the new eviction law in Colorado?

Colorado recently passed a new law to protect tenants facing eviction. Landlords must give tenants a 10-day notice to fix any problems with the lease before starting eviction. Also, landlords can’t evict tenants just for not paying late fees or other charges besides rent.

What are the rules for eviction in Indiana?

In Indiana, landlords must give tenants written notice, usually 30 days, for a month-to-month rental or what’s in the lease. The notice should explain why the tenant has to leave and when they have to go. If the tenant doesn’t leave, the landlord has to get a court order to make the tenant leave.

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