can you evict a tenant without a lease

Do you have someone living in your rental property who is not on the lease, and you want them to leave or need to pursue eviction? Knowing how to proceed can be challenging for landlords, whether it’s because of expired leases or inherited tenants.

Under the law, someone living in your rental property without a lease is still considered a tenant. Therefore, you’ll need to follow the same general guidelines you would take to evict any tenant, even if there is no written lease agreement.

However, it’s crucial to avoid common pitfalls that may result in paying fines or relinquishing partial control of your property. Today, we’ll take you step-by-step through the legal status of tenants without a lease and how you can evict them. We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the process and share how to deal with problematic tenants without leases as quickly as possible.

A Table Of Contents For Removing A Tenant Without A Lease

Doing a no-lease eviction has a lot of similarities to other evictions, but there are aspects that you should pay extra close attention to. Ensure that you don’t slip up along the way by following this guide:

Can You Evict A Tenant Without A Lease

Can You Evict A Tenant Without A Lease?

The short answer is that yes, you can evict someone who is not on the lease. When there is no written lease in place, in most cases, the law still considers you as the landlord and your “tenant” to have an oral contract. For example, this is the case in New York City.

This will usually default to a month-to-month lease in the eyes of the law, meaning that either you, as the landlord, or the tenant can end the lease without a specified reason by providing 30 days’ notice.

In this situation, the law recognizes that you own the property and that the tenant is occupying the property under agreed conditions, even though those conditions have yet to be put in writing. You still have rights regarding how the property is being used and occupied, and you are responsible for maintaining the property in a safe and habitable condition. You must also respect your tenant’s rights, for example, by providing ample notice before any property inspection.

To end a lease with someone with whom you do not have a signed lease agreement, you should follow the same legal steps as you would with a tenant on a month-to-month lease. This includes providing them with official written notice of your request for them to vacate the property. Follow our guide on how to write an eviction notice without a lease.

If the tenant refuses to comply with this request, you can request an eviction hearing in your local court jurisdiction.

Lawful Reasons For Eviction

In theory, if you give someone without a lease 30 days’ notice to vacate, you are not evicting them before the end of their tenancy agreement, so you do not need to provide a reason for the eviction. But if that person has been living in the property long term and considers themselves a long-term tenant, they may push back, and the law can sometimes be on their side.

Therefore, you should provide a valid reason for asking the tenant to leave the property in the same way as you would if you were breaking the lease early. This could be because they are not fulfilling their obligations as a tenant, for example, by not paying rent or damaging the property. It could also be because you want to move into the property yourself or renovate it. However, it can’t be based on personal factors such as animosity toward the tenant.

The following are considered legal reasons for ending a tenancy early:

  • Illicit drug use
  • Property damage
  • Breaking any contract terms or agreements
  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Skipping required utility payments
  • Unauthorized pets
  • Health and safety violations
  • Owner removing property from the rental market
  • Owner moving into the property

If you give one of these as your reason to evict, you may also be able to ask the tenant to leave within less than 30 days. The exact period depends on the situation and where you live, so look at local laws.

Unlawful Reasons For Eviction

Just as there are some legal reasons for eviction, there are also several unlawful reasons. For instance, you cannot evict someone because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. You also cannot evict someone in retaliation for reporting a code violation or filing a complaint against you. Doing so could result in legal action against you. Here are a few other unlawful reasons for eviction:

  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Violation of Lease Terms
  • Retaliatory Rent Increases
  • Failure to Provide Notice

How Do I Evict A Tenant Without A Rental Agreement?

Once you’ve identified an appropriate reason for removing a tenant, how can you evict a tenant without a lease? We’ll take you through the process step by step.

General Step-By-Step Process For No-Lease Evictions

Step 1: Send A Notice To Quit

You must send out a written notice asking the tenant to leave the property before you can consider filing for eviction. This is known as a notice to quit, and it should detail when and why the tenant needs to leave the property. The amount of time they have to leave will vary depending on the state and situation.

See a 30-day notice to tenant sample template here.

Step 2: File For An Eviction Hearing

If the tenant does not leave the property by the specified date, it’s time to file for an eviction hearing. You can do this at your local courthouse. Some jurisdictions allow you to file and submit evidence online.

Once the court reviews your filing, they will schedule a hearing date and notify you and the tenant. At the hearing, you’ll need to explain the no-lease situation, when you sent notice, and why the tenant should leave the rental property. The tenant will have a chance to explain why they deserve to stay.

At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide what happens next. If either party does not show up, the case is typically decided in favor of the party that does appear. If the judge agrees with your evidence, you’ll receive a judgment that can be used to ensure an eviction occurs.

Step 3: Authority Eviction

Once you’ve won your case, that does not mean you can simply show up at your property and force the tenant to vacate. Instead, take your judgment to your local sheriff. They will execute the eviction, and you can regain control of your property.

Why Might You Have A Tenant Without A Lease?

Sometimes, it’s not really up to you on whether or not you actually have a tenant, and yes, that includes even if you don’t necessarily have a lease agreement with them. Here are a few of the reasons why you might have a tenant without a lease:

A Tenant You Inherit

One of the most common ways to end up with a tenant you did not choose or make a contract with directly is when you take over an occupied property.

Whether you buy a property that is already being rented or you inherit a rental property, you now have a tenant you did not contract with.

Ideally, you would have received a copy of the existing lease agreement when buying the property. You should negotiate to have this document, and you can find out during the buying process if this is a no-lease situation. If so, you may still end up with a tenant who does not have a written lease agreement.

In most cases, you can give these tenants a notice to quit. The period of this type of eviction is usually much more extended than other eviction cases because the tenant did have a valid contract with the previous owner.

If you did not negotiate moving terms with the tenant before acquiring the property, you would need to follow these steps:

  1. Give the tenants an official notice to quit with the proper waiting period.
  2. If the tenant does not want to move, you must file for eviction with the court.
  3. Prepare documents explaining that you did not plan to keep the tenant when acquiring the property or why it’s necessary for the tenant to leave before their original contracted period ends.
  4. If the court sides with you, take the court order to the local authorities for the eviction.
  5. Never try to remove a tenant yourself.

Often, tenants will be permitted to stay at the property until their original oral agreement runs out. While this can frustrate you as the new property owner, it is fair to the tenant. Therefore, it’s vital to research and review the existing arrangement before purchasing a property to avoid ending up in a no-lease situation.


Another type of tenant without a lease who you might be trying to evict is a squatter. A squatter may be someone you previously rented your property to, and they then stayed beyond the end of their rental contract. Or, they may be someone who moved onto your property without permission.

Evicting squatters is very similar to evicting renters. Even though it might be tempting to force the people off your property, doing so could put you at risk of legal trouble.

To evict a squatter, you still need to notify them that you will be filing a suit for eviction. Every state and area has different rules for how long before you file a suit you must give a notice to quit or a notice of eviction, so you’ll want to check these regulations.

Once you have given enough warning, you can file a suit for eviction. If the court sides with you that the squatter should be removed, you can use the court order to remove them from your property by the authorities.

Many new landlords are surprised that the process used to handle squatters differs so little from how tenants are handled.

Ultimately, people have rights that cannot be violated even if they are technically trespassing. It will be up to the court and authorities to assign such charges, and you, as the landlord, should not try to enforce anything without that type of support.

Tenancy-At-Will Without A Lease

What about tenants allowed to live in your property beyond the end of their lease or without having their original lease, but you would now like to evict?

This type of tenant is called a tenant-at-will. In tenancy-at-will situations, a verbal or written agreement has been made between you and a tenant. This sets up a month-to-month tenancy that can be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant with a 30-day notice.

Doing an eviction without a lease requires that you give the appropriate notice for your state. While we’re using 30 days as the standard since this is the case in many states, some states or localities might default to a different notice period for tenancy-at-will situations. Be sure to double-check your local requirements.

To evict this type of tenant, you must give them a minimum of 30 days’ notice to leave the property. Because there is no long-term lease agreement, this is the extent of notice that you need to give to a tenant-at-will.

One exception is during nonpayment of rent situations. In this case, many states allow you to give a 14-day notice to quit to any tenant-at-will who is not paying the rent as agreed. The process is faster since they are not meeting their part of the agreement.

Another interesting fact about tenant-at-will situations is that you do not need to give any reason in the notice to quit other than your desire for the tenancy to end. Because no lease or contract is involved, all the tenant must receive is notice that they will have to move out.

How To Evict Someone From Your House Without A Lease

Another question that some landlords have is how to evict someone from your home without a lease. For example, parents who allow their adult child to live with them may, unfortunately, need to ask their adult child to leave, but the child might feel they have a right to live there.

Evicting someone in this situation can feel different from others, but the particulars are very similar. The adult child or other individual can be considered a tenant or occupant; the owners are the landlords. Then, the owners must send out a notice to quit and follow the proper eviction proceedings if the individual does not comply.

Evicting someone you live with can be complicated, but the property owner has rights that allow you to do this. Remember that and move forward to regain control of your living situation.

Fact Check: What Is A Notice To Quit?

All evictions require that you first serve the tenant with a notice to quit. You can only move on to a formal eviction once that method of resolving the situation has failed.

What exactly is a notice to quit, and how do you put one together?

A notice to quit is an official way of letting someone know by what date they must leave a property. This type of notice is used in cases where no lease applies and when there is a lease. The exact terminology may differ, but the intent of the notice is the same.

If a tenant overstays their lease period, the lease end is usually enough to be considered a notice to quit, but it may be beneficial to give a formal notice to quit as well.

In the notice, the following information should be included:

  • The property address and any lease period information
  • The tenant’s name and contact information
  • The landlord’s name and contact information
  • Why the notice to quit is being sent (lease expiration, agreement violation, nonpayment of rent, etc.)
  • When the tenant must leave by
  • Who the tenant can contact with any questions

Remember that your notice to quit is only valid in court cases if the paperwork can be confirmed as received by the tenant. If mailed, it’s best to send these papers by certified mail to ensure you have proof that you gave the tenant proper notice. Sending the notice by certified mail ensures that you have this proof.

A Bonus Option: Cash For Keys

A Bonus Option: Cash For Keys

One thing that should be clear from this guide is that when dealing with a tenant reluctant to leave, obtaining an eviction can be long, grueling, and expensive. Not every landlord will want to deal with this process; some may even be willing to lose money to avoid eviction procedures.

An alternative approach to the eviction court system that some landlords use is to offer cash for keys to the tenants in residence.

In the cash-for-keys method, a landlord pays a flat fee to the tenant in exchange for the return of their keys. Often, tenants who do not want to leave the property can be enticed to exit faster with this method. While you cannot force them to accept this option, it’s often less expensive than going through the eviction process, so it is worth asking.

Eviction without a lease is a situation that landlords never want to end up in. While cash for keys can speed up the process, the best way to avoid eviction is to ensure you always have a lease and screen all tenants before signing an agreement.

High-quality tenant screening, such as the services provided here at RentPrep, is a fantastic way to find the right tenants for your property. Ensuring that their background check, income verification, and other information gathered on the rental application fits your requirements can reduce your risk of ending up in a problematic eviction situation.

Try RentPrep’s tenant screening today!

FAQs: How To Evict Someone Who Is Not On The Lease

These are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process of evicting a tenant without a lease.

Can You Evict Someone Without A Lease In My State?

Every state has procedures for how to do a no-lease eviction. The exact policies can vary from state to state, but the general process usually looks very similar. Even though you do not have a written lease, your state law will consider that you have an oral agreement with the tenant.

From there, you can proceed with your notice to leave the property and subsequent eviction filing if the occupant is unwilling to comply with your terms.
It’s scary to consider that someone is living in your property without your permission, but remember that you have options. Consult a local real estate lawyer or experienced paralegal for assistance on the laws that apply to your properties if you need additional support.

Is Evicting A Tenant Without A Lease Expensive?

It’s impossible to say how much handling a no-lease eviction will cost. The amount can vary widely depending on how long it takes the tenant to comply, if you have to go to court, and whether or not they damage the property in the process.

In some cases, a no-lease occupant moving out will cost no more than any other turnover. The tenant will leave the property, and you must do the usual cleanup and repairs. In other cases, the tenant will be unwilling to go and lead you to a months-long court issue until you can resolve things.

Even if the court decides in your favor, you may not be able to get any money back from the tenant to cover damages or unpaid rent. Tracking down money owed from eviction cases can be very difficult, and hiring a collections agency is also tricky.

As a landlord, it’s best to avoid no-lease situations as much as possible. Sometimes, they are unavoidable, but they can be an unpredictable money pit, so experienced landlords will know to avoid them.

How Much Time Does A Landlord Have To Give A Tenant To Move Out?

How long a landlord must give a tenant to vacate a property depends on local laws. However, in most cases, a landlord must provide a tenant living in a property for less than one year 30 days to vacate.

Tenants living in a property for more than one year must be given 60 days to vacate.
Shorter notice to quit periods can only be given if the tenant is breaking the conditions of the lease, for example, by not paying rent or breaking the law on the property. In these cases, check your local laws.

What Do You Do When A Tenant Without A Lease Refuses To Leave?

When a tenant without a lease refuses to comply with your written notice to quit the property, you should move to file for an eviction hearing as soon as possible. The faster you have an eviction hearing on file, the quicker your case will be resolved, and you can regain control of your property.

Do not hesitate to file for eviction when they do not comply. Even if it feels like a daunting affair, you’ll be happier and more financially sound in the long run after making this decision.

Do not hesitate to file for eviction when they do not comply. Even if it feels like a daunting affair, you’ll be happier and more financially sound in the long run after making this decision.

Can Landlords Keep Personal Property That Was Left Behind After An Eviction?

No. Even if an evicted tenant leaves personal property behind, these items can only be disposed of once they have been stored for an appropriate period. Any personal property that is moved to a secure location must be listed, and this list needs to be forwarded to the former tenant so they can come to collect it.

The length of time and how much the landlord can charge for storing the items varies from state to state, but you can generally recoup this cost. While this can be frustrating for landlords, following proper protocol is essential when a tenant or occupant leaves belongings behind.

How Do You Write An Eviction Notice Without A Lease?

You will compose a notice to quit or an eviction notice for a tenant without a lease like you would for a tenant with a lease.
But, in places where you would refer to the conditions of the lease, you should refer to the conditions of the unwritten contract between you, whether this is a verbal agreement, information in a lease that has now expired, or an agreement based on precedent (what you and the tenant have been doing for an extended period).

In official eviction documentation, you must explain how the no-lease situation arose between yourself and the tenant and the basis for your unwritten understanding.

Can You Be Evicted Without A Lease?

A tenant can be evicted even if they do not have a written lease. While it is always preferable to have a formal lease in place, if the tenant is living in another person’s house, they are considered the owner’s tenant and can be evicted on the same basis as a tenant on a month-on-month lease.

The landlord must give the tenant a notice to quit, provide a reasonable amount of time to vacate the property, explain why they must vacate, and let the tenant know if they can do anything to resolve the situation if they wish to stay. But remember that in a no-lease situation, the tenant does not have to be at fault for the landlord to want to terminate the lease.

If the tenant does not leave the property within the time specified in the notice to quit, the landlord can then proceed with eviction procedures. If the tenant believes that the landlord is trying to evict them unfairly, for example, on the basis of discrimination, the tenant can make their case at the eviction court hearing.

Act Fast When Evicting A Tenant Without A Lease

Eviction without a lease can be complicated, but acting quickly and following the legal process is crucial to avoid further issues. By following this guide on how to evict someone without a lease, you can protect your rights as a landlord while respecting your tenant’s rights.

If you believe you have a relatively cooperative tenant who will agree to leave, you should serve them with a standard notice to quit as you would with a tenant on a month-to-month contract.

If you believe they will not want to vacate the property, your best approach is to follow the rules for breaking a lease early and provide solid reasons for wanting to end the lease.

Follow the steps below to ensure you’re acting within the law and your own best interests:

  • Determine if your reason for wanting to evict a tenant without a lease is legal or not.
  • Figure out your tenancy type (overstayed lease, squatting, tenancy-at-will).
  • Consider if you want to try the cash-for-keys method.
  • Send out a notice to quit, if relevant.
  • Escalate to a court eviction if necessary.

While eviction is a scary word, it doesn’t have to be a scary process. With the right tools and information, you can regain control of your property in no time. Acting quickly throughout the process is critical, but you should use accurate knowledge to avoid mistakes.