Eviction Essentials: How to Evict a Non-Paying Tenant

As landlords, we sometimes want to show our tenants a little bit of leniency. Whether that means we give them a super long grace period to pay their rent or we simply don’t do take any action when they aren’t paying, it is natural for us to want to show some compassion for our tenants.

After all, they’re people, too! It’s not enjoyable to see anybody down on their luck, especially since you have probably formed some type of bond with your tenants as their months of tenancy have gone by.

Unfortunately, allowing your tenant to not pay rent isn’t doing anything positive for your business. Even if you have the cash flow to keep the business going without payments coming in, your bottom line is ultimately suffering.

In these situations, you must act quickly to evict non-paying tenants. You might be wondering: When can I evict a tenant for non-payment of rent? The specific answer will depend on what state you are in, but most states allow this type of eviction to be filed in 10 days or less.

Learn how to evict a non-paying tenant and why you must act quickly in these situations today!

A Table Of Contents On How To Evict A Tenant For Non-Payment

What Is Eviction?

when-can-i-evict-a-tenant-for-nonpaymentLet’s start by covering the basics of this issue: What is eviction?

As a landlord, you’re probably already familiar with what eviction generally is, but the specifics of how eviction is defined are very important when you start the actual legal process.

Eviction is the legal process that terminates a tenancy contract between a landlord and their tenant for a specific reason. While the reason for evictions may vary, the end result of a successful eviction will always end with the tenant moving off the property and the landlord regaining primary control over said property.

Most Common Reasons For Eviction

As mentioned, there are a lot of different reasons that eviction suits may be filed, but some reasons are more common than others.

When dealing with residential leases, the most common reasons for eviction cases include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Late rent payments
  • Violating the lease terms
  • Damaging the property
  • Safety violations
  • Health violations
  • Crime

If your tenant is doing any of these things on your property, there is a very high chance that you could begin the eviction process according to your state’s requirements.

Avoid These Eviction Errors

Regardless of what your tenant did, you are never allowed to make a tenant leave using things like force or intimidation tactics. Doing so is illegal, and you will find yourself in a lot of trouble if you are reported.
Never do these things when you want a tenant to leave:

  • Threaten the tenant
  • Blackmail the tenant
  • Turn off the tenant’s utilities
  • Change the locks at the property
  • Remove the tenant’s belongings

Until the lease between you and the tenant is nullified through an eviction case, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that your tenant can live in safe and habitable conditions. Doing any of the things listed deviates from your responsibilities and should be avoided at all costs.

How Non-Payment Of Rent Hurts Your Business

Can you evict a tenant for not paying rent? Yes. Should you evict a tenant for not paying rent? Definitely!

When you’re working as a landlord for properties that you own, you are putting your business on the line every single time that you rent your property to a tenant. You enter into an agreement with the tenant that says that they can have a legal right to use the property as long as they pay you.

The relationship between you both is transactional, even if you do enjoy working with the tenant as well.

As soon as they stop paying rent, you are being taken advantage of and your business is suffering. You may not have enough money to invest in your next project, or you might even run late on bills. And that is why you need to act quickly and evict tenants that aren’t paying.

Keep Looking For Good Tenants

Unfortunate as it is to say, the simple truth is that some tenants are serial non-payers. They bounce from property to property and regularly begin to fall behind on rent. Often, you can get an indication of this type of behavior if you thoroughly and completely screen your potential tenants.

Keeping up the search for reliable tenants without any history of payment issues is a great way to avoid ever needing to deal with a non-payment of rent eviction situation!

When Can I Evict A Tenant For Non-Payment Of Rent?

Now that you know more about why you should evict tenants that aren’t paying, let’s talk about when you can do that. When can you evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?

There is not a single answer to this question. To put it as simply as possible, you can start the eviction process for non-paying tenants whenever the state that you work in allows it.

What we’re saying is that every state has their own timeline! Some states give tenants only three days to pay rent before you can file for eviction while others require 10 or more.

Part of your job as a landlord is to become familiar with the specifics of your state and local laws about eviction. When researching, check the terms for non-payment of rent to find out how long you will need to wait in your state before filing for this type of eviction.

State Rules For Non-Payment Of Rent

Covering every single state’s rules on non-payment of rent evictions would take a very long time.

We have covered a lot of state’s rules here on RentPrep, which you can find by searching our blog. For today we will limit ourselves to a brief list with gives you a general idea of the timeline that you can expect when dealing with a non-payment eviction.

State Est. Timeline State Est. Timeline
Alabama 7 days Alaska 7 days
Arizona 5 days Arkansas 5 days
California 3 days Colorado 3 days
Connecticut 9 days Delaware 5 days
District of Columbia 30 days (non-payment of rent cannot be the primary basis for eviction) Florida 3 days
Georgia Immediate Hawaii 5 days
Idaho 3 days Illinois 5 days
Indiana 10 days Iowa 3 days
Kansas 3 or 10 days Kentucky 7 days
Louisiana Immediate Maine 7 days
Maryland Immediate Massachusetts 14 days
Michigan 7 days Minnesota 14 days
Mississippi 3 days Missouri Immediate
Montana 3 days Nebraska 3 days
Nevada 5 days New Hampshire 7 days
New Jersey 30 days New Mexico 3 days
New York 3 days North Carolina 10 days
North Dakota 3 days Ohio Immediate
Oklahoma 5 days Oregon 3 or 6 days
Pennsylvania 10 days Rhode Island 5 days
South Carolina 5 days South Dakota 3 days
Tennessee 14 days Texas 3 days
Utah 3 days Vermont 14 days
Virginia 5 days Washington 3 days
West Virginia Immediate Wisconsin 5 or 14 days
Wyoming 3 days

Remember, however, that the laws behind non-payment of rent evictions are never as simple as just the number of days that a tenant has to pay rent before you can file for eviction. In some of these states, for example, you must send notice of eviction and then go to court. In others, you can immediately terminate a lease once the time period is up.

It is incredibly important that you get every step of the eviction process right to ensure that you don’t waste any more money on tenants that aren’t paying. Be sure that you learn all that you can about your state’s laws to avoid a financial disaster.

How To Evict A Non-Paying Tenant

Beyond simply knowing when you can evict a non-paying tenant, you also need to learn how to actually work through the eviction process. For a deep understanding of this process, check out our full guide.

Today, we’ll walk through each step more quickly to give you an idea of what you will need to do when the time to evict a tenant for non-payment comes.

Step 1: Send A Notice

When your tenant hasn’t paid rent, you will need to send them an eviction notice. This notice begins the eviction process officially.

The specific type of notice that you need to use will depend on your state and the exact situation. There are two main types of eviction notices that are used for non-payment of rent:

  • Notice To Quit:
    In some states, non-payment of rent is grounds for immediate eviction. In these states, you can send out an incurable notice to quit. This notice will give your tenant an exact timeline about when they need to move out by, and there is no way for them to prevent this other than challenging you in court.
  • Notice To Pay Or Quit:
    A more common type of notice used for non-payment of rent is a notice to pay or quit. Most states will require that you use this type of notice unless the tenant is a repeat offender. This notice gives the tenant a specific number of days to either pay or move out. If they do neither, you’ll want to move on to the next step.

Once you send the notice, you will need to wait the state-specified number of days before continuing the eviction process. Once the time has passed, you can take further action if the tenant has not paid rent or moved out.

Step 2: Filing With The Court

If the tenant doesn’t respond to your eviction notice or take action, it’s time to head to your local courthouse and file for eviction.

By filing for eviction, you are doing the following:

  • Moving the overall eviction process forward in a legal way
  • Letting the court know that you have given notice and nothing has changed
  • Letting the tenant know that you are serious
  • Beginning to regain control of your property

After giving the court the eviction filing documents, they will process the basic information before scheduling a court date. The court will handle notifying the tenant and you about the date. Your next goal is to show up with all the evidence of non-payment!

Step 3: Defend Your Case

Next, you’ll need to show up to the court to defend your case. If the tenant does not show up, the court will typically rule in your favor, but some states may have different stipulations about how that proceeding works.

Bring the following information with you to the hearing:

  • Lease agreement
  • Payment receipts
  • Bounced checks
  • Copy of communications
  • Proof you delivered the notice as required by law
  • Any other documentation that shows the issue

The judge will decide that day about what will happen.

In non-payment of rent cases, it is very common for judges to order you and the tenant to come to an elongated compromise that ensures that they will pay you (with interest) by a certain date or be officially evicted, so be prepared to have to deal with this situation a little bit longer.

Some states and more serious cases, however, will warrant a judge immediately ruling in your favor.

If the judge does rule in your favor, you will be able to get a writ of possession. This document can then be shown to the local sheriff, who will help you to remove any tenant that refuses to leave your property!

Non-Payment Is A Serious Issue

Have you been left wondering when can I evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?

In most states, you can do so almost immediately! Don’t wait weeks or months to receive back-payments that you are owed. The longer that you wait, the harder it will be to ever see that money back in your bankbooks. Even with an eviction ruling, getting the money itself back can be very hard, so acting fast is essential.


  • Send an eviction notice as soon as possible
  • Follow all state regulations to speed up the process
  • Never try to remove a tenant yourself

Your property is just that – yours. If your tenant is no longer following lease terms or paying for their right to use your property, it’s time for you to take back control!