Non re-newal of lease = eviction?

I have a tenant who has been consistently late with the rent from the beginning, (sometimes by up to a full month) even prior to covid. I cut the rent in half for four months and it is gradually going back up to the full amount. She is now two months behind and unemployed, she says due to covid. She claims that she has applied for rental assistance but hasn’t offered any proof (I’ve asked). If she gets it, the state will pay me directly for up to six months, ending in January. The lease expires in November. She is a single mother and is now pregnant again. The state has a “no eviction for non-payment of rent” order in place. My question is, am I obligated under a no eviction order to re-new the lease? Technically, I am not evicting, simply not re-newing as she would no longer meet the minimum income requirements for a new tenant. Does a landlord even have give a reason for not re-newing? I’ve never wanted to do it before.

I’ve posted about this tenant (making more with subsidies than when she was working and still being late with greatly reduced rent) before and pretty much got blasted for being a heartless ogre. The situation has bad news written all over it. She keeps the place like pig sty, caused plumbing problems by flushing stuff, etc. and I really don’t want to rent to her any longer and would not be renewing, in any case. I’m guessing a court would say that this is an eviction by another name, if it came down to it.

Ogre or not, am I legally obligated to re-new? The current lease says one year with month-to-month after that, if both parties agree.

The worst case is that she doesn’t get the aid and gets to squat until the state lifts the order. I’d evict and she’d still owe the back rent but the chances of ever seeing that are zero. Best case is that she gets the aid and finds a new job or gets re-hired at a sufficient wage before the aid runs out and everything is honky dory. I’m really hoping that’s how it goes but I just don’t see it.

I get the feeling that landlords are viewed as cash hungry monsters but I have exactly one unit and bills to pay like everyone else. There are no PPP programs or stimulus money or tax breaks for me. How long would you pay for someone else’s housing?

IANAL, but I would think you could decline to renew, but then you can’t force her to leave if she chooses to stay (that would be an eviction). So you’d be stuck with a non-paying tenant who has no obligation to you (since there’s no lease) and who you can’t make leave.

Specifically the ban is on eviction for non-payment of rent. Without a lease the squatter is a tresspasser not a leasee. The law in question may distinguish between the two otherwise people could break into your house while you’re getting groceries and you can’t make them move out.

For the OP, ask a local landlord rights attorney or the government agency that deals with renter/landlord issues. They may have gotten some guidance from the state.

Oh. Thanks for the correction.

What state? What order? What does your lease say happens at termination? I ask because many leases convert to a month-to-month tenancy automatically and you may still be required to give her a notice to quit before she’s required to move out. I think without this information, and a lot more, the only GQ answer is that the answer is unknowable.

What you need is a lawyer who specializes in landlord/tenant cases. At the very least you need to contact whichever department in your state that handles landlord/tenant issues.

Since this involves legal advice, it is better suited to IMHO than General Questions.

General Questions Moderator

FWIW, the state is NJ and, upon closer reading, all evictions are halted, not just for failure to pay rent. The only exception is if the court finds its in the “interest of justice” to evict. Proceedings can be initiated and back rent will continue to accrue but no actual evictions will be permitted. The lease specifically states it converts to a month to month after one year. I’ll just have to wait for things to pan out and maybe consult with a lawyer.

You might want to start the eviction now to get the clock started. Even if the actual eviction is on hold, you might still be able to move the process through the system up until that point.

This was suggested by another landlord that I know. This generally only works if you have a nice property. Wait until she has issues with the plumbing caused by her. You notify the housing inspector to come and investigate and state that you are having drain issues, can’t seem to get it fixed. The plumbing is now non-operational and the residence is uninhabitable and needs to be “white tagged “ The inspector investigates, drains don’t operate correctly, tags the residence, lady has 3 days to get out. The inspector will be on your side if they see the tenant is trashing your place.

Not an ogre. I don’t know if you have a mortgage on the property or not, but if you do, her rent payment not arriving on time is more than just a nuisance; it is putting you in a hole that gets deeper every month. Some states/counties/cities have assistance not just for renters, but for landlords as well. When you talk to your real estate attorney, you might ask about that too.

This is terrible advice that no one should take.

I second the advice to talk to a lawyer now. I suspect, but don’t really know, that you will be ahead terminating the lease before it turns into a month-to-month tenancy, even if you can’t evict for now. Document everything.

Why is it terrible advice? The tenant is destroying the place, government says no evictions for ANY reason. How else do you get her out? Short of burning the place down you make it “uninhabitable” and they have to move.

What do you mean no obligation? She’d be obligated to pay the accrued rent for the entire time she stayed in the residence, even without a lease.

I’d love to see the law on that. FWIU, squatting is moving into someone’s place without their permission (for example, no lease in the first place), not remaining in a place upon the expiration of a previously signed lease.

My comments in this post are made as a layperson. I am not a lawyer.

You think making a place you are renting out uninhabitable will be a way to get someone out in 3 days when you are otherwise required to follow a lengthy judicial procedure that is on hold right now?

Do you think you might have missed something about how that works?

How much of the landlord-tenant code have you read?

You consult a lawyer so you can do it in a way that doesn’t risk her not only not paying rent, but also you having to pay for her to be put up in a hotel, or her just paying to get it fixed herself, and then potentially having an excuse for not paying rent.

Any lawyer one would consult would likely not wish to get into trouble with the bar association.

I was in a situation a few years ago when (due to no fault of the landlord in that case) the building became “uninhabitable”. The landlord wound up owing me money because he could no longer fulfill his half of the contract that is a lease (because both parties were sane, responsible adults we settled everything up in about 15 minutes with no animosity on either side, and he actually helped me move to a new residence).

Now the situation described by the OP is quite different than mine was, but rendering the rental unit uninhabitable is, as already noted, terrible legal advice.

MikeF, I sorry you got the sort of tenant that gives renters a bad name. I am yet another vote for “talk to a real estate lawyer specializing in landlord/tenant issues”.

No I haven’t read the “landlord-tenant code” I do know making the place uninhabitable is the easiest way to get drug dealers, squatters, etc… out of the place if they are trashing/destroying it. I don’t think the heath department/code enforcement really cares about “tenants rights” if codes are being violated and the place is a health or safety concern. It sounds like the tenant herself has made the place unfit to live in.

The O.P. has a bad tenant, wants to get them out before the do more damage, he can’t evict them due to government mandates that were not thought out. I suggested what works in certain extreme situations.

The sewer drain was already clogged (“flushable” wipes) and cleaned out last week, so that’s no longer an option. Not that I would go that route, anyway. Getting started on the process is probably a good idea but I don’t even know of the courts are open. Time to Google “landlord tenant lawyers near me”.

Not that anybody’s reproductive choices are really my business but how does one decide that getting pregnant while single with one child, unemployed, during a pandemic and living in a small condo is a good idea? Yes, accidents happen but, jeez.

P.S. - while at the unit trying to fix a problem that was ultimately determined to have been caused by the wipes, I notice a brand new, huge TV. WTF?

Your advice is absolutely ridiculous as well as potentially very costly for the OP.

You seem to be confusing completely different situations when you say:

These people are not legal occupants of the apartment, and yes, they can be forcibly evicted from an “uninhabitable” premises.

In this OP’s case, even without a fixed term lease, the tenant is still a legal occupant, their contract has just moved from a fixed term to a 30 day term.

As @Broomstick says a strategy like yours would completely backfire and blow up in the OP’s face. I’m a landlord in Ontario and I have a legal contract with my tenants, whether those tenants are on a one or two year lease or 30 day lease.

Part of that is that my building must remain habitable. If for some reason it is not, I’m on the hook for all costs associated with them to find habitable accommodations for the duration of their lease.

In my case there was a gas leak in my house, the tenants couldn’t live there for two days while the gas was shut off and repairs were done. I paid for their hotel for two nights until the gas inspectors approved that the home was habitable. The situation would be no different if the toilets were plugged, I’d have to pay for a hotel room for them until the toilets are fixed.

@MikeF - whatever you do, don’t listen to this advice!!