Can a Landlord Evict One Tenant and Not the Other? Everything You Need to Know

This article guides property owners through the legalities and ethical considerations of selectively evicting tenants, focusing on the differences between joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Discover key strategies and legal insights for navigating these challenging scenarios.

Katie McCann
Last Updated
December 20, 2023
Can a Landlord Evict One Tenant and Not the Other? Everything You Need to Know

Did you know that in 2022, a staggering 970,000 eviction cases were filed by landlords in the United States? This highlights the significant challenge landlords often encounter in the rental market.

Navigating the eviction process requires a thorough understanding of a multifaceted issue that affects millions. With a substantial number of renters experiencing financial strain, especially post-pandemic, knowing when and how you can legally evict one tenant while retaining others is not just a legal matter, but a reflection of your responsibilities as a rental property owner.

This article dives into the critical aspects of selective eviction, exploring the legal frameworks and the practical considerations every property owner should know. Whether you're grappling with lease violations or behavioral issues, our comprehensive guide offers insights into making informed decisions in these challenging situations.

Different types of tenancy agreements: Joint tenancy vs. tenancy in common

Before we discuss the intricacies of when evicting one tenant and not others is appropriate, we need to understand the distinctions between joint tenancy and tenancy in common. The type of tenancy agreement significantly affects the eviction process.

Lessees and lessors need to understand their roles and responsibilities, as these will determine the legal procedures and justifications required for an eviction. In both joint tenancy and tenancy in common, tenants must adhere to the terms outlined in their agreements to maintain their occupancy rights.

Joint tenancy

In a joint tenancy, multiple tenants share equal rights to a property under the same lease agreement, making them collectively responsible for fulfilling all lease terms. This collective responsibility, often defined by a joint and several liabilities clause, implies that each tenant is responsible for their actions and those of their co-tenants, including ensuring the entire rent is paid on time.

This arrangement poses a unique challenge in eviction scenarios. If one tenant violates the lease terms, such as non-payment of rent or engaging in prohibited activities, it can create a dilemma for the property owner. An eviction notice typically impacts all tenants on the joint lease, potentially leading to a situation where even compliant tenants may face eviction due to the actions of one.

Tenancy in common

In a tenancy in common arrangement, multiple tenants pay rent independently and each has their separate lease agreement. This structure allows for individual ownership interests, where tenants can transfer their shares without needing the consent of other tenants. This setup grants more independence among tenants regarding their responsibilities to the property owner.

Under a tenancy in common, the eviction process can be more flexible compared to a joint tenancy. If one tenant violates their lease, for example by way of excessive noise, the landlord may have the option to evict just that tenant without impacting the others, depending on the specifics of each lease and the nature of the violation.

However, landlords should approach eviction in a tenancy in common with caution and seek legal advice. This includes verifying that the eviction is based on a legitimate lease violation and is conducted without adversely affecting tenants who are compliant with their lease terms.

Specific scenarios for evicting one tenant and not the other

Property owners may find themselves in situations where evicting a single tenant becomes necessary while maintaining the lease with other co-tenants. This action must always rest on clear legal grounds and abide by state laws and terms detailed within the lease.

For example, in Utah, a property owner may issue a 3-day notice to pay overdue rent before proceeding with eviction notices, whereas in Nebraska, a notice must be 7 days.

Example reasons and justifications for partial eviction

  • Behavioral issues: In cases where one tenant's behavior is disruptive, threatening, or poses a safety risk to others in the unit (e.g., harassment, violence), the landlord may choose to evict only the problematic tenant.
  • Subletting without permission: If a tenant in a shared unit sublets their portion without the property owner's permission or contrary to the terms of the lease, the owner could choose to evict just that tenant.
  • Non-payment of rent by one tenant: In a tenancy in common where one tenant fails to pay their rent repeatedly, the rental property owner might seek to evict only the non-paying tenant, especially if other tenants continue to fulfill their rent obligations.
  • Damage to property by a single tenant: If one tenant causes significant damage to the property, either through negligence or deliberately, the landlord might seek eviction for that tenant alone.
  • Violation of specific rules: If the rental agreement includes specific rules (like no pets, no smoking, etc.), and only one tenant breaches these rules, they could be subject to eviction.
  • Holdover tenant: If one tenant refuses to leave after their lease term has ended, the landlord might need to evict that tenant while others who are compliant remain.
  • Criminal activity: If a tenant is engaged in criminal activity on the premises, a landlord may have grounds to evict that specific tenant to ensure the safety and security of the property and the other tenants.
  • Master tenant eviction: In a situation where there is a master tenant or primary tenant who sublets to others, if the master tenant is evicted for valid reasons (like non-payment of monthly rent), it doesn’t automatically lead to the eviction of subtenants.

Property owners must always balance their rights and duties with the need to perform actions that are ethical and legal, understanding that each case will present unique challenges requiring individual assessments and approaches.

Ethical and practical considerations in evicting one tenant

Standard rules and regulations governing evictions, such as those related to rent control, still apply. However, there are specific situations where legally, a landlord cannot evict one tenant while allowing others to stay:

  1. Discrimination laws: The Fair Housing Act prohibits eviction based on discriminatory reasons such as race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or familial status.
  2. Retaliation: Evicting a tenant in retaliation for exercising their legal rights is illegal. An example of an unlawful retaliatory eviction would be if a landlord attempts to evict a tenant after the tenant has complained about unhealthy living conditions in the rental unit. If the landlord tries to evict them as a direct response to this complaint, it would be considered a retaliatory eviction.
  3. Fixed-term leases: If tenants are in a fixed-term lease and one tenant hasn't violated the lease terms, it can be legally challenging to evict them before the end of their lease term while allowing others to remain.
  4. Domestic violence protections: Tenants who are victims of domestic violence are often provided legal protections against eviction.
  5. Family status: In situations where tenants are family members, evicting one family member while allowing others to stay could be legally complex, especially if the eviction could be seen as impacting minors or dependent family members.

The eviction process

To effectively manage the eviction of a single tenant without affecting others, property owners need to be well-versed in the legal nuances specific to their jurisdiction before initiating an eviction lawsuit. This includes understanding the precise grounds for lease termination and the detailed steps of the eviction process.

  1. Proper notice: The first step in evicting a single tenant from a property is to give proper notice. This notice must be in written form and explain the reasons for eviction clearly. The property owner must present evidence of the violation and, in some cases, may need to prove that the eviction is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
  2. Property owners typically need to follow state-specific laws, which dictate the type of notice needed and the acceptable delivery methods, such as mailing by certified mail with a return receipt or handing it to the tenant in person. This notice must inform the tenant of the breach and allow a stipulated period to remedy the situation if applicable.
  3. In California, for example, the rental property owner must provide a 3-day notice to tenants for lease violations either by hand, posting through the door, or by mail. The Civil Code Section 1940 - 1954.05 is a comprehensive resource for understanding California eviction rules.
  4. Court proceedings: If the tenant does not comply with the written notice to vacate, the property owner can move forward with the court process. They must file an eviction case in the appropriate local court and provide proof that they have given legal notice to the tenant.
  5. Summons: The tenant will then be served with a summons to appear in court, where both parties can present their case.

Property owners should clearly communicate terms and reasons for potential evictions, allowing tenants to rectify situations whenever possible. They must handle evictions with fairness, especially in jurisdictions with just cause eviction laws, ensuring their actions are legally justified and morally sound.

When to consult a landlord-tenant attorney

Property owners should consider consulting a landlord-tenant attorney if they are considering the eviction of one tenant while allowing others to remain. An attorney can guide you on the intricacies of the rental agreement and state and local laws to ensure that your actions are legally sound.

  • Legal clinics: Many communities, such as King County in Washington, offer legal clinics or hotlines where property owners and tenants can receive preliminary advice at no cost.
  • Online information: Trusted legal websites provide articles and FAQs regarding the eviction process. Azibo has a wealth of information covering all aspects of rental property ownership.
  • Legal aid societies: These organizations can offer assistance or referrals for low-income individuals in housing disputes.

By utilizing these resources, both parties can better navigate the complex legal landscape of evictions and protect their respective rights and interests.

Handling individual tenant eviction

In property management, whether a landlord can evict one tenant without impacting others hinges on the lease's specifics, as well as local laws.

For joint tenancies, evicting an individual tenant is challenging, as all tenants are usually treated as a single unit, whereas a tenancy in common may afford more flexibility. Eviction should be a last resort, pursued with legal guidance to ensure compliance with laws and respect for all parties involved.

For tailored advice and resources on managing such situations, visit Azibo, where you can find expert guidance to navigate these complex scenarios. Understanding both landlord and tenant rights in addition to the lease agreement's nuances is key to lawful and ethical property management.

Evicting one tenant FAQs

How do you get someone out of your house that won't leave?

To remove an unwanted roommate or tenant from your house, you must follow the legal eviction process. This typically starts with a written notice, detailing the reason for eviction and allowing the tenant time to rectify the issue or leave voluntarily. If the issue is not resolved, you may need to file a lawsuit and obtain a court order for eviction.

What is it called when someone refuses to leave your property?

When someone refuses to leave your property after being asked to do so, it's often referred to as a holdover situation. In a rental context, this could be a tenant who stays beyond the end of their lease term without the landlord's approval.

How long does it take to evict a tenant in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the eviction process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on various factors such as the type of lease agreement, tenant cooperation, and court scheduling.

Can a landlord evict one tenant and not the other in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, as in most states, whether a landlord can evict one tenant and not another depends on the specifics of the lease agreement and the legal grounds for the eviction. If tenants are on a joint lease, evicting one tenant can be challenging without affecting the others. However, if tenants have separate lease agreements or in cases of severe lease violations by one tenant, it may be possible.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Katie McCann

Katie is a seasoned freelance writer specializing in SEO with a passion for educating others. As she's grown her own site, she's mastered keyword research, content creation, and trend analysis. Leveraging her extensive renting experience, Katie offers unique insights into the rental property sector, producing content that connects with both landlords and tenants. Beyond SEO, her knowledge spans e-commerce and blogging, highlighting her commitment to excellence.

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