Is Non-Renewal of Lease the Same as Eviction? 9 Insights

Discover the differences between lease non-renewals and evictions, including valid reasons for pursuing each, the processes, and the impacts on both tenants and landlords.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
January 24, 2024
Is Non-Renewal of Lease the Same as Eviction? 9 Insights

If you're a tenant, you might wonder whether your landlord has the legal right to decline lease renewal when the term ends. On the other hand, as a landlord, you may have legitimate reasons for choosing not to renew the lease of a troublesome tenant upon its expiration.

So, what exactly is the difference between simply not renewing the lease versus pursuing a formal eviction?

While both can end a tenancy, the specific processes, notices required, and guidelines for tenants and landlords differ significantly. With a non-renewal, the landlord allows an existing lease to expire at the end of its natural term and does not seek a new term even if the tenant wants to stay. Eviction refers to prematurely terminating a lease mid-term and removing a tenant against their will due to lease violations.

This guide will provide details on the key differences between non-renewals and evictions, including the specific processes involved, notices required, and implications of each.

What is eviction?

Eviction is a formal legal process where a landlord pursues the removal of a tenant from a rental property. Landlords typically initiate this process against tenants who:

  • Fail to pay rent.
  • Damage the rental property.
  • Disturb other tenants.
  • Violate the rental agreement.
  • Use the property illegally.

Legal steps in the eviction process

To successfully carry out an eviction, landlords must follow these protocols as required by the law:

  1. Eviction notice: Landlords must provide tenants with a written eviction notice, sometimes referred to as a "notice to quit". This notice must detail the reason for eviction (unpaid rent, lease violations, etc.) and give the tenant a legally-specified period to either rectify the issue or vacate the premises.
  2. Court proceedings: If the tenant fails to comply with the eviction notice, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This leads to a court hearing where both parties can present their case.
  3. Enforcement of eviction: Should the court rule in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession is issued, and law enforcement may be involved to ensure the tenant vacates the property.

What is non-renewal?

Non-renewal refers to a situation where the landlord decides not to renew a tenant's lease at the end of the current lease term. In these circumstances, the landlord must provide the tenant with proper advance notice that the lease will not have the option for renewal.

Reasons for non-renewal

Landlords can decide not to renew leases for a wide variety of reasons, but they don't always have to share their reasons with the tenant.

However, some tenant behaviors drastically increase the possibility of a lease non-renewal. Knowing what's motivating a non-renewal can help tenants play their cards right during tenancy to boost renewal chances.

Some of the reasons why landlords decide not to renew a lease include:

  • The tenant frequently pays rent late and the landlord wants to find a better tenant who will pay on time.
  • The landlord wants to increase the rent significantly and find new tenants that qualify for the increased amount.
  • The landlord has received complaints about the tenant from neighbors.
  • The landlord wants to upgrade the unit before re-renting.
  • The landlord plans to sell the property.

The non-renewal notice

If a landlord chooses not to renew a lease, they should send a tenant a written notice of non-renewal at least 30 days prior to the end of the lease term. Though 30 days is the national minimum, certain states require a longer notice period of 60, 90, or even 120 days before the lease renewal date.

Non-renewal notices should include the following information:

  • The landlord will not renew the lease beyond the current term.
  • The date the tenancy will legally end.
  • That the tenant must fully vacate by the end date.
  • References to the governing lease provisions including details of security deposit return.
  • The landlord and tenant's signatures acknowledging receipt of the notice.

Non-renewal process

A non-renewal is usually a smooth process when the tenant leaves on time. If, for some reason, the tenant tries to stay past their lease expiration date, the property owner may pursue an eviction.

The process for not renewing a lease is much simpler than a full eviction and includes:

  1. The landlord will let the tenant know in writing that they will not renew the lease at the end of the current term. This must be done far enough in advance to comply with state laws — generally 30-90 days.
  2. The notice includes a specific date by which the tenant must vacate the rental property, usually on the day that the lease term ends.
  3. If the tenant stays past the date given in the notice, they'll enter holdover tenant status, as they are illegally occupying the property. At this point, the landlord can initiate formal eviction proceedings to remove the tenant.
  4. If the tenant leaves the property by the required date, the landlord does not need to take any further action. As long as the tenant gives proper notice, it's enough just to let the lease agreement end naturally.

Eviction vs. non-renewal of lease: The 9 distinctions

Both non-renewal and eviction end a tenant's lease, but in very different ways. Let's cover how each one concludes the rental agreement and what's involved in the lease termination process:

1. Reason for lease termination

  • Non-renewal: The landlord decides not to renew when the current lease expires, even if the tenant paid rent on time, didn't damage property, and followed the rules. The landlord might have other goals in mind for the property, such as renovating or leasing it to a friend.
  • Eviction: In an eviction scenario, the tenant has breached major provisions of the lease agreement, such as non-payment of rent, permitting unauthorized occupants, causing excessive noise, or damaging the property.

2. Tenant behavior

  • Non-renewal: Rather than a reflection of the tenant's behavior, a landlord may choose not to renew a lease for personal or business reasons when the lease term comes to an end.
  • Eviction: Landlords use this formal process for tenants who demonstrate severe lease violations.

3. Disclosing the reason

  • Non-renewal: The decision on whether or not to renew a lease is at the landlord's discretion, so long as they provide proper notice to the tenant. Legally, property managers can refuse to renew for any reason they choose, and the property owner doesn't need to provide justification for the non-renewal.
  • Eviction: An eviction can only happen when the tenant commits major violations that breach the lease agreement. A property manager can't evict a tenant in the middle of their lease without proper cause.

4. Impact on tenant

  • Non-renewal: The lease expires at the end of the agreed-upon lease term, with no negative impact on the tenant's rental record. This is a completion of the full lease term rather than a forced early termination.
  • Eviction: An eviction goes on the tenant's official rental record, negatively impacting their ability to secure housing in the future.

5. Providing notice

  • Non-renewal: The landlord needs to provide a non-renewal notice to tenants before the fixed term lease officially ends. The property owner sends the lease non-renewal letter by certified mail and includes details on the end of the lease. The amount of notice the landlord is required to give depends on local laws and regulations.
  • Eviction: Requires the landlord to serve proper written notice, per state law, informing tenants of their violations. They must include a timeline to remedy issues before property management initiates court eviction proceedings.

6. Legal court proceedings

  • Non-renewal: Does not require any formal legal filings as long as property management provides a notice of non-renewal according to local law.
  • Eviction: The property management company must first serve the appropriate notice. If issues remain unresolved, they must file an official summons and complaint to the court. Property management then needs to prove breach of the fixed term lease conditions in front of a judge, after which a court judgment will be made.

7. Tenant removal

  • Non-renewal: If a tenant refuses to leave after the lease expires despite written notice, the landlord has no authority in forcing a removal. In this situation, property management must initiate formal court eviction proceedings.
  • Eviction: In an eviction scenario, if a tenant still will not leave the rental property after receiving a court-ordered judgment, law enforcement officials can intervene to remove the tenant and their possessions from the unit.

8. Rental payments

  • Non-renewal: In a non-renewal situation, tenants are still legally obligated to pay rent through the remainder of the existing lease term, despite having been notified the lease agreement will terminate at the end of that term. Non-renewal notices do not relieve the tenant of owing rental payments per the contract through lease expiration.
  • Eviction: An eviction immediately ends a tenant's duty to remit rent from that point forward by prematurely terminating the lease obligations. An eviction judgment formally severs the tenant's responsibilities for ongoing rent when the eviction goes into legal effect.

9. Lease status

  • Non-renewal: Allows the rental agreement to run its full course and expire naturally on its predetermined end date specified in the contract once the landlord provides formal non renewal notice.
  • Eviction: Abruptly terminates the rental contract before reaching the intended end date outlined in the active lease.

Is not renewing a lease the same as eviction?

When it comes to ending a rental agreement, landlords have two main options: not renewing the lease or pursuing formal eviction. While both result in the tenant vacating the property, the implications and processes involved are quite different.

With the non-renewal process, the landlord allows the lease to expire naturally with proper advance notice, avoiding legal complexities, as long as the tenant complies. Eviction forcibly removes tenants mid-lease for violations through court orders and impacts their rental histories.

Being aware of these two lease termination approaches provides the knowledge for landlords and renters alike to make sound decisions when tenancy issues arise.

Is non renewal of lease the same as eviction? FAQs

How do you write a letter stating that you will not be renewing your lease?

To write a non-renewal letter, clearly state your intention not to renew the lease, mention the lease's end date, include the property address, and adhere to any notice period required by your lease or state law. Sign and date the letter, and deliver it to your landlord according to the lease's terms.

Can a landlord terminate a lease early for reasons not stated in the lease agreement?

Generally, no — a landlord cannot terminate a fixed-term lease before it expires for reasons not already stated in the lease agreement. An exception could be made in special circumstances, like the unit becoming uninhabitable.

The lease is a binding contract for the set term. A landlord can only terminate it early if a tenant violates terms or as otherwise allowed by law.

Can a landlord increase rent as a reason for non-renewal?

Yes, a landlord can increase the rent when a lease expires and use the increased rent as justification for not renewing the existing lease.

Landlords are typically allowed to raise rents at the end of a lease term as long as they give proper notice. The tenant can choose to agree to the higher rent or the landlord can decline to renew.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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