An eviction notice for illegal activity is a letter that is delivered to tenants upon discovering they were involved in, or committed, illegal activity on the rental premises. Evicting a tenant for breaking the law on the premises is dictated by state law, which can require landlords to wait up to fourteen (14) days after delivering the notice to begin formal eviction proceedings.
Note: The states below have laws in place for evicting specifically for illegal activity. For states not included on the list, landlords can use 1) the general template found on this page, or 2) an eviction notice for non-compliance.
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Step 1 – Understand the Signs of Illegal Activity
Landlords can face serious repercussions by permitting illegal activities on their rental property other than potentially lost rent and a damaged unit. Fines, endangerment to other tenants, complaints, and lawsuits are all plausible in the event of a tenant engaging in criminal activities in or near the rental. While tenant applications, interviews, and other screening tools can help to prevent signing a lease with a poor tenant, there’s no way to prevent it completely. Oftentimes, the best defense is having a strong understanding of the signs of criminal activity and taking a fast, unwavering approach to fixing the issue. The following are some of the signs of criminal activity:
- High utility/electricity usage – can be a sign of a tenant growing marijuana, as it requires significant electricity and water usage.
- Increased guests entering and leaving quickly – tenants that are dealing drugs out of the property may have visitors frequent the rental at odd hours of the day.
- Odd odors – the fumes that are produced from manufacturing drugs (not just marijuana) can often be smelled from outside the unit.
- Fighting/yelling – while not all yelling is domestic abuse, it is a common warning sign and can lead to physical altercations.
- Neighbors complaining – often the best clue as to illegal activity is other tenants. Since they are around other tenants more frequently than the landlord, they often notice unusual activity far more frequently. If a tenant complains, take it seriously.
Important note: None of the points above are proof that illegal activity is occurring; it’s only a sign that it could be occurring.
Step 2 – Consult an Attorney
If the landlord truly believes one of their tenants is engaging in illegal activity, an attorney specializing in landlord-tenant law should be contacted. While it isn’t a requirement for landlords experienced in the process, the risk of “messing up” the process for first-timers is real. This is because states require the eviction process to be handled in a very specific way to ensure the rights of the tenant are not violated.
Step 3 – Start Documenting
Save everything related to the tenant’s wrongdoing. Utility records, tenant complaints, emails with the tenant (suspected of wrongdoing), and even photographs can all be used later down the road to prove to a judge that the tenant conducted illegal activity. The police can be contacted to see if the tenant was arrested for the suspected activity. If so, their arrest record can be used to further add weight to the landlord’s claim.
Step 4 – Complete + Serve the Eviction Notice
Download a state-specific template (or use the standard template) and complete all applicable fields on the form. Once completed, the form can be delivered to the tenant. For states that don’t have statutes relating to evicting for illegal activity, the laws pertaining to non-compliance should be referenced. Additionally, many states require landlords to deliver the notice in a way that proves the notice was delivered on a certain date (typically through certified mail).
Can a Landlord Give Consent for Police to Search a Rental?
No. Tenants are protected in very similar ways to homeowners in that a search warrant would need to be obtained prior to having the police conduct a search. A search warrant is a document that is signed by a judge giving the police permission to enter a specific rental unit/property. A judge will only sign the warrant if there is probable cause that criminal activity is occurring in the property (or there are items in the property believed to be linked to a crime). Tenants should keep in mind that fellow roommates can give police consent to search the rental, although the police wouldn’t be able to search another roommate’s room if consent wasn’t given.
Does a Tenant’s Arrest Automatically Evict Them?
No. A tenant being arrested is a different situation altogether. While this is a valid reason for eviction, a landlord still has to go through the entire eviction process as before. Why? State and Federal laws preserve a tenant’s right to live in a property.
Download the Notice
Step 1 – Addressing the Notice
The top of the form is for specifying who the notice is for. Enter the following:
- The name of the tenant(s) caught doing the illegal activity;
- The address of the rental unit (including city, state, and ZIP); and
- The date (mm/dd/yyyy) the landlord is filling out the notice.
Step 2 – Description of Illegal Activity
In the box provided, describe the illegal activity(s) that the tenant(s) are accused of doing in the rental unit. The landlord should be as descriptive as possible to avoid the eviction being thrown out in court.
Step 3 – Termination Date & Signature
Below the text box, enter the following:
- State the property is located in;
- Date of lease termination;
- Time of lease termination (select whether the time is AM or PM);
- Number (#) of days the tenant has to move-out after receiving the notice.
Step 4 – Landlord’s Record of Service
The record of service is supplemental to the notice and is used for proving that the landlord took the necessary steps to ensure the tenant(s) were informed of the notice. Of the three (3) options provided, the bottom-most option is recommended, as it can be proved more easily than the other options. If the notice is delivered in-person to the tenant or someone that is living/staying in the rental (that is not on the lease), the landlord should have them sign and print their name at the bottom of the form.