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Lease Violations: What are They and What to Look Out For

February 28, 2020

It’s important for both landlords and property managers to have knowledge of what constitutes a lease violation. That’s the case especially if they’re serious enough to warrant an eviction. 

Unfortunately, some lease violations are so small they don’t even register on most landlords’ radars. However, it pays to know whether a tenant is violating the lease. 

Tenants are responsible for thoroughly reading through the lease agreement before signing it. This is in the tenant’s best interest. That’s because it can help them avoid agreeing to lease conditions that they have no intention of complying with. 

Unfortunately, many tenants don't take the time to read through their lease agreements before signing. The result is that they may unwittingly commit a lease violation.

Regardless, landlords and property managers should be well-informed when it comes to lease violations and how to handle them. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together this guide to help you understand what constitutes a lease violation and what to do when it happens. 

What is a Lease Violation?

Even if you thoroughly screen all prospects and do all the work to create an airtight lease, there’s still a chance that a tenant won’t adhere to the terms of the lease. 

Any situation in which the tenant doesn’t comply with the requirements and conditions laid out in your lease agreement is considered a violation of the lease. 

This is true for all lease conditions regardless of their severity. However, it’s up to you as a landlord or property manager to determine what, if any, consequences there will be for a given violation. 

For example, parking in a space designated for another tenant would likely carry a lighter consequence than non-payment of rent. 

Common Lease Violations

It’s only a violation if it’s been written in your current lease agreement. While these are common violations, you must have these terms written in your lease for them to warrant any discipline. Here are some common lease violations:

1. Habitual Late Payment of Rent

Emphasis on habitual! A one-time late rent payment isn’t necessarily grounds for consequences. However, a second, third, or even fourth time is an issue. 

2. Noise Violations

No one likes a noisy neighbor, least of all your other tenants. If you’ve received multiple complaints about a tenant who is repeatedly practicing their drum solo in the wee hours of the night, then you’ll have to step in.

3. Long-Term Guests

It can be difficult to determine the exact moment that a long-term guest becomes a tenant. However, the sooner you do something about it, the better. 

4. Unauthorized Pets (or violation of pet policy)

Regardless of whether you have a no-pet policy or require pet rent, if your tenant has gotten a new pet and not informed you, it’s a violation of the lease. 

5. Unauthorized Renovations and/or Decor

A tenant has the right to decorate their space. However, some changes may be cause for consequences. If a tenant has knocked out a wall, installed new windows, or even changed the locks, you have the right to dole out consequences. 

6. Unsanitary Conditions

If the tenant has not been keeping their unit in a clean and habitable condition, they may cause pests to flock to your property. 

7. Damage to the Property

Any damage that occurs due to use or abuse beyond normal wear-and-tear can cost you big.   

8. Illegal Activities

This goes without saying, but your tenants doing anything illegal on the property is not only against the law, but it’s also a violation that could land you in trouble. 

9. Parking Violations

If your tenant is parking in spots on your property that you’ve reserved for other tenants or having friends over who take up those spaces, it counts as a violation of the lease. 

What Happens If Your Tenant Commits a Lease Violation?

As we stated earlier, how you handle a lease violation is completely at your discretion. 

However, before committing to a one-size-fits-all consequence policy, it’s important to consider the severity and the frequency of the violation. Once you’ve taken these two things into consideration, you can come up with a fair and reasonable consequence. 

Your next step is sending out a “Notice to Quit” or “Eviction Notice” letter to your tenant. These are official documents that are served to tenants in the event they violate the lease and that notify them of the issue and subsequent consequences. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be legally required to serve these letters before moving forward with an eviction.

What to Include in a Lease Violation Notice?

A lease violation notice can serve as evidence that you have complied with the law in an eviction proceeding. Therefore, it's important to ensure that you’re sending out a thorough lease violation notice. 

Here’s what you should include in a lease violation notice to your tenant:

  • The name of all adult tenant(s) who reside in the unit
  • Property address (include exact unit)
  • The date the lease was signed
  • The date the lease violation occurred 
  • The violation and portion of the lease that is being violated
  • The consequences: This is where you’ll provide the tenant with an option to reverse such a violation (Notice to Quit) or begin eviction proceedings (Eviction Letter).

Final Thoughts

Lease violations aren’t fun to deal with. However, they’re relatively common and impossible to completely prevent. 

That said, landlords and property managers should have an in-depth knowledge of what violates a lease. They should also have a set protocol in place for dealing with them.

However, it’s important to ensure that you’re abiding by the terms of your current lease agreement. It’s not a lease violation if it isn’t written in the lease! 

So, it’s important to have a detailed lease. It needs to address all your conditions and expectations within legal limits. 

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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