Lease Violations: A Guide + Rental Management Tips for 2023
Landlords and property managers need to know what constitutes a lease violation, especially if they’re severe enough to warrant an eviction. Unfortunately, some lease violations are so minor they don’t even register on most landlords’ radars. However, it pays to know whether a tenant is violating the lease.
Regardless, landlords and property managers should be well informed about lease violations and how to handle them. If you’re unsure 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?
Any situation in which the tenant doesn’t comply with the requirements and conditions in your lease agreement is considered a lease violation.
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. It might be as simple as a lease violation notice with a warning or as severe as a broken lease agreement along with eviction.
6 Common Lease Violations
While these are common violations, you must have these terms written in your lease for them to warrant any discipline. Here are some common ways that tenants breach a lease:
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 fourth time is an issue.
If you find that your tenant has begun to make a habit of paying rent late, it’s time to remind them of your policies.
2. Noise Violations
No one likes a noisy neighbor, least of all your other tenants. If you’ve received multiple complaints about a tenant repeatedly practicing their drum solos in the wee hours of the night, you’ll have to step in.
Every lease agreement should have a portion regarding noise violations. Take the time to speak with your tenant about how these noise violations directly violate the lease agreement they signed before moving in.
3. Long-Term Guests
It can be difficult to determine when a long-term guest becomes a tenant. However, the sooner you do something about it, the better.
Even though some tenants think having long-term guests is harmless, if it’s a part of your policy, you need to enforce it. Make sure you let your tenant know if they violate their lease agreement with any potential long-term guests they may have.
4. Unauthorized Pets (or violation of pet policy)
Whether you have a no-pet policy or require pet rent, if your tenant acquires a new pet and does not inform you, it’s a violation of the lease. Therefore, it is time to issue a pet violation letter to your tenant.
Unauthorized pets can be a complicated offense to manage if you do not allow any pets on the property at all. It’s best to handle the situation sooner than later before it gets out of hand. Don’t forget - your other tenants may be watching closely, and any signs of unfair treatment will surely haunt you later.
5. Unauthorized Renovations and/or Decor
A tenant has the right to decorate their space, though some changes may have consequences. For example, if a tenant knocks out a wall, installs new windows, or even changes the locks, you have the right to dole out consequences.
Whether you require your tenants to get approval from you first or don’t allow any renovations whatsoever, it’s your responsibility to enforce the policies detailed in your lease agreement.
6. Unsanitary Conditions
If the tenant has not been keeping their unit clean and habitable, they may cause pests to flock to your property.
Creating unsanitary conditions creates an unsafe living environment for the rest of your tenants and surrounding neighbors. Ultimately, this puts you in a bad position, so you need to handle it immediately.
7. Damage to the Property
Any damage that occurs due to use or abuse beyond normal wear-and-tear can cost you big.
If you believe your tenant has caused damage to the property, you need to address it with them. They need to understand this type of behavior is not allowed, and they will be responsible for covering any costs associated with the damages (as much as local laws allow).
8. Illegal Activities
Not only is illegal activity on the property against the law, but it’s also a violation that could land you in trouble.
Illegal activities put you, as a landlord, in jeopardy. To avoid any potential legal concerns, you need to put an end to any illegal activities right away.
9. Parking Violations
If your tenant is parking in spots on your property that you’ve reserved for other tenants or having friends who take up those spaces, it violates the lease.
Parking violations can be as simple as a nuisance and taking another tenant's spot or as severe as an illegal concern, like parking in an emergency vehicle lane. Avoid any legal mishaps by addressing any parking violations, big or small.
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 essential to consider the severity and the frequency of the violation. Once you’ve considered these two things, you can devise a fair and reasonable consequence.
Your next step is sending out a “Notice to Quit” or “Eviction Notice” letter to your tenant. If tenants violate the lease, these official documents are served to 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 prove that you have complied with the law in an eviction proceeding. Therefore, it's important to ensure you send 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).
Unfortunately, lease violations are relatively common and impossible to prevent completely.
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 within legal limits.