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Landlords: How to Handle Tenants Without a Lease
When you have a tenant without a written lease, enforcement of your rights as a landlord can be more difficult. That said, there are laws that protect landlords and a provider lawyer from LegalShield can help you get the best possible outcome.
Landlord's Must Follow State and Federal Security Deposit Laws
The best approach to resolving a common legal issues, such as failure to pay rent, may depend on how the legal relationship developed. Here are the most common scenarios.
- You allowed a tenant to move in on a month-to-month basis after a verbal agreement
- You purchased a property with a tenant already in place and did not sign a new lease
- Your written lease ended and the tenant has not left
- Your tenant allowed a friend/roommate to start living in your rental unit without signing a lease
Now, let’s look at how not having an active, written lease impacts your approach to resolving common legal issues.
Are Verbal Leases Enforceable?
If you are having a legal issue with a tenant that is occupying your property under a verbal lease, before you decide on the best course of action, you first need to determine if the oral agreement would be enforceable in a court of law.
So, are verbal leases enforceable? The short answer is that it depends.
Most oral contracts are legally binding on the parties and that includes rental property leases, if the lease meets certain criteria. Generally, oral leases are enforceable if they are for less than a year and you can prove the existence of the agreement. Problems tend to arise when you try to explain to a court exactly what the terms and conditions of the verbal contract were and have no written documentation.
Statute of Frauds laws in most states make verbal leases for more than a year unenforceable. That said, the doctrine of partial performance, which states that if the parties start performing under the oral agreement by, for example, paying and accepting rent, may turn a lease that is not allowed under the Statute of Frauds into a legally enforceable contract.
If you’re unsure about the legality of your agreement, it’s best to consult with a lawyer that knows the laws in your state.
Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant Without a Written Lease?
The short answer is yes, but it’s more complicated when there is no written lease in place.
As with all evictions, landlords must provide proper notice to quit before they begin a formal eviction process. To be enforceable in a court of law, the notice must meet a variety of legal requirements depending on the state, the nature of the tenancy and actions taken by both parties.
To determine notice requirements, you’ll want to determine the type of tenancy you’re dealing with.
A tenant that has permission from a landlord to occupy a property without a formal lease is considered a “tenant-at-will.” Tenancy-at-will is governed by state law and may also be called a month-to-month lease.
A tenant that originally entered the property under a written lease but has stayed after the lease expired is considered a holdover tenancy. A holdover tenancy can convert to a tenancy-at-will if the landlord accepts rent payments.
Once you’re clear about the nature of the tenancy, you’ll need to follow state law regarding how much time you must give the tenant, how you must serve the notice and several other critical considerations.
If you join LegalShield, you can download lawyer-drafted documents to begin the process. Then, after you fill out the templates, you can submit them to your provider lawyer for feedback. This way you’ll be sure the approach your taking is appropriate for your specific situation, that the documents follow the law that and that you’d be successful should the dispute end up in court.