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How to Get a Tenant to Move Out Without Evicting Them

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable: one or more of your tenants has to go. Preferably sooner rather than later.

Evicting a tenant is one of the more emotionally draining experiences you’ll have to endure as one of the regular necessities of running a rental property business. Telling tenants to their faces that they have to leave can be understandably anxiety-inducing, and taking the easier way out by issuing a written eviction notice can be just as nerve-wracking.

Photo credit: XiXinXing

Fortunately, there are other ways to get a tenant to move out that can make the process go more smoothly. Check out this rundown of a few alternative methods to learn how to get tenants to move out without evicting them.

How Landlords Can Get Tenants to Move Out Without Evicting Them

Offer an Incentive: Cash for Keys

Offering “cash for keys” allows you to avoid the lengthy eviction process by getting your tenant to move out voluntarily. While this may not be the most immediately appealing of methods for handling tenant turnover, it is definitely one of the more effective means of doing so. It’s going to cost you, but it will very likely prove to be worth it if you need the tenants out of the property as soon as possible.

And it’s as simple as it sounds. Through this method, you’ll be paying your tenants to leave your property, which will allow you to avoid the lengthy eviction process and even help you save money in the long run. Here’s how you can offer “cash for keys” to avoid evicting a tenant:

  1. Explain the situation. Tell your tenant in straightforward terms what the problem is, and explain that they cannot stay on the property any longer.
  2. Describe the consequences. Calmly explain that they will be evicted with necessary force by law enforcement if they remain on the property, and mention that they’ll also be sued for damages.
  3. Offer them a way out. Tell them that, if they leave as soon as possible, they can avoid all of those nasty consequences and even keep their credit. Then, explain that you will give them cash that they can use for a deposit at a new residence.
  4. Finalize. Inspect the property, retrieve the keys from the tenants as they leave, and hand them the cash. Immediately change the locks, and be certain all utility companies involved are satisfied. Return their deposit if applicable.


In some ways, using the “cash for keys” method can be seen as a bribe. But by doing so, you can avoid the stress of involving law enforcement and waiting around as troublesome tenants continue to avoid paying rent or further damaging your property. The sooner they’re out, the quicker you can start collecting rent from more reliable future tenants.

Offer Assistance

Proving yourself to be helpful and understanding while your tenants are being instructed to leave the property can mean the difference between a rocky road and a smooth transition.

If you have access to cheaper rates on moving trucks or cleaning supplies, offer them to your tenants as they prepare to move. If you have your own moving truck, allowing them to use it for free is an even better option for gently nudging your tenants out the door.

As a landlord, you may also have connections to other rental properties in the area. Tell your tenants you can help them find a new place to live. You may even want to provide them with business cards and phone numbers to other property managers and landlords in the area who have comparable price ranges.

During the actual move and prior to your final inspection, you could offer assistance through your trusty onsite maintenance professionals. This may cost you a little extra, but it could all be worth it once you’ve found new tenants for the property.

If you approach your tenants with this more positive, helpful attitude, they’ll feel more comfortable with the idea of leaving and will be more apt to speed up the process. After all, saving yourself from excess grief is never a bad idea.

Proper Communication

Most people like the idea of avoiding conflict and staying in the good graces of their landlords, especially if it means keeping good credit. That’s why calmly (but firmly) explaining the situation can lead to positive results.

If there’s no way for the tenant to stay due to unacceptable behavior on their part or extenuating circumstances beyond your control (i.e. building renovations, change of ownership, etc.), giving a thorough explanation is key. You want there to be no question as to why the tenant must go.

If the situation is more flexible – say, a matter of missing rent or violation of lease policies – there may be a way to reach a new arrangement with the tenant that changes the situation completely.


Try talking to them to better understand their situation. If you find that they can pay again in the future or solve a problem, keeping them around could potentially be a better alternative to evicting them.

To avoid similar situations arising in the future, remember that allowing for open channels of communication between yourself and your tenants at all times is extremely important. Tell them everything they need to know upfront, and remind them occasionally of their responsibilities as tenants if you feel they may grow careless in upholding their end of the bargain.

How Not to Get Tenants to Move Out

When you find yourself desperate to remove tenants from your properties, you may consider some more… extreme measures.

Some landlords make the mistake of attempting to rid themselves of their tenants without respecting lease agreements. Others use self-help eviction methods where they retake possession of a property without using the eviction process.

Avoid using any of the following methods to force a tenant to leave your rental property:

  • Changing the locks while the tenant still lives in the property
  • Removing the tenant’s property
  • Failing to pay included utilities like water, cutting them off
  • Threats of any kind
  • Direct orders to leave

If you do use any of these methods, you could easily find yourself in hot water. A lawsuit is the last thing anyone in business should want to deal with, and any of these could be offenses that could lead to your tenant rightfully suing you and damaging your business.

By treating both your tenants and the laws of the land with respect, you’ll be wisely applying better strategies for tenant turnover, keeping your business (and your sanity) intact

If you’re at your wit’s end with a tenant, use the tips outlined here before you begin the eviction process. Figuring out how to get tenants to move out is just one of the many challenges landlords face, but it’s manageable when you know you’re equipped with all the knowledge you need to make the situation as easy as possible.

If you’ve tried alternate methods and your tenant still won’t move out, you may find that the eviction process is unavoidable. When that happens, consider hiring a seasoned team like Bay Management Group to provide you with eviction services. We have offices providing 24/7 support for property management services in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and surrounding counties in PA and MD.

For more information, contact us today.

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