A tenant holding over can be a scary and frustrating situation for property owners. So, when a lease expires and the tenant refuses to vacate, what is a landlord to do? It is critical to remember that even though the tenant is no longer under the lease, they still have rights. Thus, meaning the landlord cannot simply force them out. Join us below as we discover what defines a tenant holding over and, more importantly, what you can do to reclaim your property.
What is a Holdover Tenant?
The term “holdover tenant” refers to a tenant who does not vacate at the end of the lease term and instead stays in the property without the owner’s consent. That said, the tenant can remain in the home without a lease unless the landlord begins formal actions to remove them. Therefore, the “holdover period” begins when the lease expires and ends once the tenant is asked to leave through a written notice.
What Can Landlords Do with a Tenant Holding Over?
Dealing with a holdover tenant can be a complex issue and very frustrating for landlords and property managers in Northern Virginia. However, it is important to understand the rights holdover tenants have. Then, property owners can take the necessary steps to reclaim control of their rental. Let’s review the options landlords have to deal with a holdover tenant below.
Option 1 – Evict the Tenant
Many landlords choose to formally evict the tenant to regain control of your property from a tenant holding over. Especially if the tenant is a problem resident who has damaged the property or not paid rent on time or in full. However, landlords must never attempt a self-help eviction to remove the resident. That means you cannot forcibly remove the tenant or threaten them in any way. This is illegal and could result in the landlord being liable! Instead, stick to the legal eviction process, which we will discuss in more detail later.
Option 2 – Let the Tenant Stay Month-to-Month
In some cases, dealing with a vacancy and re-renting the unit is worse than having a tenant holding over remain in the home. That said, no one should remain in the home without a lease agreement. So, instead of evicting the tenant, open the lines of communication and offer them a month-to-month lease option.
Providing the tenant holding over is still paying rent, this is a great option to protect both parties with a signed agreement. Then, if the landlord wants the tenant out at a later date, they can issue proper notice per the lease and adhere to a legal process.
Option 3 – Sue for Damages
If the tenant holding over has finally vacated but left you holding the bag for lost rent or damages, landlords still have recourse. Landlords can withhold the security deposit to cover damages and pursue the tenant in small claims court for lost rent or excessive damage costs. In fact, even if the tenant does not vacate, property owners can still pursue legal action to be made whole for the expenses caused by a tenant holding over. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant law in your area to discuss your options.
How to Evict a Tenant Holding Over
Sometimes the only way to handle a tenant holding over is to evict them from the premises formally. Doing so involves a legal process through the courts along with several steps landlords must complete. That said, each state or jurisdiction may have its own requirements for issuing notice to a holdover tenant. So, landlords must review local requirements to ensure proper compliance. Failing to do so could prolong or hinder the outcome of your eviction case. Let’s review the steps to eviction below –
- Issue Notice to the Tenant Holding Over
- File an Unlawful Detainer Summons
- Gather Documents and Appear in Court
- Eviction – Writ of Possession Granted
Issue Notice to the Tenant Holding Over
The first step to any eviction process is to send a certified notice to the tenants. Thereby informing them of your intent as the property owner to file eviction proceedings against them. In Virginia, a landlord must give the tenants 5 days to pay rent and sign a new lease or leave. That said, if the tenants are engaging in criminal activity or any actions that threaten the health or safety of others, landlords in Virginia can go straight to court.
File an Unlawful Detainer Summons
After notice is sent, the tenant may decide to move out. However, if they do not, the landlord needs to file for unlawful detainer. Once the court accepts the paperwork and filing, they will schedule a court appearance. This is an opportunity for both the landlord and the tenant to plead their case in front of a judge.
Gather Documents and Appear in Court
To regain control of the premises and remove the tenant, the landlord must present documentation to the courts. While the tenant has an opportunity to argue against you, documentation helps to prove your case. So, ensure you have a copy of the signed and expired lease agreement along with accounting records to show they have not been paying rent. Additionally, bring along any of the following that may prove relevant –
- Photographic or Video Evidence of Any Damage
- Copies of All Email or Text Communications
- Proof of Notice Delivery
Eviction – Writ of Possession Granted
If a landlord prevails, it means they have won an unlawful detainer action. Often, this is enough for the tenant to vacate the property. The next step in the process is to file a writ of possession if the tenant still does not vacate after the appeals period. Thus, allowing the owner to pursue lawful removal of the tenant through the local sheriff’s office. Then, the Sheriff will schedule a physical eviction within 30 days to remove the tenant from the rental property.
Understanding the Rights of a Holdover Tenant
A tenant holding over in your rental property can be a frustrating and scary experience. Despite the lease expiring, landlords need to realize the tenant still has some basic rights. That said, failing to respect or comply with these rights could land the property owner in court or be found liable for wrongful eviction. So, review these rights that tenants still retain during the holdover period.
Holdover Tenants have the Right to the Following –
- Safe and Habitable Premises
- Working Utilities
- Ability to File Health and Safety Complaints
- Adequate Notice of Entry from the Landlord (typically 24 to 48 hours)
Protect Your Investment with Professional Property Management
Handling a tenant holding over is a process that requires landlords to be vigilant in following all local and state laws. Savvy and problem tenants may look for any inconsistency that can help them prolong the process. In turn, costing the landlord even more money and aggravation. However, there is a better solution to ensuring your rental stays legally compliant and all landlord-tenant communications remain professional – professional property management.
Bay Property Management Group has dedicated property managers in Arlington and throughout Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Central Maryland, and Southern PA to assist owners with all of their rental investment needs. Our experienced team guides owners through the eviction process if needed while adhering to all local requirements. In addition, we provide comprehensive marketing, leasing, accounting, and management services. Give us a call today for a no-obligation rental home analysis and see what Bay Property Management Group can do for you.