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lease agreements

Can You Remove Someone From a Lease Without Their Consent?

[Updated: Mar 03, 2021 ] Nov 08, 2020 by Lena Katz
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As renters’ financial situations and personal lives change, landlords and co-tenants alike are often faced with the situation where one person no longer is a good tenant or roommate, and at least one party wants them removed from a lease. But can you remove someone without their consent? Most landlords would say no. But there are definitely ways around this, if a tenant is being completely uncooperative or impossible to track down.

The easiest solution to an absentee or a bad tenant may seem like simply removing someone whether they like it or not. But this is definitely not the case. Thinking about it in terms of the bundle of rights for a piece of property, a lease gives tenants the right of occupancy, and this can’t be simply erased at someone’s whim.

As a roommate, you cannot remove another roommate -- even a former significant other who has moved out -- without their consent.

For landlords, there are still very few situations where it would be advisable to remove someone from a lease without their consent. It makes more sense, in most cases, to terminate the lease with the proper written notice and then draw up a new lease with the remaining tenants – after the landlord has evaluated their ability to pay rent, of course.

This termination can only be done if the terms of the lease have been violated, such as unpaid rent or one tenant has shown signs of being dangerous. It would be a by-the-book eviction process, starting with a notice to quit the property (aka eviction notice). The typical deadline for an eviction is 30 days after a notice is filed.

The potential workaround

If a landlord wants to remove one tenant but doesn’t want to put themself or other joint tenants through the potential lingering negative credit implications of an eviction, they may be able to do a lease addendum or lease amendment to remove a tenant. However, these do typically require that at some point the departing former tenant signs the document. So, if the former tenant isn’t completely in agreement about the arrangement, you may have issues getting them to comply. However, the alternative of having an eviction and other legal black marks on their record might just convince them to sign.

The wild card: holdover tenants

Perhaps you’re reading this because you have a tenant who refuses to vacate the property even though their lease has ended and you want them out. In that case, the solution is simply to quit accepting their rent payments, and then begin eviction proceedings.

The easy solution for future planning: individual leases

Because it is very difficult to remove just one person from a lease if they don’t consent and actively participate in the process, many landlords protect themselves and other tenants from the get-go by signing individual leases with each tenant. Depending on the situation, it might to a newbie landlord seem more efficient to have a couple sign a joint lease, or to allow a roommate situation to operate with a master tenant and sub-lessees, but when co-living arrangements go bad -- as they often do -- having individual leases with each tenant is the very best way to keep rent flowing in from everyone except the one party you need to terminate.

The final word

While some landlords have explored lease amendments to remove one person from a lease without doing an eviction, many would not consider such a thing. Eviction, while it leaves lasting damage on the renters’ credit, is safer for the landlord since it allows them to dissolve a nonfunctional agreement and create a new one that includes renters who are in good standing.

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