The cold winter months are well on their way. In fact, many parts of the country are already covered in snow. Unfortunately, winter weather doesn’t mean landlords won’t have to deal with less than desirable tenants.
If you have a tenant who is not paying rent, violating lease terms, or displaying other eviction-worthy behavior, it might be time to serve them with an eviction notice. But how are laws and landlord rights affected if you live in a state that experiences cold or snowy winter weather?
Are Winter Evictions Illegal?
If you are ready to evict a tenant, you need to complete the process as quickly as possible and get your property ready to rent for the next lease. Even one month of generating no income on your rental property or paying for damages inflicted by a previous tenant can negatively affect your investment.
If this timeframe happens to coincide with the cold winter months, you may be wondering if your rights will be affected. So, are winter evictions illegal? The short answer is no.
As long as you follow the correct legal eviction process and are careful to handle all steps delicately, you can legally evict a tenant at any time of the year.
The first national data surrounding evictions in the United States showed about 2.3 million people were evicted in a single year, which equates to about 6,300 people a day. These evictions are happening every day of the year—no matter the weather outside.
Some countries, like France, have prohibited the removal of tenants from their homes in extremely cold weather, but that’s not the case in America. There are a few states, including Illinois and Maryland, that will postpone evictions when temperatures are below freezing and during the holidays, but these places are the exception to the rule.
What Would Make an Eviction Illegal?
While outside temperatures and weather might not stop an eviction, there are some major red flags that could cause an eviction to be considered illegal.
It is very important that you consult your local and state laws and speak with an attorney anytime you are considering evicting a tenant. There are detailed requirements outlined in eviction procedures that require formal notices and other termination policies.
Even if you have an irresponsible and rule-breaking tenant, the following actions would constitute an illegal eviction (no matter the time of year):
- Changing the locks on the property
- Harassing or threatening the tenant
- Shutting off the utilities in an effort to force the tenant out
- Hiring a moving service to remove all tenant belongings
- Evicting tenants for a discriminatory or retaliation-related reason
- Evicting a tenant who stopped paying rent because the property is uninhabitable
Do Renters Have Any Special Rights During the Winter?
Renters always have basic tenant rights that landlords must respect. Even if an eviction is in process, landlords must wait for the legal proceedings to unfold and cannot take the laws into their own hands. If you have sent proper notice and filed for eviction, you still need to continue to follow the terms of your lease until you hear otherwise from the courts.
This includes providing water, gas, and/or electricity if these are specified in the lease agreement.
No matter what the time of year, always be sure to keep good records and proper documentation on all of your tenants, especially if they have started to miss rental payments or break other lease terms repeatedly. Keep track of all missed payments, unpaid fees, and lease violations. You should also document any conversations you have with your tenant in regard to the unacceptable behavior.
It might seem unsympathetic to evict a tenant when the weather is less than desirable, but you do have rights as a rental property owner. Plus, you are still responsible for your mortgage, property taxes, and other bills that need to be paid each month. If you’re considering evicting a tenant, be sure to stick to your lease agreement and follow your local and state laws regarding the proper eviction process.
Would you evict a tenant during the cold winter months? Why or why not?
Discuss below in the comment section!