Landlording & Rental Properties

Can Landlords Legally Evict During the Cold Winter Months?

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties
18 Articles Written

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.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

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?

Related: How to Evict a Tenant: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide

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.

Close-up Of A Person's Hand Holding Eviction Notice In Red Envelope

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. 

Related: My Very Best Real Estate Deal May Not Be What You’d Expect

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 

apartment community outdoor in winter after snow

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!

Aside from being a landlord and real estate investor himself, Nathan founded Rentec Direct, a software company that serves the rental industry. Today he works with over 13,000 landlords and property managers by providing them automation software and education to effectively manage their rentals.

    James Wise Real Estate Broker from Cleveland, OH
    Replied 10 days ago
    I've got no problem throwing savages out in the snow.
    Erik Whiting Real Estate Investor from Springfield, MO
    Replied 10 days ago
    Call me heartless, but they always have the option to move out if they can't pay. In fact, in our lease they agree to do just that. But somehow, I'm the bad guy after they steal 3-4 weeks of rent from me when the sheriff deputy rings the door bell so we can begin the set out. Can't let people steal from you and expect to stay in business. Ironically, I've had folks ask for "more time" (3-4 weeks wasn't enough?!?) when we're at the door with the movers, and when I say "No" about an hour later as we're stacking stuff on the lawn a moving truck shows up. With some people, you must start putting their stuff on the curb to motivate them to take action they should have and COULD have taken a month ago. I'm sure Newton's 4th Law of Land lording figures in here somewhere: "A tenant at rest and not paying rent will stay at rest and not paying rent unless acted upon by a land lord who is sick of being robbed."
    Barry H. Investor from Scottsdale, AZ
    Replied 10 days ago
    Erik Whiting I wholeheartedly concur with your Newton's Law analogy. I am impressed if you can orchestrate an eviction start to finish in under a month. PM me and tell me how that happens!! I am also in MO and I am lucky to get it done in 2-3 months. Often (and I mean 25% of the time in my experience), tenants purposefully stop paying in month 10 of 12, figuring eviction will take 2 months anyway. Still, in these premeditated instances, after 3 months of non-payment and usually $5K or so of damage to the property, I am the bad guy when the sheriffvescorts them out.... the cause of their "unfortunate circumstances," which are 95% of the time self-created. Winter cold? Oh well, if they (tenant) say I am the ice man anyway, might as well complete the drama.
    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied 10 days ago
    I have evicted a family a week prior to Christmas. Family of four with 2 small kids. I did not feel bad at all as they did not pay their rent and caused a medium-level clean-up for me post-eviction. Life lesson for the kids...Don't pay your rent YOU BECOME HOMELESS!!! Some may call me mean-spirited but I run a business and not charity. May all of you in the BP universe have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!
    Wenda Kennedy JD from Nikiski, Alaska
    Replied 10 days ago
    I'm in Alaska and I'm set to file an eviction next week against a man in a wheelchair. Yes, it's winter here. He's spent his tenancy bothering his neighbors -- some of my other tenants. He thinks his disability gives him the right to be a turkey. Even though he's been served, he says he's not leaving. He was telling me that I cannot evict him. I know he'll show up with his unruly dog (he says it's a service dog, I haven't seen any paperwork), in his wheelchair, surrounded by his low life friends. He bragged about his plan when I tried to talk to him. I'm going to tell the judge that he must have missed Kindergarten -- he doesn't play nice with the other kids. No, I don't feel bad about evicting him at all. I'll be happy to see him go. And I win my eviction hearings!
    Mark Stedman Investor from Nashua, NH
    Replied 9 days ago
    In reading previous replies I now realize I’m not alone with the stress of eviction. It’s a lose-lose proposition but absolutely necessary, as we operate as “for-profit businesses,” not as charities. I’m now in the process of evicting a woman with a 10 year old son. She is combative and I know she will try everything she can think of to stay in her unit. I fully expect that she will fabricate stories to tell the Judge, as she has already falsely accused me of entering her unit without permission, and accused me of verbal abuse ( when in fact SHE is verbally abusive and has no respect for me as property owner). Anyway, it’s just part of the job I decided to take on, and I try not to take it all too seriously. The best way to avoid eviction is to be VERY careful with tenant screening, etc. I “inherited” the tenant I am now evicting, and each year I become a little smarter. I would rather wait 3-4 months and right a GOOD tenant than to lease a unit to a tenant who I am uneasy about.
    Joanna Dennis from Louisville, Kentucky
    Replied 9 days ago
    In Louisville its a lot harder to evict in December because they will pass cases to January instead of hearing them in December. Many tenants know this and game the system for an extra month rent.
    Thos. A. Real Estate Investor from Outstate, Minnesota
    Replied 9 days ago
    I’ve evicted tenants in 3 states (MN, WI, NM). Though I hear horror stories from some states (CA) and cities (Baltimore, NYC) in general no Eviction should take over 3-4 weeks, FROM THE TIME YOU FILE IN COURT. Though I feel for you, the longer you believe their sob stories and delay the filing, the longer it takes, and the more damages and costs you sustain. But those delays are on you, not the process. Most states have free public records where you can check on tenants. I text him that link (it can even be a national, fee-based service) and say, e.g., “Evictions, which involve the courts and Sheriff, appear online within minutes of filing at www.MNcourts.gov, a free resource used extensively by landlords, employers, and others to check on people. This also becomes part of your permanent public record.” I let them draw their own conclusions from that. Once they’re late 10-14 days, I tell the “I’ll need at least a partial payment by this Friday,” usually half the rent. I’ll let the pay as little as $100 in some cases. But if they can’t (won’t!) pay even that, it means they won’t be catching up. They may have the cash, it’s just not for you. They’re marshaling their resources for the next landlord, planning to ride you for free place as long as you let them continue the sob stories. Don’t fall for it! Cut your losses, and file the papers. Most states will let them stay, if they bring all the back rent, plus court costs, to their court hearing. So if you want to believe them, do so, but call them on it, and file anyway. That’s one way to “trust, but verify.” And always follow up; often a “writ,“ is required, for an extra fee, that will compel the Sheriff to throw them out within a few days, physically if necessary, and allow you to change the locks. Overlook that detail to your own folly!
    Marc Winter Real Estate Broker from Scranton, PA
    Replied 8 days ago
    Hello my fellow BP'ers! Creating and sticking strictly to a policy will save much hesitation. Our policy: rent is due on the 1st with a 5-day 'grace' period. If not in by the 10th of the month, the tenant is served proper notice. The clock starts ticking. It won't stop ticking unless 1. Tenant pays in full, or 2. Tenant leaves before eviction or 3. Tenant is evicted and removed from the property. Notes: We recently had a judge ask us to 'see if all y'all can work out a payment plan'. We told the judge, "the first payment plan--the lease--didn't work. Why would we consider doing another?" A tenant's legal aid lawyer asked us to give the tenant another month and they would pay in full. "Are you sure they will pay in full?" "Yes" "Then you give us the money and they will repay you" "I'm not their friend, relative or a banker!" "Me neither!"
    Jennifer T. Investor from New Orleans, Louisiana
    Replied 8 days ago
    I just so happen to have an eviction hearing on Mon. First business day of Dec. and after the long Thanksgiving weekend. Though, granted, winter in New Orleans is usually mild and is great right now. Do I feel bad about any of that? Nope! I'm only mad at and kicking myself that I let her con me for as long as I did. Long story short, I've been lenient with this tenant (way too lenient). There isn't a doubt in my mind that she could have paid the rent. She just chose not to. She herself even promised and assured me she would and it would be no problem, if I just gave her until Nov. 15th. She didn't pay $1. As far as I'm concerned, she is evicting herself with her bad choices. I can only assume she realizes my patience has run out with her, so she's saving her money to move into the next sucker's place. I don't want to jinx myself, but I don't expect any issues. Even if she shows up. And on Thanksgiving weekend, I give thanks that I live in an area were eviction hearings are scheduled swiftly and the hearings themselves are usually fair and no-nonsense for everyone. Including the landlords and PMs. I've never had one in the winter, but can't imagine that makes any difference here.