Tenants violate, notice to vacate sent, now not in violation?

2 Replies


I have a weird situation.  My tenants have been in violation of the lease for months by not keeping the backyard clean.  It was so bad the township got after me and I almost got fined and even arrested.  So my property manager sent a notice to vacate/lease termination for Oct. 15th.  The tenants now have claimed to clean up the property.  My PM took pics on Friday and to me the backyard still looks like a mess, but better than about a month ago.

Now my PM is asking our lawyer if we can proceed with eviction even if they have cleaned up, and my tenants are still in the house as of today...I'm pretty pissed she didn't ask him sooner because now we are past the 15th.  The kicker is I took pictures 2 weeks after the deadline of the notice to cease was sent 2 months ago!  So I have them in clear violation.

My question is do my tenants have any grounds to stay on the lease or am I good to evict them?  To me its ridiculous they are even still in the house today because the backyard is still a mess...   

What did your lawyer say? Landlord-tenant law for your jurisdiction applies, so our opinion may or may not be helpful. 

When serving legal notices, its important to serve the proper notice in the proper manner at the proper time. When lease violations first begin, it's best to communicate effectively with the tenant and try to guide them back on track and if necessary serve a notice to "cure or quit" (or the equivalent for your jurisdiction). 

When does the lease end? What are the specific terms of the lease that the tenant is violating? What type of notice did the PM initially serve and did they serve it properly? Do the terms of your lease give you the option to do the yard clean up and hold the tenant accountable for the cost? If not, you may want to consider adding such to your terms of agreement.

We give our tenants specific instructions regarding their responsibility for yard care. If they don't uphold their end, then we take care of it long before it becomes a problem with the city. This is the specific wording in our rental agreement that informs the tenant of what will happen if they don't take care of the landscaping: "If Tenant fails to keep the landscaping in good order and to follow these guidelines, Landlord reserves the right to hire a landscaping service at Tenant’s expense (after a 10-day notice to perform covenant)." 

In our jurisdiction we can serve a no-cause "notice to terminate tenancy" if it comes to the point of not being able to save the tenancy. We prefer month-to-month rental agreements because they allow us greater flexibility and are easier for tenants as well. They allow us to get tenants out sooner when necessary. But we always try to save tenancies first. We strive for great property management, which includes top notch people skills and negotiation strategies. Eviction is a last resort. It's better to negotiate a move-out plan which results in a better outcome for both parties.

As I understand it, in New Jersey (or perhaps in just some jurisdictions) you can't serve a notice to terminate for no cause, so documentation of "cause" is critical, as well as the history of your communications with the tenant and the serving of proper legal notices.

Since the yard is in such disarray, it would behoove you to do an inspection of the interior of the dwelling as well. When was the last time the PM did a comprehensive maintenance inspection of the property? When tenants violate one term of the rental agreement, they often are violating more. Check it out. Entering the dwelling requires the proper legal notice to enter and can be done at any point during a tenancy.

Good luck!

Thanks Marcia.

I'm waiting for the PM to get back to me on what the lawyer said.  Lease ends in Feb., the PM sent a Notice to Cease initially, and they did not comply within the time frame given, I took pictures after the date to comply so I have plenty of documentation for a cause eviction.  That's when my PM sent out the Notice to Terminate by Oct. 15th.  The terms state the tenant is responsible to keep grounds sanitary and clean and if they don't I have the rite to evict as far as I understand it.

Yes the PM really messed up by letting it go to the point of the township getting involved...I plan on getting rid of them once this is resolved...In NJ I also legally have to offer a new lease in February which is crazy IMO.  Thanks.

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