Does a landlord need a reason for terminating a tenancy? The answer depends on the type of tenancy that exists between the landlord and tenant.
In a tenancy at will, the rental agreement between the landlord and tenant continues until either party chooses to end it. As an agreement “at will”, either party is free to end the tenancy simply by providing adequate notice to the other side. Tenancies at will are generally month-to-month rental agreements, which requires the landlord to provide the tenant with thirty days notice prior to ending the tenancy. The landlord, importantly, does not need to provide the tenant with a reason for terminating the tenancy.
In contrast, a tenancy by lease, where the rental term is fixed by the terms of an agreement, generally requires a reason for terminating the tenancy. Here, the terms of the agreement generally defines the grounds for terminating the tenancy, and the type of notice that the landlord must provide to the tenant. Such an eviction is known as a “for cause” eviction for that reason: the landlord must have a reason for terminating the tenancy. This generally occurs when the tenant has broken one of the terms of the lease. A landlord can also terminate a tenancy by lease for non-payment of rent. Absent one of these reasons, a landlord cannot arbitrarily terminate a lease agreement (unless the agreement provides for this). This is one of the benefits of a lease: a tenant is guaranteed a place to rent for a set period of time.
Regardless of the type of tenancy, there are limitations on the grounds that a landlord can use to terminate a tenancy. A landlord can never discriminate against a tenant on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, or one of the other protected classes of discrimination under state and federal law. Similarly, a landlord can never retaliate (“punish”) a tenant by terminating a lease due to a tenant’s reporting of bad conditions in a rental unit. A landlord who terminates a tenancy for one of these reasons can get into huge trouble, and be liable for large monetary damages.
If you find yourself in a situation involving the termination of a tenancy, contact me for a consultation.