What to Do When a Tenant Isn’t Paying Rent and Refuses to Vacate?

Posted By: Aaron DiCaprio Management ,

Normally, it’s a great thing when your tenant wants to stay at your property. However, if the lease has ended or has been broken, no new lease has been signed, and, worst of all, the tenant isn’t paying any rent, you have a major problem on your hands, and it is one that will only grow with each passing day that the tenant does not vacate the property.

Ideally, a strongly-worded email will be enough to get the tenant to vacate the property with no further cost or drama. Unfortunately, that likely will not be the case. Continuing to lose rent money while this tenant occupies a property that could hold a paying tenant is not the answer nor is it what you want. Consider the following strategies for dealing with this situation.

1. Look at the lease.

A thorough, well-crafted lease agreement is likely to have a clause related to refusal to vacate or a similar situation. If the tenant is maintaining residency without paying rent, that will almost certainly be a violation of the lease agreement and could be sufficient enough to initiate eviction procedures.

2. Keep all communications documented.

As you prepare to initiate eviction procedures, it is crucial that all communications between you and the candidate take place electronically, or through any other method that allows for documentation. In the event that this situation escalates beyond a dispute to a legal matter, it will be helpful to your case if you have a recorded history of reasonable communications with the tenant, particularly if you have evidence to back up your claims (such as photographs or information from the lease agreement).

3. Provide the necessary notices.

Before you can formally evict a tenant, you will need to provide them with notice, either with cause or without cause. If you are evicting with cause, there are three main types of notice:

  • 14 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate – This notice is used when the tenant is in violation of their lease due to a failure to pay rent.
  • 10 Day Comply or Vacate Notice – This is the notice to provide when the tenant violates the lease in another manner. This notice and the previous one both provide a short period of time to address the issue before eviction procedures begin.
  • Termination of Tenancy Notice – Unlike the previous two, this notice calls for the tenant to vacate the property with at least 20 days' notice (be aware, some Washington cities require "Just Cause" be met for terminating a month-to-month agreement).

However, should the tenant continue to occupy the residence even after service of a notice (or several) and a failure to comply, it is time to begin an eviction.

4. Know your state’s laws.

Depending on where your property is located, the legal guidelines for eviction procedures will differ. Do not act without knowing what you legally can and cannot do in your state. Something that is innocuous in one state could be a violation in another.

5. Evicting the tenant.

If you've filed a notice for the tenant to vacate and they have not done so within the specific timeframe, it’s time to file with your local courts. This may not automatically be granted to you; there is a chance that you will have to go to court with the tenant and a judge. Should it come to a trial, it's crucial that you have thoroughly documented communications with the tenant and evidence of their violations.

A court-ordered eviction will solve one of your big problems, but you won’t be out of the woods yet. What about all of those months of rental income that you lost out on? Even if the judge awards you a monetary judgment, that doesn’t mean that you will receive a return on all lost rent and income. Fortunately, there is another way you can be reimbursed.

Rent Default Insurance

In the event that one of your tenants does default on his or her rent, Rent Default Insurance is here to reimburse you for loss of rental income in the event of a defaulting tenant. Interested in learning more? Contact us or apply for an instant quote today!


Rent default insurance has been widely available abroad in the United Kingdom and Australia for decades though it’s never really caught on here in the United States until now. Prior to Rent Rescue, rent default had gone largely ignored by the insurance industry.  Instead, landlords have relied on a combination of security deposits and tenant screening to protect their income. Now, landlords here in the US finally have a solution to this headache. For more information, please visit: www.rentrescue.com.