If a tenant's home or yard is in bad shape due to neglect or bad housekeeping, you have two choices. If you want to keep the tenant, send a polite letter or email that describes the problem and asks him to address it. If you are willing to evict the tenant, check your area's landlord-tenant law. In many places, you can't file an eviction until after you've sent the tenant a "cure or quit notice," a document that warns the tenant that you plan to evict him unless he cleans up the mess by a specific date.
Send a General Request to Clean the Rental
Explain at the beginning of your letter that you want to address an issue so that you and the tenant can continue to have a good relationship.
Describe the conditions that require attention. For example, if the grass hasn't been mowed or there is trash piling up in the yard, state this. The tenant will do a better job of cleaning up if he knows what he needs to do.
Offer options. Explain to your tenant that if he is unable to handle the cleaning himself, you are willing to hire a landscaper, junk-hauling service or cleaning service at your tenant's expense.
Set a reasonable deadline. Tell the tenant that you want the cleaning completed by a specific date and that you'll be over on that date to inspect the premises. Ask the tenant to contact you if that date doesn't work for him.
Send a Cure or Quit Notice
Research eviction law in your state and municipality. State and local laws define how much time you must give the tenant to correct a lease violation before you can file an eviction case. In Alabama, tenants get 14 days to address an issue. Tenants in New Mexico only get seven days.
Write a cure or quit letter. Follow landlord-tenant law for your area when composing this letter. According to Nolo.com, states may specify the language that you use in the letter, as well as type size. Talk to your lawyer if you need help writing a quit notice. Legal document firms often sell quit letter templates that you can use. These letters usually describe the problem, ask the tenant to resolve it and set a deadline for completion. Cure or quit notices also ask the tenant to leave the premises if the tenant doesn't plan to comply with your requests.
Deliver the notice in accordance with state and local laws. In California, a landlord or her representative must attempt to hand the notice directly to the tenant. Only if personal service isn't possible can the California landlord leave the notice on the tenant's door and then follow up by sending a copy in the mail. In Massachusetts, a landlord has several options and can choose to send the notice via first-class mail without attempting in-person service.
Record the time and day of service. You'll need this information if you eventually have to ask a judge to evict your tenant.
If you end up evicting your tenant because of her refusal to clean up the rental unit, prepare for additional expenses after she moves out. You may need to hire professionals to clean the unit and make repairs. If the tenant leaves personal property behind, your state's landlord-tenant law may require you to store it for a period of time.
- Nolo: State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease
- Nolo: Terminating a Rental Agreement or Lease for Cause
- Nolo: Notice To Quit
- MassLegalHelp: Receiving Proper Notice
- California Courts: Guide for Landlords
- Landlordology.com: How to Handle Dirty Tenants
- Nolo: Handling a Tenant's Abandoned Property: Legal Notice Requirements