Eviction is the worst part of being a landlord. If you’re lucky and choose your tenants carefully, it isn’t something you’ll have to deal with. However, when the situation does arise, it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing. Evictions can take time and are costly (they can quickly add up to thousands of dollars for the landlord), making it important to go through with an eviction legally.

There have been landlords who have tried to go the “self-help” route of eviction (locking the tenant out of the building or shutting down essential utilities) have found that it only makes things worse for all parties involved. And while legal evictions can be expensive, self-help evictions will end up costing you even more. But before you need to go through the formal eviction process, you need a legal reason to evict your tenant.

Late Rent

Late payment or failure to pay is probably the most common reason tenants are evicted. It is also one of the least egregious reasons to evict a tenant. However, evicting someone for late rent is often a case by case scenario. Many cities and counties have buffer periods for late rent; or you might have a penalty for late rent laid out in your lease. There may be an instance when a good tenant who usually pays rent on time happens to be late. You need to decide for yourself if a late payment is reason to evict, but if a tenant is habitually late or fails to make the payment altogether, it’s definitely time to move the eviction process forward.

Lease Violation

If a tenant violates a lease clause, you have legal reason to evict. However, with many lease violations, the tenant can have the opportunity to correct the problem within a certain amount of time. Lease violations can include but are not limited to: unauthorized pets, unnamed tenants living in the unit, and excessive noise complaints. Depending on the situation, you can decide how you want to precede. You as the landlord need to determine whether the violation was an innocent mistake or a serious breach of contract. A common practice for first violations is to give the tenant a warning of what is to come if the violation becomes a reoccurring practice.

Illegal Use of Property

The illegal use of property goes beyond the average lease violation. This can be using the property for a business—legal or illegal—which it was not zoned for. Regardless of whether the business appears to be harmless (like using the garage as a hair salon) or criminal, it’s important to evict a tenant who is using the property illegally. By doing this, the tenant is creating liability for both themselves and you through health and safety violations and possible customer damages. Depending on your state and county laws, you can terminate a lease and give your tenant as little as 24 hours’ notice for drug or crime related activity.

Property Damage

Most property damage done by tenants is not malicious, but simply done without thinking. Damage can be done by tenants who try to install features like hot tubs without considering the structure of the building. Properties that have amenities like pools that require a certain amount of upkeep can quickly turn into irreparable property damage if they are not maintained properly. Like with most situations, you, as the landlord, will need to determine if the damage was done willfully or not.

Lease Expiration

Even if a tenant always paid rent on time and never called in and complained to you about something going on with the property, it may be time for them to go. If the lease has naturally expired or has been terminations with proper notice then they no longer have the right to stay in the property. If they continue to stay, then you have a squatter and it’s time to evict.

These are not the only legal reasons to evict a tenant, but some of the most common reasons landlords have evicted tenants. Once you have a legal reason to evict, you will need to terminate the lease and give your tenant proper notice. If the tenant fails to leave, then you will need to proceed through the court system. Check the law in your state or county to make sure you follow the formal process of eviction.