Does a tenant’s incarceration voidthe lease?

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2011

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Does a tenant’s incarceration voidthe lease?

I recently rented a house to 2 men. I received a phone call from 1 of the tenants saying that the other had violated his parole, been hiding from his parole officer and had given his house key to his girlfriend and his friends once he was taken back into custody. The tenant who called me was concerned because these people who have his key have used it to get into the house and he does not feel safe. Since both men signed the lease, does this mean the contract is void because 1 of them violated his parole? The tenant who called wants me to take the other off the lease. What can I do?

Asked on June 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Does the lease say that a criminal conviction, criminal activity, fleeing from justice, incarceration, etc. is grounds for terminating tenancy? Some leases do (many public housing leases, for example, have similar terms), and if the lease does, then you may evict the criminal--though the eviction of that person would *not* act to release the other man from the lease. (You could choose to let him out, if you wanted.)

If there is a written lease and it doesn't have a term like that described above, then as long as the man is paying his rent and is not otherwise giving you grounds for eviction (e.g. not willfully destroying your property or threatening your life), you can't evict him. The lease does not care what happens in other parts of this man's life, so long as he obeys the lease; and violating a parole does not, without the appropriate lease term, terminate the lease or tenancy.

If there's no written lease, then this is a month to month tenant, and if you choose, you may give him his one-month's notice that his tenancy is up.

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