What can I do about tenants who are not doing what they are supposed to around the property and who have not paid the electric bill?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can I do about tenants who are not doing what they are supposed to around the property and who have not paid the electric bill?

Approximately 5 years ago I remarried and moved to another state. I asked some friend of ours (a couple and the wife’s mother) to move in with my son to help him with the 70-acre farm and a few cows. The rent was not cash but simply to help keep up repairs on the farm (fencing, etc.). The only rule I made was no smoking in the house. Nothing was in writing. It was simply a verbal agreement between friends. The husband has started smoking in the house and they are not keeping up on the electric bill, which they agreed to pay. Can I make them sign a renter’s agreement now? If I need to evict them, how do I go about doing that?

Asked on December 19, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Kansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You can try to remove them in three different ways, if necessary:
First, you can try evicting for breach of lease--an oral, or unwritten (also called "verbal") lease is still a lease, and if they are not honoring its terms, you may provide them with a notice stating that the tenancy will terminate in 30 days if the don't start complying with their obligatons in 14 days; if they fail to do so, you could bring a legal action to remove them.
Or, since they have no written lease for a definite term, they are month-to-month to tenants on an oral lease, which means that you could simply give them 30 day notice terminating their tenancy, then bring the eviction action if they don't leave.
Third, if the court doesn't concur that they are tenants, because a court does not believe that the obligations you describe them as having to do (e.g. electric bill; make repairs) equals rent (the difference between tenants and guests is that tenants pay rent), then they would be guests, and guests may be asked to leave at any time, for any reason. If a guest does not leave, instead of an eviction action, you bring an action for "ejectment," which is essentially "eviction for non-tenants"--the procedure is different, but the outcome (removing them) is the same.
So there are several ways to get them out, at least one of which should work. You can also, of course, offer to let them stay if they will sign a more formal written lease and/or pay cash rent; and if they refuse, remove them as above.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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