October 11, 2022

Evicting a Family Member

Sometimes we go too far in trying to help our family members. We share our house without a lease and eventually we find ourselves with a guest who has overstayed their welcome and refuses to leave. The only thing you now want is eviction – removing a tenant. It can be a tricky process and you might feel guilty about it. However, it’s more common than you think; there are plenty of people who have gone through this. Just be sure you do everything legally and hopefully your guest will soon find a new ‘fairytale house’.

So who is a tenant? Legally speaking a tenant is someone who has a lease or pays rent, but in some areas tenants are those who occupy a space you own (with no payment). This could vary from state to state.

Here comes the question - is it legal to evict a family member from your home? Your family members are treated by law as any other tenants, so technically yes, it is legal to evict them from your home. However there are exceptions: most states recognize a duty of support for children, spouses, parents, and even grandparents. You need to check this with local law.

Note, that someone who stays in the home of a landlord for an extended period of time can also be considered to have a lease and be classified as a licensee. In some states it is acceptable to remove a person without an eviction notice as long as rent wasn’t exchanged.

The process of eviction will be more clear if you have a Lease Agreement, and will depend on its terms. If there is no Lease Agreement, and you owe your family member no legal duty of support, then they may be considered a guest. Guests stay in your home with your permission.

How do I Know It’s Time to Evict a Family Member?

  • They are not paying rent. If you agreed on a certain amount to be paid monthly and you are not getting it – this is it. The court is more likely to be on your side. Note that it differs how those who stay are classified in different states. Your guest could be a tenant or a licensee no matter if they rent, lease or stay without payment.
  • You are selling your property. Maybe you need to sell the home for some reason, so you cannot have any visitors any more. These eviction rules also vary by state. Helping your family member find a new place might be a requirement.
  • You are moving into the home. You are moving back into your home due to some personal circumstances. And again different rules might be applied in each state for this type of eviction, including if disabled people or children are involved. You might also have to assist your visitor in finding new lodging.
  • Safety Issues. Sometimes, family members can pose a threat having them inside, especially if you have children living in your home.

Alright, you clearly came to a decision that your family member cannot stay at your place any longer. Let’s do this step by step. Be consistent and make sure your actions are legal at every stage.

What are My Actions in the Eviction Process?

  1. Talking. First of all, get prepared for the conversation. Define the reason, your needs and purposes. Start the conversation when you both feel comfortable. Talk with openness and in a matter-of-fact tone. Listen to what they say in response yet stick to your purpose. In most cases your mission ends at Step 1.
  2. Send a Notice. If talking didn’t work, get to Step 2 – send an eviction notice. In this paper indicate the reason and date of tenancy termination. A 30-day notice period is common. Attorney’s assistance would be helpful. Don’t forget to make 2 copies of the eviction notice, one copy for each party. Ask your tenant to sign and date both copies.
  3. Avoid Taking Rent. If your tenant is still sending you rent payment, or offers you starting to pay, refuse taking it. Each time you get the payment you reset the eviction process.
  4. Pay Them. Sometimes, it works better if you pay them to leave. Offer your tenant a sum of money that you think will work in exchange for vacating the premises. In the end, even paying a visitor to go away might be cheaper than trying to evict them. Be ready to pay $1,000 to $10,000 legal fees, and even more if the case goes before a jury.
  5. Go to the Court. This should be a last-ditch measure, only if all the above didn’t work. If your family member refuses to leave the home after receiving an eviction notice, it’s time to file for a court. But before, familiarize yourself with eviction laws in your state. At the court, the judge can issue an order of eviction, which might be of help when you apply to law enforcement for assistance in removing the tenant from your home.
  6. Apply to Law Enforcement. This is the step that you might need if your family member still refuses to leave the premises after the court has made a decision in your favor. Now this is considered to be a violation of the order of the court, and you have a right to call the sheriff to remove your tenant.

How Can I Keep A Relationship After Eviction?

Now when you’ve passed through the process of eviction you might want to maintain the relations with your ex-tenant. Being no longer your guest they still remain your family member. It did well if you kept your emotions under control during the process of eviction.

So what can you do to make an eviction sugar-coated?

Try these few things:

  • ask them about their plans
  • help them find new home
  • give them more time to recover if possible
  • help them moving out
  • give them some money if relevant

In some cases eviction, despite all your good efforts, may bring your relationship to an end. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is no way out. Things change, time cures. Sometimes there is no other way to solve the issue. Anyway, at least you’ve tried to fix the problem. Don’t feel guilty, it’s not you, it’s the circumstances that made you take the decision of evicting your guest.

How Can I Avoid Eviction in the Future?

If you no longer want to face the same problem in future, stick to the following rules:

  • think twice before allowing your guest to stay for a long time;
  • screen potential tenants (check their background, proof of income);
  • sign a Lease Agreement, no matter if they are going to stay for free or pay the rent.

Wishing you the best of luck!