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What Is the Legal Way to Get a Person Out of My House?

by Ian Johnston, studioD

An unwelcome guest can be difficult to handle. Maybe it's a friend or relative who has fallen on hard times and doesn't have anywhere else to go or maybe it's a freeloader who is not paying his share of the rent. Your legal course of action for removing an unwanted resident from your home will vary by state and by the legal status of the occupant. Seek legal advice or consult your state's laws on tenancy, evictions and trespassing before making them move.

Legal Status

The legal status of your guest will determine what actions you may have to take to remove them. A guest is a short-term visitor, has the least right to reside in your home and is the easiest to remove. However, because the law recognizes verbal agreements made between a homeowner and a guest, an implied agreement about staying in your home can make your guest a tenant in the eyes of the law. A boarder or lodger rents a room in your home. You do not need to formally evict a lodger but you must give them notice to vacate. A tenant or resident has the most legal protection to stay at your home and will usually need to be evicted.

Removing a Guest

A guest has not paid any rent or contributed to bills, does not have a written or verbal lease and has not listed your address on any official documents like a driver's license or passport. Some states recognize a guest as a tenant if they have stayed as little as 15 days. The law is not entirely clear how to remove guests from your home. Start by asking them to leave, then have a third party deliver a notice to vacate and finally call the police or change the locks. Be careful of your word choice -- a guest may be able to delay removal if they say you had an oral agreement or if your notice implies they are a tenant.

Removing a Lodger

A lodger or boarder rents a room in your home without a lease, and typically does not have private access to their quarters. If they have a separate entrance that is not in common use they may be considered a tenant. Removing a lodger does not require an eviction unless the lodger has a lease or you rent multiple rooms to lodgers. Removing a lodger requires serving written notice that they must move out. Generally, you must give the lodger notice equal to the length between rent payments.

Removing a Tenant

Tenants have the most rights when it comes to living in your home. If you have a lease or sublease agreement with your tenant, you may not be able to evict them unless they have broken some aspect of your lease or state's laws regarding tenants. If not, you may have to wait until the lease expires for your guest to leave. If you have a houseguest that is legally recognized as a tenant because they have lived with you for 30 days, you may have to formally evict them by serving the necessary legal paperwork and possibly taking them to court.

About the Author

With an eclectic background, Ian Johnston has written on diverse topics including literature, real estate, executive leadership and mental health. He received an Master of Arts from The University of Western Ontario, and a Master of Education from The University of Ottawa. He lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

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