Commercial Eviction Laws

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 What Is an Eviction?

The term eviction is a legal process in which a court may order the removal of a tenant from a rented home, apartment, or other rental, based upon a request from their landlord. The landlord is required to have a justified and specific reason regarding why the tenant should be evicted.

There are numerous different reasons why a landlord may want to evict a tenant from a rental property, such as:

  • If the tenant has stopped paying rent for a certain period of time;
  • When the tenant or the guests of the tenant have caused substantial damage to the rental property;
  • If the tenant has breached the terms of their lease or rental agreement, for example, smoking in a non-smoking building or keeping pets despite no-pet conditions in the lease; and
  • If a tenant does not move out after their lease has expired, they will be considered a squatter.

Although the majority of eviction actions occur between a tenant and landlord who is associated with the residential property site, the process may also be used to remove a tenant from a rented commercial building. It is important to be aware that the eviction process typically involves multiple steps that have strict legal requirements for both the tenant and the landlord.

These requirements are governed by state laws. Therefore, they may vary depending on the jurisdiction or the location where the eviction occurs.

A tenant may have a number of available defenses they may be able to use against a landlord’s eviction notice, which may prove that the eviction is unfair or that there is not a reason to evict them. Because evictions affect both tenants and landlords, it is in the best interests of both parties to consult with a real estate attorney for assistance with these issues.

What Is Commercial Eviction?

A commercial eviction is a legal process to remove a commercial tenant and their property from the building or structure they are renting. Typically, a commercial tenant runs a business or occupies office space in a rented property.

Under landlord tenant law, if the property owner has grounds to terminate a lease or a rental agreement with a tenant, they can start the commercial eviction process. If an individual is involved in a commercial eviction, it may be helpful to consult with a commercial eviction attorney who can advise them of the laws of their state.

What Is the Cause for Commercial Eviction?

The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) is a federal law that regulates protections for residential tenants. Many of these protections, however, are not available to commercial tenants.

The process of a commercial eviction may be much quicker than a residential eviction process. The commercial tenant may have fewer options for reconciliation than the residential renter.

Commercial landlord-tenant laws are composed of state, local, and regional regulations and codes. Because of this, legal causes for commercial eviction are variable.

However, in many states, a commercial landlord may evict a commercial tenant for reasons including:

  • Failure to pay rent: Commercial renters often have far less time to settle rent arrears or issues of back rent than residential renters might;
    • Commercial landlords are typically more likely to enforce rent deadlines strictly;
  • Misuse of property: Commercial tenants have to adhere to planning and zoning codes that are legislated by local, state, and federal municipalities;
    • Failure to do so may cause liability issues for the landlord. Violating planning and zoning codes may be grounds for commercial eviction; and
  • Breach of contract: This is also referred to as a lease violation. If a landlord has written specific requirements for the commercial tenant into the lease and the tenant does not fulfill these requirements, the landlord may use commercial eviction as a legal remedy.

What Is the Process for Commercial Eviction?

Although the procedures for evicting a commercial tenant may vary by state, there are many states that adhere to similar guidelines for eviction procedures, including:

  • Three day notice: The landlord or the landlord’s attorney must put a Three Day Notice in writing that states that, if owed rent is not paid in full, or other lease violations or breaches of contract are not fixed within 3 days, then the tenant will be evicted and will be legally required to leave the property;
  • Service and proof of service: That Notice must be served to the tenant according to applicable state and local regulations for service;
    • In some states, a process server is permitted to leave the notice on the door. In other states, the service must be handed directly to the tenant or another representative of the company;
      • Proof of service forms should be filled out and kept for potential court proceedings; and
  • Unlawful detainers: If a tenant does not pay the rent that is owed in full or otherwise correct lease or property use violations within three days of being served, the landlord may serve an unlawful detainer notice;
    • This alerts the tenant that they are now occupying the property illegally. The tenant will then be provided with another notice that tells them how many days they have to vacate the property and remove their personal items.

It is important to note that the mandated warranty of habitability applies to residential leases, not commercial leases.

Potential Defenses against Commercial Eviction

There may be defenses available against commercial eviction. It is best for a tenant to consult an attorney who is familiar with landlord-tenant laws and who is experienced with presenting successful eviction defenses in order to devise the best defense for a particular situation.

Defenses to a commercial eviction may include:

  • Equitable defenses: If a landlord does not properly go through the eviction process, a tenant may ask the court to delay, or even dismiss, the eviction;
    • One of these is known as Short Notice. Although the eviction of a commercial tenant can legally happen in a short period of time, in some cases, the court will grant more time to a commercial tenant to remedy the cause of the breach or to repay the rent that is owed;
  • Quiet enjoyment: Many states recognize the doctrine of quiet enjoyment. A tenant has the right to use their rented property unimpaired as well as for the purpose that they rented that property for;
    • If a rented building is in such a state that the tenant is cannot operate its business, the landlord will not have a right to evict a tenant;
  • Urban blight: Committing waste to a building can be used as a defense against an eviction action;
    • Urban blight is different than quiet enjoyment because urban blight is about whether the property is subject to decay, while quiet enjoyment is about whether the property can be used for the tenant’s business; and
  • Lease provisions: While there is no legally mandated warranty of habitability in commercial leases in most states, a tenant can negotiate conditions into their lease that protect them in case the landlord neglects to fix problems in the building or to conduct routine maintenance. These kinds of lease violations on the part of the landlord may protect the tenant from eviction;
    • In some leases, there may be a provision that allows the landlord to terminate a lease.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Commercial evictions may occur very quickly, and commercial tenants have fewer protections afforded to them than residential tenants do. Because of this, it is important to consult a landlord-tenant lawyer if you believe you may be at risk for a commercial eviction.

Your lawyer can advise you regarding the laws of your state, whether any defenses are available to you, and represent you in court.

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