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Can You Be Evicted for Having a Messy Apartment?

Beware Messy Marvins, you can be evicted for keeping an unkempt apartment. But before scrambling to pick up your dirty clothes in fear of losing that fantastic rent-controlled apartment, let's take a deeper look into this matter. There's messy, and then there's filthy, and the difference between the two depends on more than just your landlord's attitude.

Are We Talking Mess or Filth?

Landlord-tenant relationships are governed by local laws and rental agreements. Almost all rentals agreements have a provision requiring renters to refrain from creating a situation which interferes with the health, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants in the building. Will the mess caused by your dirty clothes effect the enjoyment of the Cat Lady in apartment 2A? It shouldn't so long as you keep your front door closed. But will the Cat Lady's flea-ridden cats affect the health of the tenant in apartment 23? Probably, since fleas can easily hop apartments through the HVAC and plumbing systems.

Here are some instances that have been found to be so filthy as to violate the health, safety, and welfare clause of rental agreements, and landlords have been able to successfully evict:

  • Mold growth on walls
  • Any evidence of rodents or roaches (live, dead, or fecal)
  • Pet urine or feces not in a litterbox
  • oxious odors emanating from the apartment, not associated with cooking
  • Piles of dirty dishes in the sink or counter
  • Permanent dirt on the walls, counters, or floors
  • Broken appliances due to uncleanliness
  • Dirtiness to the point that it interferes with the infrastructure of the building, especially if shared with other tenants, such as HVAC or plumbing issues

Can My Landlord Use His Key to Inspect Anytime?

In reading this list, you might ask yourself "How would my landlord know if my dishes are piled high in my sink". The answer to that question is, again, governed by state or local law, or your rental agreement. Most have provisions that allow a landlord to come into your apartment to inspect, but they do have to give you notice, usually between 24 and 48 hours. This should give you plenty of time to clean up, provided your place isn't too much of a hazmat zone

Can I Actually Be Evicted?

If you are found to be in violation of any local laws or or the rental agreement, you will probably be issued a warning to clean up, provided this is your first or perhaps second offense. But if your landlord is fed up with you and wants you gone, there are steps that he or she must take first prior to eviction, such as:

  1. Give you an eviction notice
  2. File unlawful detainer paperwork with the court
  3. Allow you time to respond to the eviction complaint (usually around five days)
  4. Go to court, though potentially this isn't necessary if you didn't respond to the eviction complaint
  5. Arrange for a formal move-out through the sheriff's office

Can you be evicted for having a messy apartment? If it is messy enough, yes. But evictions are complicated, and messy in their own right. Do your best not to mimic episodes of Hoarders. However, if you feel your landlord is harassing you, or if you have been served with an eviction notice and want to learn your rights, contact a local landlord-tenant lawyer that will help you decide next steps.

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