The landlord has asked my parents to move out of our apartment so that her family member can live here. There are six other tenants in our building she could have asked. Can she single us out like this? We've been here for 20 years! I'm also wondering if it's legal for her to evict us just so that a family member can move in.
Whether your landlord can terminate your tenancy to move in her relatives depends on a couple of things: What type of tenancy you have, and what are permissible reasons for ending tenancies under the law where you live.
In most places, if your family rents on a month-to-month basis, your landlord can terminate your tenancy for any nondiscriminatory reason, as long as she gives you the required amount of notice—30 days in most states. You can find the amount of notice required in your state in Nolo's chart State Rules on Notice Required to Change or Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy.
If you have a fixed-term lease, your landlord must honor the lease for the length of the lease term, but can refuse to renew it when it expires, which will mean you have to leave at that time.
In areas without rent control, so long as your landlord follows the legal procedures for terminating the type of tenancy you have (for example, by providing 30 days' notice to end a month-to-month tenancy), she can ask you to leave so she can move her relatives into your former rental.
If you live in a state or city with rent control, however, it's very likely that other rules will apply. In most places with rent control, landlords must have a good reason—known as just cause—to end a tenancy. Depending on the rent control law that applies to your rental, it is possible that a landlord's desire to move a relative into the rental constitutes just cause for ending your tenancy. However, to be sure, you will need to research the applicable rent control laws.
The number of states and cities with rent control is limited; but the laws change frequently. As of 2020, Oregon, California, and New York have statewide rent control laws (Washington, D.C. has districtwide rent control as well). Individual cities or counties in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York might also have local rent control ordinances. Consider contacting your city manager's office or visiting your state's housing division's website to find out more about any rent control laws in your area.
You might never know why your landlord chose your family as the one to go—and it won't do you much good to know, unless her reason was based on discriminatory reasons such as your race, ethnicity, or religion. In that case, singling your family out as the ones to leave would have been illegal. Similarly, in most states it is illegal for a landlord to terminate your rental as retaliation for your standing up for your legal rights—for example, in response to your filing a complaint with local code enforcement about substandard conditions at the property.
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