Landlords can legally evict tenants for failing to pay rent, committing illegal acts on the property and violating lease obligations, according to the Office of the Tenant Advocate in Washington, D.C. The D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate also indicates that landlords can pursue evictions when they intend to use the rental unit for personal occupancy or plan to sell, convert or extensively remodel the property.
An eviction allows landlords to petition to have tenants legally removed from a rental property. However, property owners can be prosecuted for harassing tenants, such as changing the locks or stopping utilities, to force tenants out, Legal Information Institute states. Landlords must initiate the process by issuing a notice explaining the eviction reason and asking the tenant to vacate the premises. In some cases, the notice outlines steps that the tenants must take to end the eviction process, such as paying overdue rent. Tenants can also challenge the complaint, especially when a landlord is suspected of starting a retaliatory eviction after being reported for housing code violations or other forms of misconduct.
Tenants should avoid provoking an eviction by maintaining current rent payments even when involved in a dispute with the landlord. The Maryland Attorney General's Office advises tenants to file official complaints for rent escrow when landlords do not perform repairs, instead of withholding payment.