Tenant problems

Late rent

  • Landlords are not allowed to charge late fees as penalties when tenants are late with rent. However, landlords may charge a fee equal to any expenses incurred by the landlord as a result of the late rent (for example, an interest charge)
  • If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, a landlord may terminate a tenancy if the landlord provides 14 days written notice to the tenant and the tenant fails to pay in full within those 14 days
    • The written notice must state the amount of money due to the landlord
    • If the tenant pays in full within the 14 days, the tenancy is not terminated and will continue if the tenant pays rent

Broken lease

  • If a tenant breaks a lease by moving out of the rental property before the end of the agreed upon term, the tenant can be held responsible for the rent due for the remainder of the term.
  • However, a landlord must make every effort to fill the rental property as soon as possible.
  • Once the landlord re-rents the property, the responsibility of the original tenant ends.

Illegal retaliation

  • Regardless of a tenant's past behavior or any tension between landlord and tenant, it is illegal for landlords to retaliate against tenants (Title 9, Chapter 137, 9 V.S.A. § 4465) who have:
    • Reported health and safety concerns to a government agency
    • Informed the landlord of violations of tenant/landlord laws
    • Organized or become a member of a tenant association
  • Retaliatory actions are those intended to punish tenants or to drive them to move out
  • Examples of illegal retaliation include:
    • Raising the rent as punishment
    • Taking away established privileges of tenants, such as allowing pets
    • Changing terms or agreed upon services of a tenancy


Eviction is the legal process of forcing a tenant to move out of a rental property. A tenant is not "evicted" until the entire process is over and the tenant has been delivered a court order. To evict a tenant, a landlord must have legal grounds on which to evict (see "Reasons for Eviction") and follow the proper procedural steps (see "The Eviction Process"). For more detailed information about the eviction process and illegal eviction actions, see the Vermont's Residential Rental Agreements law, Vermont Apartment Owners Association LLC and the Renting in Vermont handbook.

Reasons for eviction

  • Nonpayment of rent (Title 9, Chapter 137, 9 V.S.A. § 4467)
    When a tenant fails to pay rent on time or at all, the landlord may evict if:
    • Tenant is given 14 days written notice, specifically stating how much rent is owed
    • Tenant fails to pay in full (all rent due through the end of the rental period) within the 14 days
  • Sale of rental property (Title 9, Chapter 137, 9 V.S.A. § 4467)
    • When a lease is month to month (not a set term of months or years), the landlord who owns the building being sold may evict tenants if tenants are given at least 30 days written notice to vacate the building
    Note: Landlords who have a written lease for a set term with tenants cannot evict when a property is sold. Instead, the tenant's lease transfers to the new owner
  • Breach of rental agreement (Title 9, Chapter 137, 9 V.S.A. § 4467)
    When a tenant violates the terms of a lease, the landlord may evict the tenant if tenant is given 30 days written notice, specifically stating what lease term/s the tenant broke and how. If the termination is based on criminal, illegal drug, or dangerous activity, then the notice period can be shortened to 14 days
  • Tenants living in landlord's home (Title 9, Chapter 137, 9 V.S.A. § 4467)
    When a tenant is renting a room within a landlord's home that includes shared use of common spaces (e.g. a bathroom or kitchen), the landlord may evict the tenant if the tenant is given 15 days written notice

No cause evictions

  • When a landlord wishes to terminate a tenancy for none of the above reasons, it is considered a "no cause eviction"
  • No cause evictions are only possible when there is no lease or the lease is open ended (e.g. month to month or week to week). A landlord with a lease for a set amount of time can only evict for no cause during that time if the lease specifically allows for a no cause eviction. If the lease allows for a no cause eviction, tenants must still be given proper written notice.
  • A landlord can terminate a lease for no cause if:
    • For month to month leases, tenants are given 60 days written notice
    • For week to week leases, tenants are given 21 days written notice
    • Tenants who have resided in the rental for more than 2 continuous years are given 90 days written notice

Note: Burlington has stricter notice requirements for no cause evictions

The eviction process

The eviction process will generally take at least two months from the time notice is given to tenants to the time a court order is issued. Some evictions last much longer. Despite the length of the eviction process, landlords must carefully adhere to the proper procedure. If a landlord takes steps on his or her own to get rid of a tenant, it can be considered an illegal eviction and the landlord may be sued by the tenant.

  1. Step 1: Notice
    • Landlords must give tenants written notice of the need for the tenant to vacate the premises
    • The amount of time required depends on the grounds for eviction (see above)
  2. Step 2: Summons and complaint
    • If the tenant has not left the premises by the end of the notice period, landlords can then file suit against the tenant in the superior court of the county where the property is located
    • The court papers, called a summons and complaint, are delivered to the tenant by a sheriff or constable
    • Once a tenant has received the summons and complaint, he or she has 20 days to respond with a written answer to the court
  3. Step 3: Court order
    • If the tenant fails to answer the summons and complaint, the judge can award the landlord a writ of possession, which entitles the landlord take possession of the rental no less than 10 days after the writ is issued
    • If the tenant answers the summons and complaint, the matter will go before a judge unless the landlord and tenant come to a written agreement that is filed with the court clerk
    • If the judge finds for the landlord, a writ of possession is then issued to the landlord
    • A sheriff serves the writ of possession on the tenant, and if necessary will physically remove the tenant from the premises

Rent escrow hearings

  • In any eviction action, tenants can be ordered to pay rent to the court while the action is pending. This is called rent escrow.
  • As the tenant pays rent to the court, the accruing rent money is held by the court and then distributed after a judgment is handed down.
  • If after a hearing, the court finds for the landlord, then the landlord will receive the rent that has been held in escrow by the court. If the court finds for the tenant, the tenant is then reimbursed the rent money he or she paid to the court while the action was pending.

Illegal eviction actions

  • When a landlord takes action outside of the court system to try to get a tenant out, it is generally considered an illegal eviction.
  • Illegal eviction actions include:
    • Turning off tenant's utilities
    • Padlocking doors to prevent tenant from entering
    • Removing a tenant's possessions from the property without a court order
    • Confiscating or denying tenants access to their personal property
  • If a landlord takes any illegal eviction action, a tenant may sue the landlord for costs and damages.

Abandoned property

  • If a tenant leaves abandoned property behind after moving out without giving notice, the landlord must take certain steps before claiming or disposing of any of the tenant's remaining property.
  • Before claiming or disposing of abandoned property, a landlord must:
    • Give 60 days written notice to the tenant's last known mailing address
    • Keep the property safe and dry for the 60 day notice period
  • If a tenant claims his or her abandoned property within the 60 day notice period, the landlord can require a reasonable written description of the property and reasonable payment for the cost of storage.
  • This does not include garbage or refuse, or property left behind by a tenant who gave the landlord actual notice of vacating the property or who vacated at the end of a lease. In these circumstances, and remaining property may be disposed of or claimed by the landlord immediately.