If a tenant has been gone for over 6 months and not paid rent, can I re-rent the apartment?

Tenants who are renting a property from a landlord have certain rights, often referred to as tenant rights, that describe how they must be treated and certain responsibilities as to how they must maintain and pay for the property in order to avoid eviction proceedings.

While tenants have rights, landlords have rights as well, sometimes called landlord rights. If you, as a landlord, do not hear from your tenant for six months, and the tenant seems to be gone and has not paid rent in that time, it is in many cases legal for the landlord to re-rent the apartment. However, the specific rules for when a landlord can re-rent the apartment (i.e. evict the previous tenant) and clean out the apartment may vary based on landlord rights and tenant rights by state.

The Rules for Re-Renting an Apartment Based on Landlord Rights

In general, based on landlord rights, in order for you to evict a tenant, the tenant must have failed to pay the rent for a certain amount of time. Six months should, in every state, be long enough for eviction due to non-payment.

Technically, however, the landlord is supposed to give the tenant written notice of eviction, based on tenant rights. The tenant must be made aware of the eviction, and given a reasonable amount of time to make good on the rent payments before the eviction takes place. If the tenant is not around, this "notice" requirement may be an issue. To get around this problem, giving notice can sometimes be accomplished by posting an advertisement in the newspaper or in another public forum or by sending the eviction papers to the last known address. 

Once you have given proper notice, you'll need to be cleared by the court to evict the person. Usually, a sheriff will come to clean out the belongings of the tenant. Based on tenant rights, a landlord may also be obligated to store property, if it exceeds a certain value. 

Getting Help

To ensure you don't get into any legal trouble yourself for evicting a non-paying tenant, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer before you take any action. An attorney can explain landlord rights and tenant rights in detail, to help you avoid a costly lawsuit.