How to Legally Remove a Drug Addict from Your Home

5 min read · 10 sections
What you will learn:
How to legally remove an addict from your home.
Understanding the state laws.
Learning how to set boundaries.

Living with a family member or friend who struggles with a substance use disorder, the clinical name for a drug addiction, can be hard. Many people in this situation feel as if they are pulled in two different directions. Do they let their loved one remain in their home while they misuse drugs or alcohol? Or do they make them leave, letting them face the consequences of their actions?

The answer may not be simple. There are many factors to consider when making, what might be, an emotional decision, and legal ramifications may follow so it’s important that you understand all aspects when choosing to evict an addicted individual from your home.

The Formal Legal Process for Evictions

Eviction means expelling someone. Property owners use it to take back leased property and remove tenants who won’t leave.1 While the term typically refers to formal landlord-tenant situations, eviction can happen in households among loved ones, too.

Removing an individual from their home—whether they pay rent or not—is a process that is heavily regulated and expensive for all people involved.

Before beginning the process of removing someone from your home, you should consult an attorney. The first step requires you to give tenants notice. In most states, this involves serving notice to tell them the reasons why you want to evict them and what they can do to avoid it. Additionally, you need to allow them time to either address the issue or move out. Should the person that lives with you fail to do either, the next step necessitates filing a civil action and getting a court order to have the person removed.1

Eviction Laws by State

It is important to note that eviction laws vary dramatically by state. Although similarities exist nationwide, tenants’ and landlords’ rights differ significantly. Some states, for instance, require a formal eviction, or civil case, to remove tenants who have never paid rent—if they have been living in your home with the promise of paying rent or doing other work in exchange for a place to stay.2 For that reason, it is important to understand the scope of your state’s eviction laws.

There are several states with laws that favor property owners. In these states, someone living in your home typically has little recourse other than having the right to formal notice of eviction.3 For example, Arkansas’ laws protect the property owner. If you wanted to evict someone from your home in that state, you must provide a formal notice and give them 10 days to vacate. The tenant can’t do anything except leave.4 In fact, failure to comply could result in misdemeanor charges.4

Other states support tenants’ rights. For example, Vermont requires property owners to give tenants 14 days to fix the deficiency—by paying rent or correcting the behavior that violates their lease—or vacate the premises.5 Furthermore, Vermont landlords must give tenants up to 60 days to recover any property they left on the premises.5

Most states do, however, have similar regulations regarding adults who live in your home and don’t pay rent. While notice requirements still apply, no person is entitled to remain in your home forever.6

Need more information about landlord-tenant rights in your state? In most states, the attorney general offers resources for both landlords as well as tenants on their websites. The National Association of Attorneys General provides a useful tool for finding your attorney general.

Evicting a Child

State statutes do not provide special rules for evicting a child. From a legal standpoint, the important question regarding eviction is whether the child is emancipated.7

An emancipated child is a minor that is free from the control or custody of their parents or guardians, so in most states, the process for evicting them is no different than with any other adult tenant.7 After all, by law, they are adults. Thus, an emancipated child cannot rely on their parents for support and are expected to provide for themselves as an adult.8

On the other hand, forcing a non-emancipated child (under the age of 18) out of the home could result in criminal child abandonment charges.8

Evicting an Adult

The most important factor to consider is whether you formed a landlord-tenant relationship with the person that lives with you. The nature of the relationship is more important than whether the person ever actually paid rent. If the person living with you promised to pay rent, many jurisdictions define them as a tenant even if they didn’t kept their promise.2 In some jurisdictions, like Washington D.C., making a promise to perform chores or other services in exchange for a place to stay makes someone a tenant.

Thus, if the individual in your home fits the definition of a tenant in your state, and they are paying rent on time, you can only evict them based on other grounds, meaning you would have to establish that they violated the terms of the lease. If they are not paying rent, some jurisdictions allow for eviction after they are served with a formal notice of the terms.2

It’s not easy watching a loved one battle a substance use disorder. It’s even harder to draw the line between enabling their use and loving them. Specifically, forcing an adult with an active addiction out of your home can be uncomfortable for everyone. American Addiction Centers has locations across the country, providing 24-hour medical detox, treatment, and aftercare services. If your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please reach out to one of our admissions navigators at

What to Avoid When Evicting a Tenant

There are important steps to take when you decide to evict a tenant. Likewise, there are also things you should avoid entirely. First, it is important to comply with all formal notice requirements. The failure to do so could render the process void. A landlord must provide proper notice of eviction to the tenant before the process can proceed.1

You should also take care to avoid any physical confrontation during the removal. In many states, law enforcement is required to oversee the eviction process. Many states also limit options when it comes to forcing a person out of your home.9 For example, Florida law prohibits a landlord from shutting off utility service or changing the locks before the eviction is finalized.10 Other things to avoid include:11

  • Forcing your way into locked rooms or apartments.
  • Dumping, throwing away, or keeping a tenant’s property.
  • Using phone calls or emails to harass the person living with you.
  • Preventing a tenant from entering the property.

Can I Evict Someone for Drug or Alcohol Use?

The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination based on certain disabilities, which include any condition that causes “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.”12 This includes addiction to alcohol or drugs.12

That said, homeowners are hardly powerless when it comes to stopping illegal drug or alcohol use in their home. The law does not allow discrimination based on addiction, with an important caveat: The exception does not cover addiction based on current use. In other words, you can’t discriminate against someone with a substance use disorder, but you can take action against a person using drugs or alcohol in your home.12

So when is it possible to evict someone for drug or alcohol use? Most lease agreements allow for termination due to drug use or other illegal activities on the premises regardless of the severity.13 For an adult living with you without a lease, they are considered an at-will tenant and can be evicted for any reason after you comply with state notice requirements.14

Noticing the Signs and Prevention

There are many warning signs related to alcohol misuse. Doctors use the criteria below to diagnose an individual with an alcohol use disorder. If a person meets two of these criteria, they may be diagnosed. These signs include:15

  • Drinking more or for longer than they intended.
  • Repeatedly trying to cut back or stop drinking without success.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Craving alcohol.
  • Experiencing problems at work, at school, or with friends as a result of their alcohol use.
  • Continuing to drink despite the negative impact on their relationships with family or friends.
  • Stopping hobbies or other activities that provided pleasure in order to drink.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while intoxicated, such as having unprotected sex or driving a vehicle.
  • Continuing to drink despite physical and mental health conditions brought on or made worse by alcohol use.
  • Having to drink more to achieve the same effects.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking stops.

Research indicates that early identification helps.16 Recognizing the problem early, and seeking treatment can ultimately help in recovery, too.16

You can prevent someone who is misusing drugs and/or alcohol from living in your home in a fair manner. If they are not living with a lease agreement, you have the right to ask them to leave or ultimately seek eviction.2 When it comes to the terms of the lease, it is possible to include language that bars illegal behavior or the consumption of alcohol on the premises.14

Helping a Tenant or Loved One Find Treatment

Eviction might not be the solution for an individual with a substance use disorder. For many people, the better option is to help a loved one find treatment.

The good news is that treatment can work. Nearly one-third of people who receive treatment for alcohol addiction are symptom free after 1 year.15 According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), you can help a friend or loved one get the treatment they need by following a few key steps, including:17

  • Remembering that substance use disorders and mental health disorders are treatable. People can recover. Family and social network support make a big difference.
  • Seeking professional support for your loved one or friend.
  • Talking to your loved one about your concerns.
  • Being open about your own struggles if relevant.
  • Showing compassion and being patient. Recovering from an alcohol use disorder takes time.
  • Being sure to practice self-care during the process.

It is helpful to remember that even loved ones who have refused help in the past could subsequently agree to treatment in the future.15 There are several treatment options available, including:15,18

  • Detoxification. Medically managed detoxification allows an individual to rid their body of alcohol and experience withdrawal symptoms while being monitored by medical and mental healthcare staff around the clock.
  • Inpatient alcohol rehabInpatient rehab involves staying at the facility while receiving intensive individual and group counseling, psychiatric care, education, and possibly medication. Inpatient treatment helps individuals resolve the issues that lead to alcohol misuse and develop alternative coping strategies.
  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment offers services, therapies, and treatment that looks just like inpatient care but allows individuals to return home. Treatment occurs during scheduled, clinic-based appointments and is provided during group and individual sessions.
  • Medication management. Doctors or other healthcare professionals may prescribe FDA-approved prescription medication to help an individual reduce their cravings for alcohol and reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Behavioral therapies. Behavioral treatment uses counseling and evidence-based therapies to help individuals change their thinking and drinking behaviors. Therapy may be part of the formal treatment program or part of the continuing aftercare. Behavioral therapy helps individuals develop healthy coping skills, learn to lower the risk of relapse, and strengthen relationships.
  • Treatment for co-occurring mental health issues. Many individuals with alcohol use disorder also have co-occurring mental health illnesses. Integrated treatment helps individuals maintain sobriety (or drastically reduce their use) as well as manage the symptoms of their mental illness.
  • Long-term counseling and care. Aftercare, also known as continuing care, programs include mutual help groups and counseling to support individuals in recovery.

Finding Addiction Treatment Near You

Disclaimer: Anyone who wishes to seek information regarding legal procedures should consult with a licensed attorney before taking any action. This article is not intended to be a substitute for formal legal advice and makes no claims regarding the diffusion of responsibility for any individual who violates formal legal procedures regarding evicting someone from a residence.

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