Landlord’s Rights if Tenant Fails to Meet its Obligations

By Lane V. Erickson, attorney

I’ve spent nearly two decades representing landlords in all aspects of the landlord and tenant relationship. Over time I became a landlord myself. I often have landlord clients that want to know what their rights are when the tenant fails to meet their obligations under the lease agreement. The purpose of this post is to provide a summary of those rights.

It is important to understand that a Landlord may terminate a lease after complying with all of the procedural requirements of I.C. § 6-303. Whenever the right of reentry is given to a tenant in a lease, reentry may be made at any time after the right has accrued, upon three (3) days’ notice. I.C. § 55-210.

The rental agreement should reserve to the Landlord the right to enter the property for various reasons, as long as it is at a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner. Furthermore, good practice would have the rental agreement provide the rights of a landlord on default or where the tenant has abandoned the premises. Where the lease does not so provide, the Landlord should make reasonable efforts to make arrangements for re-entry with the tenant prior to re-entry.


Other than the remedies already provided in the lease agreement itself and in the statutes listed above, Idaho courts strongly disfavor the resort to forceful self-help in resolving property disputes.  Weitz v. Green, 148 Idaho 851 (2010). This usually results in the landlord getting into legal trouble and/or eliminating their right of re-possession of the premises.


At common law, a Landlord has no lien upon the personal property or crops of his or her tenant merely by reason of the landlord-tenant relationship. Thus, a landlord generally has no lien upon any property of a tenant as security for rent by virtue of position in the absence of contract or statute. Similarly, a landlord’s claim for unpaid rent—which would have been a permitted offset against residential tenants’ security deposit if any remaining sums were available—may not be entitled to any preference or priority lien against other assets of the tenants. 49 AM.JUR.2D, Landlord and Tenant, § 790.  Idaho statute does not provide for a landlord lien on tenant property, so such a lien can only exist by contract.


A surrender of a lease is the yielding up of a tenancy to the lessor before the end of the tenancy called for in the applicable lease. A surrender occurs by mutual agreement or operation of law.  Where there is no mutual agreement, the tenant must show that the landlord’s conduct or words indicated intent to discontinue the tenancy. If so, there may be a surrender as a matter of law, notwithstanding the fact that the landlord may have actually intended the contrary. Surrender of a lease as a matter of law is not unlike the principle of quasi-contract wherein the court is not concerned with the intent or agreement of the parties. The doctrine of surrender is to be contrasted with a tenant’s mere abandonment and the landlord’s re-entering, which does not necessarily constitute an acceptance of a tenant’s tendered surrender. Olsen v. Country Club Sports, Inc., 110 Idaho 789 (Ct. App. 1985). Forfeiture, on the other hand, occurs when a tenant violates contractual or statutory obligations, written notice is given, and the violation is not cured. The remedy of forfeiture permitted under unlawful detainer statutes, I.C. §§ 6-303, -316, is merely cumulative to any contractual right of reentry provided for in the lease agreement. Maynard v. Nguyen, 152 Idaho 724 (2011).

If you are a landlord and have questions about what your rights are, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate questions and will help you solve your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate needs.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.

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