How to show a leased home (© Mark Leibowitz/Masterfile)

© Mark Leibowitz/Masterfile

Q: I want to sell my condo, which has a pretty responsible tenant with seven months left on his lease. Can and should I evict him? And if he stays, how can I make sure that he keeps the place in good condition while it's being shown?

— Freehold, N.J.

A: The first thing you should do is to read your lease, whether you used a boilerplate version from the Web or used a professional to help prepare it. Its terms govern your agreement with your tenant.

So does state law, which provides your renter with important protections. (Bing: What's the eviction law in your state?)

New Jersey's anti-eviction law states that you cannot evict a tenant without court approval, even after the lease expires. Moreover, you must have grounds, defined as one of 18 different causes for eviction. These include not paying rent or paying it late, disorderly conduct, damage to property or engaging in illegal activities.

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If your building or house has three or fewer apartments, however, and you live in one of them, you can evict the tenant at the end of the lease for any reason.

Because it's difficult to evict a well-behaved tenant, it's likely a good idea to give him incentives to leave voluntarily or to cooperate with the showings. Talk to him about his plans and goals so you can tailor the offer to his needs.

For example, if he agrees to move out early, you might motivate him with a rent rebate or reduction, subsidized utility or moving costs, use of a storage unit so he can keep his valuables off-site or simply cash.

If he decides to stay until his lease ends, you could buy him a gift card for a meal at a fancy restaurant if he keeps the place in pristine condition. Or you could take the maintenance burden off him by underwriting free maid service — and perhaps a complimentary visit from a decorator or home-stager — while the home is listed.

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Most standard leases give landlords the right to show property to buyers with 24 hours' notice to the tenant. But be considerate and limit how many showings you inflict on your tenant during a week. Also, though the tenant doesn't have a right to be present during a showing — and buyers' agents will discourage him from hanging around while their clients visit — understand that it could happen anyway. Make sure that your tenant doesn't have a reason to bad-mouth the condo, its maintenance, the neighborhood or you.

Although renters may not have the best furnishings, the place will likely sell faster if is kept tidy than if it were vacant and empty. It also will appeal a broader range of buyers, as many investors prefer homes that have good tenants in place.

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Of course, you can avoid all of this trouble and expense if you can persaude the tenant to buy the condo from you. Sweeten the deal by offering to credit all or part of the rent he has paid toward the purchase price, and see what happens.

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