How can I evict hunters from my lease?

A hunting lease, although usually for recreation, is not unlike a commercial or residential lease such as those used in apartment buildings or strip malls.  There are clauses limiting the tenant’s rights and descriptions of how rent is to be paid, along with begin and end dates, landlord rights, and yes, the process for eviction.  Hunters can be evicted from a hunting lease in Colorado just like they can from an apartment if they violate the lease or fail to pay rent.  Below are some common reasons and ways that landlords and tenants may find themselves involved in an eviction action for a hunting lease:

Lease Break Fees

If a hunter wants to voluntarily end his lease, they usually will be required to pay a “lease break fee” as compensation to the landowner.  Signing a lease is binding yourself to a contract and if there is no lease break fee in the contract, you may not have the option to end your lease early.  Talking with the landlord before defaulting on your rent is a way to work out a lease break fee that saves you both time and trouble.

Substantial Violation

A tenant in Colorado can be evicted if there was a “Substantial violation.” A substantial violation is actually a very specific violation and is defined by Colorado statute. Suffice it to say, there must have been some kind of police action or egregious criminal offense that you not only have knowledge of, but can prove took place. Your proof might be a police or arrest report, video, or witness statements. If there has been criminal activity taking place on your rental property by either a tenant or guest of your tenant (with the tenant's knowledge) then you may have a right to evict under the "substantial violation" principle.

Hunters breaking the law on your lease is a very serious matter, and you should consult with the hunters as well as law enforcement agents if you suspect illegal activity is taking place.  Eviction from the hunting lease for criminal activity is a no-brainer for most landlords.

Subsequent Violations

A duck blind on a hunting lease.  Evictions can take place for duck blinds, where a tenant may have leased the opportunity to hunt from said duck blind.

A duck blind on a hunting lease.  Evictions can take place for duck blinds, where a tenant may have leased the opportunity to hunt from said duck blind.

If you have provisions in your hunting lease that hunters must abide by certain rules, hunters that violate those rules are in violation of their lease agreement.  However, the Courts usually require that absent an outrageous violation, the landlord wait until a “Subsequent Violation” has occurred. 

Subsequent violations can be tricky. Namely, they require written notice of the first violation. Sometimes property managers or landlords get frustrated because while the violation is indeed a subsequent violation, the first warning given to the tenant may have been verbal, or even if written, not contain the requisite details to be considered sufficient notice under law. If you have given adequate notice regarding a previous violation of the lease, and the tenant has committed the same violation again (additional, unapproved tenants, unauthorized pets, accumulating trash or creation of unsafe environment, etc.) then you are ready to proceed under the "subsequent violation" principle.

There are several more concerns around drafting and enforcing hunting leases, and evicting tenants can be a complicated matter.  Nate Gilbert, attorney in Colorado and Kansas, has handled evictions on hunting leases, commercial buildings, apartments, and homes on both the landlord and tenant side.  Nate is also a recognized authority on hunting leases having given several workshops and seminars for landowners and hunters on leasing structure.