“Suing a Landlord” Hopefully, as a renter, you’ll never have to ask this question, but if you do and you find yourself in an intolerable circumstance, know that you’re frequently within your rights to sue your landlord. Basically, you must demonstrate that your landlord is infringing the law or your lease’s conditions.
But bringing a lawsuit against a landlord can be difficult and time- and effort-consuming. To help you decide if it’s worthwhile, we’ve provided some information on how to file a lawsuit against your landlord.
Suing a landlord: what to do
Reviewing your lease agreement should be your first course of action if you believe your landlord infringed your tenant rights. Important details like the amount of your security deposit, the length of your lease, and your obligations as a tenant are all spelled out in your rental agreement. This could aid in determining whether or not you have a case.
After that, you should consult with a real estate lawyer and gather proof to back up your claims. This may, for example, be images of unrectified damages to your rental or an invoice from an unpaid handyman.
To effectively present your case to a judge in this last step, you should work closely with a lawyer.
Suing a Landlord: When should you sue your landlord?
The reason for your suit determines when you should sue your landlord. If the suit is because your landlord withheld your security deposit, it is best to file the complaint after you have moved out. Also, if you’re suing because the landlord refuses to make repairs to make the unit habitable, you should do so while your lease is still active.
If you litigate while still residing in the apartment, the landlord may try to retaliate against you.
However, many jurisdictions have rules that restrict landlords from retaliating against a tenant who takes a legally permissible action, such as taking the landlord to court.
The Advantages of Suing Your Landlord
Filing a lawsuit may have certain advantages for tenants.
May Motivate a Landlord to Settle Outside of Court:
Informing your landlord of your intention to sue him or her may motivate your landlord to do everything possible to avoid going to court. He or she may agree to settle with you before the hearing of the case by a judge.
Get Refund of Money:
If you sue your landlord and win, you’ll get the money he owes you plus extra. For example, if your landlord illegally withheld your security deposit, the court may award you this amount, plus two or three times the amount in several areas.
If you win a court lawsuit against your landlord, you may get monetary compensation. For example, if your apartment was uninhabitable, you could get compensation for your pain and suffering.
Ability to Remain in Your Apartment:
If you win a wrongful eviction lawsuit against your landlord, the landlord cannot evict you from the apartment for the specified period.
The Consequences of Suing Your Landlord
Filing a lawsuit, on the other hand, carries some significant potential hazards that every renter should be aware of.
You Might Lose: Filing a lawsuit against your landlord does not ensure victory. You can go through all the trouble of filing a lawsuit and still lose. Landlords are frequently shielded by limited liability companies (LLCs) or larger enterprises with in-house legal counsel or deep pockets to employ competent attorneys.
Filing a lawsuit is not inexpensive. You must pay court charges as well as filing fees. Certain states will also compel you to be represented by an attorney, while most states allow, or even require, you to represent yourself in small claims court—and lawyers can be quite expensive. You must consider whether the amount you are requesting from your landlord justifies all of these additional expenses.
Landlord May Countersue:
Filing a lawsuit against your landlord may prompt them to initiate a lawsuit against you. If you lose this countersuit, you may be liable for court costs, their attorney’s fees (as well as your own), damages sustained by the landlord, and the original amount sought by the landlord.
Suing a Landlord: Is legal action the best option?
While suing is one option, it is not always the best. If you develop a pattern of suing your landlords, you may find it difficult to locate an apartment in the future. You don’t want to be recognized as the renter who sues you every time something goes wrong.
There will be reasonable occasions where a lawsuit is the only choice, such as a serious injury caused by a landlord’s full negligence. In other, less serious cases, filing a lawsuit may be a waste of time. You must decide if the trouble of a lawsuit for such a tiny number is truly worth your time if your landlord is deducting $30 from your security deposit and it costs $60 to file a complaint in small claims court.
First, send a letter of demand.
You should write the landlord a demand letter before you really file a lawsuit against them. What you’re asking of the landlord should be specified in this letter. For instance, you can ask the landlord to address a bathroom mold problem. Make it clear in this letter that you intend to sue the landlord if this problem is not fixed.
State laws vary.
The requirements for when and how to launch a lawsuit vary by state. To find out the particular requirements, you need to speak with a local attorney or the small claims court in your area.
There is an implied assurance of habitability in the majority of states. This means that keeping the property in livable condition and performing necessary repairs are under the landlord’s purview. Every tenant, for instance, is entitled to the availability of heat, plumbing fixtures, and running water.
A few justifications for suing your landlord
Again, state-specific laws will be relevant. Generally speaking, the following are the reasons for which you might sue your landlord:
1# Illegally Keeping Your Security Deposit:
The landlord-tenant laws of each state outline the precise justifications for which a landlord may deduct money from your security deposit. You may sue your landlord if they deducted money from your rent without your permission or without your express prior consent, such as for natural wear and tear on the property.
2# Not Adhering to Your State’s Security Deposit Laws:
If your landlord violates any additional security deposit regulations, you may be entitled to sue him or her in addition to having your security deposit wrongly withheld. This can involve exceeding the state’s cap on fees, neglecting to inform you of the location of your deposit, or failing to provide an itemized breakdown of any deductions made.
3# Housing Discrimination:
You may bring a lawsuit against your landlord if they break the Federal Fair Housing Act’s rules. You must first lodge a grievance with HUD. HUD finds that the landlord has engaged in housing discrimination, they will look into it and take additional legal action.
4# Illegal Provisions in Lease:
A landlord is not permitted to put in the lease any provisions that are illegal or that violate the landlord-tenant regulations of your state. For instance, the Federal Fair Housing Act permits service animals. It is unlawful for a landlord to forbid the usage of service animals.
5# Landlord Has Not Reimbursed You for a Repair:
If your landlord refused to make a repair that would have compromised your health and safety or failed to make the repair within a reasonable amount of time, and you personally paid someone else to make the repair, you may be able to sue your landlord to get your money back in addition to any damages you may have suffered.