How to File a Case Against Your Landlord - morgan and morgan
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How to File a Case Against Your Landlord

How to File a Case Against Your Landlord

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How to File a Case Against Your Landlord

Landlord and tenant relationships can become easily strained for many reasons. Maybe you dislike each other or disagree with what constitutes reasonable property maintenance. In some cases, considering a move elsewhere can be the best option. However, if a landlord acted illegally and you are impacted financially, emotionally, or even physically, you should consider filing a lawsuit to recover damages. 

Morgan & Morgan fights hard for the rights of tenants. Our attorneys know how to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable. Contact us now to find out how to file a case against your landlord in a free case evaluation.

Common Reasons for Suing Landlords

You have certain rights under federal and state laws if you rent an apartment or house. If your landlord violates your legal rights as a tenant, you could sue them for damages. Some common reasons why tenants file lawsuits against landlords include:

Getting Injured at the Rental Property

If your landlord neglected to maintain your rental property and you suffered an injury as a result, you could potentially have a personal injury case and seek compensation. Slip and fall injury claims can arise due to hazardous conditions such as:

  • Missing handrails on staircases
  • Lack of lighting in communal hallways
  • Wet and icy conditions on walkways
  • Broken floorboards

Landlords have the legal obligation to ensure that their rental properties are reasonably safe. When they neglect the maintenance of their properties, they could potentially be held liable by injured victims. 

Becoming a Victim of Crime

If you are attacked, assaulted, or experience a violent robbery in your rental home, you could have a case against your landlord for negligent security. Examples of negligent security can include: 

  • Inadequate lighting around the property
  • Lack of fencing and gates
  • Unlocked doors leading to your property
  • Broken security cameras

However, to have a case, you would have to prove that: 

  1. The property owner had a duty of care and owed you protection
  2. They breached the duty of care
  3. The breach directly caused your injuries and financial damages 

Every negligent security case is different, and what would be considered necessary in high-crime locations, such as security cameras, might not be required elsewhere. Therefore, proving that you have a negligent security case against your landlord can be tricky. Having an experienced and skilled premises liability lawyer help build your case against a landlord can be crucial.

Housing Discrimination

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in housing. The federal Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity 
  • Disability

In addition, landlords may be required to make reasonable accommodations and allow certain modifications needed by persons with disabilities. Some state laws may go further with their discrimination laws. If you believe that your landlord has violated the federal Fair Housing Act, you could have a legal case against them and recover compensation. 

In the first instance, you have to file a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD will investigate your complaint and determine whether further legal action is appropriate. If you prevail in a discrimination case against a landlord, you could be entitled to compensation and punitive damages.

Uninhabitable Property

In most states, a tenant has the legal right to safe and livable housing. A rental property should meet the following basic requirements to be considered livable:

  • Working plumbing
  • Hot water and heating
  • Wind and waterproof 
  • Protection from criminal acts (locks on doors and windows)
  • No unreasonable environmental hazards such as lead, mold, and asbestos
  • Walls and floors of sound structural repair

If your landlord refuses repairs to make the property livable, and you face negative consequences on your health and safety, you could sue them. In the first instance, you may want to inform the landlord that you intend to withhold rent or leave the property unless they repair the issue. Before taking any steps, consider contacting our attorneys, who can talk things through with you and move forward with a claim.

Illegal Clauses in Tenancy Agreement

A tenant could sue a landlord if they suffered damages due to an illegal clause in the rental agreement. For example, service animals are permitted in rental properties under the Federal Fair Housing Act. A landlord refusing a service animal could be acting illegally. Other examples of potentially illegal tenancy agreement clauses include:

  • A landlord not being responsible for any repairs 
  • Allowing a landlord to seize tenants’ property if they are late paying rent
  • Relieving a landlord of responsibility if a hazard, such as mold, is detected
  • Waiving the landlord’s duty to maintain the property in livable condition
  • A tenant having to leave at any time the landlord wants them to 

Our attorneys can review your rental contract if you suspect that your tenant’s rights are violated due to an illegal clause. 

Failing to Reimburse Tenants for Repairs

If you make any significant repairs to the property, such as fixing a plumbing leak or a wiring defect, you are generally entitled to reimbursement of your costs. If a landlord refuses to pay you for repairing a problem, you could sue them. Filing a lawsuit can allow you to recover any out-of-pocket expenses for fixing the defect and additional damages. 

It is important to note that many states allow for “repair and deduct.” This means that if your landlord is not fixing a severe housing defect and you repaired it yourself or hired someone for the work, you could subtract the cost from next month’s rent. However, repairing and deducting can be impractical when major repairs are required, such as replacing a roof. 

Failure to Disclose Mold or Lead Paint

Hazardous conditions in your home can be bad for your health and your family’s health. Landlords should disclose known lead paint or mold hazards, including past and existing problems. A landlord must not deliberately hide this information from you. If you notice mold problems in your rental property, members of your family developed medical conditions due to mold, or your property was damaged, you could be entitled to compensation. 

Entering Rented Property Illegally

Laws about entering property can differ between states. However, there are usually only four scenarios in which a landlord can enter a property legally, including:  

  • To make significant repairs or assess the need for repairs 
  • To handle an emergency 
  • To show the property to potential purchasers or tenants 
  • The tenant invited them 

Generally, unless invited, a landlord should only enter during normal business hours, usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The landlord must also give reasonable notice (usually 24 hours). If a landlord enters your property illegally, you could get a court order to stop them and could pursue compensation.  

Trying to Illegally Evict Tenants

You can potentially sue a landlord who is trying to evict you illegally. State laws can differ on what qualifies as illegal eviction. However, landlords are generally barred from taking action such as:

  • Changing locks to lock you out of your home
  • Retaliate against you after you complained or filed a lawsuit
  • Remove your belongings without a court order
  • Turn off your heating or electricity

In most states, a landlord has to serve a termination notice before they can legally evict you. 

How to Sue a Landlord

How to file a case against your landlord will depend on the type of claim you are pursuing.

Small Claims Court

If your dispute involves a smaller sum, you would most likely file a suit in your local small claims court. Small claims court procedures are relatively straightforward. Claimants pay a small fee to file the lawsuit with the court clerk and have papers served on the landlord. At a later date, the plaintiff (the tenant bringing the suit) and the defendant (the landlord) will present their sides of the incident and any evidence to prove their case. The judge will then decide the outcome of the case and issue an order. 

Regular Trial Court

Most small claims courts have a limit of a few thousand dollars. However, if you got seriously injured due to the negligence of your landlord, you could face tens of thousands or more in medical bills, income loss, and other damages. In this case, you could bring a suit in a regular civil court. 

However, it is best to consult with or hire an attorney before attempting to sue your landlord. Depending on your type of case, you may have to take additional steps before you can file a suit. For example, if you have a claim for discrimination, you generally have to file a complaint with the responsible state or federal agency first before you can sue. An attorney from Morgan & Morgan can analyze your claim and determine whether you have a case. We can identify the best course of action in your specific situation, which may or may not be filing a lawsuit against your landlord.

How Morgan & Morgan Can Help File a Case Against Your Landlord  

If we take your case, we will handle the lawsuit from beginning to end. Our dedicated and experienced attorneys can fight for your rights as a tenant by:

  • Explaining your rights and clarifying your legal options 
  • Filing a complaint with the responsible government agency
  • Filing a lawsuit on your behalf
  • Gathering evidence to build your case against a landlord
  • Negotiating a fair settlement for your damages
  • Fighting vigorously for the best possible outcome at a trial

Morgan & Morgan is here for you. Our attorneys are eager to fight for your tenant’s rights and help you get what you deserve. Our fee is free until we win. 

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FAQ

Morgan & Morgan

  • Is Suing a Landlord Always the Best Option?

    Filing a lawsuit against your employer can be a solution, but it is not the only one and may not be the best option in your specific case. If you have a grievance, speaking to your landlord or trying mediation could help to solve your problem without filing a lawsuit. 

    However, in some circumstances, taking your landlord to court can be the only option. If you suffered significant injuries due to a landlord’s neglect, for example, you should consider suing them and recovering compensation for your medical bills and other damages. Consider speaking to an attorney from Morgan & Morgan to find out about your options for getting justice from a landlord.

  • When Should I Sue a Landlord?

    When to sue your landlord depends on the nature of your case. For example, if you are suing for an unreturned security deposit, you would file the lawsuit after moving out. However, if your landlord neglected to repair the property, then you would sue them while you still reside on the property. Be aware that if you are filing a lawsuit while still living on the premises, your landlord might try to retaliate against you. However, some states prohibit landlords from retaliating against a tenant when they file a lawsuit.

    The Statute of Limitations in Your State

    Whatever type of lawsuit you are filing, you will have to do so within time limits that can vary from one state to another. If you try to file a lawsuit once the deadline has passed in your state, your case will most likely get thrown out. Therefore, it is best to inform yourself as soon as possible and contact a lawyer in your state to determine when to file your lawsuit. In some states, the time to file a personal injury lawsuit can be as short as one year.

  • Morgan & Morgan Fights for Renters’ Rights

    Getting illegally evicted by a landlord or living in uninhabitable conditions despite paying rent is plain wrong and can affect your entire life, including your health, career, and relationships. However, renters are entitled to a reasonably healthy and safe property and have many other protections under the law. Morgan & Morgan’s determined attorneys are committed to helping you assert your rights and fight for what you deserve. Get started today and contact Morgan & Morgan for a free consultation.

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