7 circumstances wherein a tenant can sue a landlord

If problems arise, it is best to communicate with your landlord in writing. Should you get into a legal dispute, you have written evidence of inquiries that are difficult for the landlord to dispute.

Tenants and landlords do not always agree. As a tenant, what recourse do you have if problems arise that cannot be resolved?

Ideally, you want to be able to resolve matters amicably and continue to maintain a good relationship. However, sometimes things don’t go that way. Then the situation may require legal action. Here are seven cases a renter can sue a landlord.

Tenant Responsibilities

To understand what you can sue for, you must first understand what you are responsible for. One of the advantages of renting out is that you don’t have to worry about property maintenance. That is the responsibility of the landlord. However, not every problem has to be fixed by the landlord.

Tenants are responsible for keeping the property in good condition and performing minor maintenance work. If you don’t know where the line between the tenant’s and the landlord’s responsibility lies, disputes often arise.

As a tenant, you are responsible for:

  • Keep the premises clean and maintain the garden (if the maintenance of the garden is in your contract).
  • Dispose of garbage regularly so as not to attract rodents and pests.
  • Maintenance of devices such as ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, and use them properly to avoid damage.
  • Proper operation and maintenance of plumbing and electrical installations. Do not overload electrical outlets. If a drain is blocked, you can unlock it.
  • Does not cause intentional or neglect damage to the inside of the device or the outside (including common areas).

As a tenant, you are also liable in the event that something happens on your property that affects a neighbor or visitor. Let’s assume a water pipe bursts in your home. Should floods occur and penetrate the apartment below, you are responsible for any water damage. If a fire breaks out and a visitor is injured, you can be held responsible for their medical costs.

It is always advisable to take out renter insurance that covers theft or damage to your personal belongings during the rental. It also includes incidents where damage or injury occurs to other or neighboring objects.

Tenants can sue the landlord 7 times

Now that you know what you are responsible for as a tenant, let’s look at certain scenarios in which a landlord fails to meet their obligations. Here are 7 scenarios in which the tenant has the right to sue.

Image by Sandy Millar via Unsplash.com.

1. The property is uninhabitable and poses a health or safety risk

Landlords are responsible for keeping a property habitable. This means that the premises should be clean and free from pests and mold. All electrical and plumbing installations should work and there should be no structural damage that could pose a safety risk. If the property becomes uninhabitable and you have raised it many times, you should take further action.

2. If you are injured due to lack of property maintenance

If structural or electrical problems lead to an injury, you have the right to sue your landlord, provided you have informed them prior to the incident. If a loose joist falls and you injured and you haven’t asked your landlord to fix it, the court is likely on the landlord’s side because he or she was unaware of the problem.

3. You have been unjustly evicted

If your landlord has broken the terms of your contract or evicted you for no good reason, you can fight it in court. If you were forced to move before the legal process was completed, the court may request the landlord to reimburse you for all costs related to moving or securing temporary accommodation.

Note that evictions are currently not permitted in some states during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Los Angeles, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants who are having trouble paying rent due to COVID-related job losses or lower household incomes.

4. Withholding your security deposit for no good reason

Once you have moved out and left the property as you found it – tidy, clean and undamaged – you are entitled to a refund of your deposit. If your landlord refuses to return your deposit without good reason, it is illegal.

Some states have security laws. If the landlord claims the money was used for normal wear and tear repairs, it is not a valid reason to withhold the deposit. The deposit is used to cover the unpaid rent and to repair any damage caused by the tenant.

5. Invasion of your privacy

Although the property belongs to the landlord, you have the right to live there peacefully and privately. Your landlord should not appear unannounced at any time of the day or night and should not enter the premises without your permission. This is considered a criminal offense in the eyes of the law. If the behavior persists, you can take legal action to stop it.

6. Housing discrimination

The federal law on fair living protects tenants from discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or marital status. It is also illegal not to allow service animals. Housing discrimination can be subtle and difficult to prove at times. Your landlord will deny it and your word may go against his or her.

If you suspect you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, who will investigate and, if the landlord is found guilty, take appropriate legal action.

7. Refuses to reimburse you for the repair costs

In some cases, a renter agrees to repairs and the landlord agrees to reimburse them. In other cases, it may be an emergency repairs if the landlord was out of town or could not be reached.

If the repairs are the responsibility of the rental company, they should reimburse you for the cost. If not, you can sue them for your money back. If you decide to do repairs, always make sure that you have discussed this with the landlord beforehand and that you have their approval.

If problems arise, it is best to communicate with your landlord in writing. Should you get into a legal dispute, you have written evidence of inquiries that are difficult for the landlord to dispute. This evidence could mean the difference between winning and losing your case.

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