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Can I Sue My Landlord?

Both tenants and landlords want a smooth relationship throughout the tenancy period. But that doesn't always happen. There are times where renters have to go to court to ensure their rights are protected.

When Can I Sue My Landlord?

You can sue your landlord when:

When You Face Housing Discrimination

Federal law states that landlords can't discriminate against tenants based on their race, religion, sex, national origin, or familial status. If your landlord discriminates against you, then you should take the case to your state HUD where they will do the proper investigation and take action.

When Your Landlord Doesn't Return Your Security Deposit on Time/Takes Your Deposit Illegally

If you took good care of the unit during your stay, your landlord must return your security deposit after you move out.

Note: Your landlord may be able to take part or all of your security deposit if:

  • The unit is damaged beyond normal wear and tear
  • You did not pay your rent (called "nonpayment of rent")
  • You did not pay your utility bills

If your landlord keeps your security deposit illegally, then you can take them to court.

When Your Rental Unit Is Inhabitable

As a tenant, you have the legal right of implied warranty of habitability. This includes ensuring that you have access to basic necessities like hot water and heat. 

In these situations, you must first notify your landlord asking them to solve the problem. If they fail to do so, you can make the repairs yourself and withhold rent. You can also take the case to small claims court.

When the Property Owner Interferes With Your Right to Quiet Enjoyment

You have the right to quiet enjoyment in your rental property. That means landlords can't enter your unit without giving you reasonable notice. They can also only enter the unit for reasons allowed under your state laws and the rental agreement.

If a landlord enters your property without notice, you can try suing them to prevent them from entering your property without notice in the future.

When Your Landlord Fails to Make Necessary Repairs

It is the landlord's responsibility to make the necessary repairs to damages that make the unit unsafe or healthy. If your landlord refuses to make repairs after you notified them or they refuse to reimburse you after you made repairs, then you have the right to sue.

When You Get Injured at the Rental Property

You may be able to sue your landlord if you get injured on the property. This will be the case if the injury happened because the landlord was negligent. 

For example, if you slip and fall down the stairs because your landlord failed to fix a problem, you can take the case to court and collect damages.

When Your Landlord Wrongfully Evicts You

Wrongful eviction is one of the reasons where you can bring a suit to court. A landlord can lawfully evict you for a number of reasons including:

  • Breaching the terms of the lease agreement
  • Not paying rent
  • Not moving out when your lease ends

However, even in these situations, the landlord can't simply evict you. For example, they can't cut the utilities or change the locks before they get the court's permission. They need to follow proper legal procedures. If they don't, you can bring the case to small claims court.

Before You Sue, Send a Demand Letter

Suing your landlord can be costly and you will likely end up paying a lot of money, including filing fees and attorney's fees. So, it's better to find other ways to resolve the issue before you take the matter to court.

You can do this by sending your landlord a letter explaining the problem and asking them to remedy it. You should also state that you will take the case to court if the landlord does not act. This letter is called a demand letter.

Considering Suing Your Landlord? Speak to an Attorney

States have different laws when it comes to the tenant's ability to sue the landlord. What is illegal in some states may be okay in others. Speak to an experienced landlord-tenant attorney near you to get proper legal advice on what your best option is when going forward with your case.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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