Rental agreements are legally binding contractual “agreements” between two parties, the landlord and tenant. That said, landlords should be aware that while many laws are protecting the rights of property owners, tenants also have rights. These tenant rights protect renters against overbearing or illegal landlord actions. Rental disagreements can be a burden on both parties, and tenants sometimes take drastic measures. As a property owner, you could be the target of a lawsuit. Therefore, understanding the reasons tenants sue landlords and how to avoid potential problems is vital.
The best way to avoid this situation is to be aware of your tenants’ rights so you can avoid violating them.
Wrongful Eviction Proceedings
Landlords are frequently successful at winning eviction cases. However, you still need to follow a legal eviction process.
Removing tenants yourself might seem like the most straightforward solution when they haven’t paid rent or have broken their lease agreement, but you could get in trouble without the proper paperwork. It’s illegal to kick your tenants out on the streets, even when you have a valid reason.
So, although it can be tedious, follow the correct procedure and get a court order before removing tenants’ property from the premises, changing the locks or cutting off utilities.
Failing to provide habitable living quarters
If your tenants can’t live in your rental because it’s dangerous or poses a health risk, it may be considered uninhabitable.
For example, if your rental has mold due to water damage, a rat infestation, or even storm damage that has wrecked the property, you will be on the hook to resolve the issue immediately. In other words, you’ll have to make repairs right away.
If your property is declared uninhabitable and you refuse to make repairs, your tenants might sue you. That is, if they don’t just abandon the property and move on. Tenants have the right to live in a safe and healthy environment, and as a landlord, you have your part to play in fulfilling that obligation.
Failing to repay repair costs
Sometimes tenants will perform repairs in a rental property because a landlord refuses to do so in a reasonable amount of time. When this happens, you must to reimburse your tenants for the money spent on the repair. This is especially true if the repair was affecting the health and safety of your tenants and needed immediate attention.
If you don’t pay your tenants for necessary repairs they perform on your behalf, they can sue you to recover the money spent plus damages.
Illegally withholding the security deposit
Every state is different when it comes to the specifics about collecting, securing, and returning security deposits. However, one thing is true, if you don’t follow the rules of your state, you’ll find yourself in hot water.
Typically, you are only allowed to use a security deposit for the following items:
Damage to your property beyond normal wear and tear
Early termination of lease agreements
Non-payment of rent
Excessive cleaning costs
Unpaid utility bills upon move-out
If you use it for anything else, you might find yourself being sued by your tenant for breaking the law.
If you violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, your tenant can rightfully sue you for discrimination. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. If your tenants feel you have discriminated against them in any way, even during the tenant screening process, you could find yourself in court.
Want to ensure that you never discriminate against your tenants? Then hire an experienced property management company to screen tenants for you. Not only do the property managers seek out the highest quality tenants for your rental, but they also know all the federal, state, and local laws so you don’t have to.
Entering a Tenant’s Apartment Illegally
Even as a property manager or landlord, you don’t have the right to illegally enter a tenant’s apartment. Your tenant has the right to his privacy. You cannot just walk into any apartment you want just because you are the landlord or the property manager. You will need a reason and of course, proper notification before you do so.
The only time you can enter an apartment without a notification is in case of an emergency like fire or gas leak. Most cities allow at least 24-hour notice before you can enter a tenant’s apartment.
To stay safe from legal trouble, read the state housing laws to ensure you know when you can enter a tenant’s apartment.
Not Disclosing Lead Paint or Mold Issues
Landlords are required by law to disclose any known mold or previous or existing lead hazards at their properties. Because these issues can cause long-term health problems, it is illegal for landlords to hide them from tenants. If your tenants find out you failed to disclose this type of information, they can rightfully sue you.
Having illegal clauses in the lease
Yes, a tenant can sue you for having an illegal clause in your tenancy agreement. You need to make sure that every clause in your lease is legal. For instance, the landlord can legally refuse tenants with pets, but they cannot restrict service animals.
Apart from the type of pets allowed, another clause you should be aware of as a property manager is clauses involving how much notice you should give before entering a tenant’s apartment. To be on the safe side, read the state’s law and understand what it says regarding this issue.
The best way to ensure that everything you have in your tenancy agreement is legal is to get the services of an experienced attorney to write the lease and ensure that everything is legal.
Are you looking to avoid any of the above situations with your tenants? Contact Overland Management today. Our staff stays well-versed on all federal and state laws regarding eviction proceedings and security deposits. Offering years of experience drafting legally compliant lease agreements, we understand the balance between a tenant’s right to a peaceful place to live and your peace of mind.