The Fair Housing Act allows tenants to be safe against discrimination regardless of race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, or familial status. Although tenancy laws vary from state to state, all tenants have the right to safe and livable spaces with working necessities like heat, water, and electricity.
5 Signs Tenants Should Hire a Lawyer
Before you hire your lawyer, send a letter of demands to your landlord. This letter will explain what demands need to be fulfilled by when, and that you will take legal action against your landlord if they are not fulfilled by the determined date. Every state has different requirements on what you can sue your landlord for, and how much you can receive from your landlord.
This may encourage your landlord to take action so neither of you have to go to court. Be sure to speak with a lawyer on what the process for suing a landlord in your state requires.
Here is our free tenant lawyer advice for knowing when you should hire a tenant lawyer:
1. Your Landlord is Discriminatory to You or Other Tenants in Your Home.
Your landlord cannot discriminate against anyone in your home’s race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, or familial status. For instance, if you have a baby, your landlord cannot evict you if they’re worried about noise complaints. The same can be said for other new roommates or significant others, as long as they understand how many occupants reside in the home. They may require you pay more in heat, electricity, or water.
You are allowed to ask for an itemized list of increased expenses to prove that the new resident(s) are increasing the cost of living. If you believe you’re being discriminated against, call a lawyer to help you file a complaint with the department of housing and urban development (HUD) so there is record of their behavior.
2. Your Landlord Has Not Provided a Livable and Safe Space for You.
If your landlord has not responded to your letter of demands in a timely matter, or refuses to deal with the issues you have brought up to them, it might be time to call a lawyer. Some places require homes to be fitted with other additional safety measures such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, peepholes, and deadbolt locks.
A lawyer can help educate you on what your home must be legally outfitted with in order to be considered “livable” in your state or county.
3. Your Landlord is Withholding Damage Deposits and/or Funds from You.
Your landlord can have numerous reasons for not returning your money. Let’s say your dishwasher breaks, or your landlord asks you to repaint a room because it’s dingy. If you paid for the dishwasher to be fixed with your own funds, your landlord need to reimburse you. The same can be said about the spent painting supplies you bought.
Be sure to keep all receipts if your landlord does ask you to make repairs like this. Your landlord can reimburse you by deducting rent. However, your landlord should be using a separate bank account from their personal one to handle all manners with rental properties.
Most states require a landlord to return a damage deposit within 30 days after you vacate the property. Your landlord is allowed to withhold a damage deposit if you have damaged the home, or have left it messy.
To avoid any disputes over damages, make sure you photograph and record everything upon moving in. Be sure to keep record of any repairs made while living in your home. You can also ask for an itemized list of things your landlord wants to deduct from your deposit.
4. Your Landlord Tries to Evict You While You Are Disputing with Them.
Let’s say you sent a letter of demands or have begun the suing process. Rather than complying, your landlord decides to counter sue or evict you as a form of retaliation. In many states, it’s illegal for landlords to retaliate in this manner, and many judges will also be suspicious of landlords that do react like this.
If your landlord does try to take action against you while you’re living in your home, remain calm and do not attempt to move out of your home. You have the right to remain in your home if your landlord is counter suing you, or is evicting you.
Call your lawyer and let them know about the actions your landlord is taking, and they’ll tell you what options your state will allow.
5. Your Landlord Forcefully Tries to Evict You Without Proper Notice.
In order for your landlord to legally evict you, they need a court-order eviction notice. The first notice will be a notice to vacate the premises. This should have your landlord’s reason for eviction, and when you need to leave by.
Your landlord can evict you for:
- Not paying rent
- An expired lease agreement
- A violation of your rental contract
- Causing substantial damage to the property
Your landlord cannot physically or forcefully remove you from your home even if they have an eviction notice. The only people who are legally allowed to physically remove you are a sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, or a court bailiff.
What Are Tenants Not Allowed To Do?
Even if your landlord has not provided a livable space, or you come to a disagreement on what duties your landlord must fulfill, you must still pay rent. Paying rent on-time is a separate issue from other disputes with your landlord. Refusing to pay rent could result in you being rightfully evicted. Stay calm and talk to a lawyer to see if there are grounds for you to sue your landlord.
What is a Landlord Not Allowed to Do?
Always be sure to check your state’s laws on tenancy rights. Even if your landlord does evict you, they cannot:
- Refuse to repair problems in an attempt to condemn your home
- Force or threaten you to leave your home
- Enter your home without permission (most states require 24 to 48 hours notice before they can!)
- Change or add locks and other security devices without your permission
- Block entries or “board up” your home
- Shut-off your water, electricity, gas, and other amenities
- Cause disturbances to force you out of your home like loud noises
- Take, keep, remove, or destroy your personal property
Being evicted or sued by a landlord can be frustrating, and can have serious consequences against your mental well-being and credit score. You have the right to a safe and livable space, and your credit shouldn’t be affected if your landlord is wrongfully evicting you. To speak to a lawyer and get free tenant advice, call the number at the top of the screen.