Many tenants would love to have a cordial and relaxed relationship with their landlord, but there are occasions when this isn’t the case. Between the landlord and the tenant, rental agreements are “agreements” that have legal backing. However, despite several regulations safeguarding property owners, landlords should remember that tenants also have rights.
These tenant rights shield renters from intrusive or unethical landlord behavior. Consequently, it’s critical to comprehend the causes of landlord-tenant litigation and how to prevent issues.
If you’re a tenant considering suing your landlord for illegal eviction, or if you’re a landlord considering evicting your tenant the right way, this article is for you. Join us as we examine cases where a tenant can sue their landlord for illegal eviction.
Legal Reasons a Landlord Can Pursue Eviction
1. Late payments or non-payment of rent
In an ideal scenario, renters would pay their rent on time each month. However, this is not always the case. In most places, landlords have the right to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent and a record of late rent payments. However, remember that specific restrictions, such as how many days the rent might be late, can differ from state to state. In addition, because eviction is a legal procedure, you must ensure that you obey the laws of the state where the property is located.
In most circumstances, you can get a tenant to move out without eviction. However, you’ll need to issue a reminder to Pay or Quit, which is a notice to tenants that they must clean up their behavior or face eviction. Tenants should also know it’s vital to seek ways to find the best rental property that fits their budget and lifestyle to avoid this situation.
2. Breach of the lease agreement
If a landlord realizes that a renter has broken the lease terms, they have the authority to evict the renter. Violations include subletting the property to people who aren’t listed on the lease, breaking a prohibition on pets, and failing to follow other policies, such as those imposed by an HOA (Homeowners Association). In rare circumstances, giving an otherwise reliable tenant a second chance may be worthwhile, but proceed with caution.
Make any resolution agreements in writing and get them witnessed. Remember that the rental agreement applies both ways; a tenant may sue you in small claims court for anything you are responsible for, so make sure you keep your part of the deal.
3. Damage to the property
While some scratches are expected from the everyday use of the property, some tenant damage can occasionally go beyond scratches or a few nail holes drilled into the wall. It’s time to intervene when damage exceeds what would typically be expected from regular use. Excessive actions include tearing large holes in the wall, creating considerable water damage, or allowing the facility to deteriorate to the point where it risks one’s health and safety.
However, it might not be worthwhile to pursue eviction if the renter wrecks the property and is ready to pay for renovations or undertake the repairs themselves. After all, a tenant eager to make amends is probably someone you should keep as a tenant.
4. Illegal Use of the Facility
If tenants utilize the property for illicit purposes, they may be asked to leave. This covers both occupants running a company out of their property and tenants selling illegal substances out of their property. This is because running a business out of the property would be against the terms of the rental agreement and insurance policy, as well as perhaps against zoning regulations.
As a result, the tenant may be asked to leave the premises. In situations like this, landlords can serve the renter with a Letter to Quit, informing them that they are attempting to evict them due to their improper usage of the property. Landlords can also consider an experienced property manager to carefully navigate tenant concerns and laws and understand better ways to deal with this.
When Can Tenants Sue Landlords for Illegal Eviction?
1. Forceful eviction
This kind of eviction is unlawful when a landlord does something—or threatens to do something—that could cause the tenant to lose access to the rental property. Activities like these include landlords replacing the locks on a tenant’s flat without giving them a new key, tampering with the locks, uninstalling the tenant’s door, or taking their belongings out of the property.
2. Failure to follow eviction procedure
When conducting a legal eviction, there are precise procedures to follow and documents to file. Whether or not the landlord has legal grounds to evict a tenant, the landlord cannot simply throw the tenant out on the street. A renter who has been unfairly evicted from a rental property may file a lawsuit against the landlord for the costs associated with the eviction, including court fees, attorneys’ fees, and other expenses. In light of this, landlords are not permitted to change the locks, turn off the utilities, or remove any of the tenant’s items from the leased property without first obtaining a court order.
3. Retaliatory Eviction of a Renter
When a tenant files a report concerning the property, and the landlord refuses to address the problem, the renter can settle the issue without fearing retaliation. It would then be illegal for a landlord to try to remove a tenant in retaliation.
Consequences of Self-help Evictions
1. Payment for damages
Tenants have the right to sue you if they believe they were wrongfully evicted. Depending on the state’s laws, if the landlord did not follow the correct legal eviction procedures from the beginning, the tenant may have a case, and you may be required to pay the tenant a sizable sum of money for damages.
2. Jail sentence
A landlord who uses self-help evictions is considered a “disorderly person,” which is a criminal crime punishable by up to six months in jail.
3. Tenants may be allowed to return to the property
Every state has laws prohibiting landlords from engaging in self-help evictions. Being ordered to let the tenant stay on the leased property is another frequent result that a landlord may have to deal with. This would command the landlord to permit the tenant to enter the property again.
It is not legal to evict someone because of a personal vendetta or a desire to leave the property. A valid reason that complies with local eviction rules must be presented to support such extreme action.
On the other hand, tenants should comply with the regulations laid down for their rental property. This way, they can avoid a late payment or failure to pay up for their rental property. It is also advisable for tenants to acquaint themselves with the rights they have on the property to avoid being violated.