It’s an awful to position to be in when your landlord violates the lease agreement. The major concern is that you’ll upset your landlord, who might retaliate and kick you out of your apartment. If you’ve been living there for a long time and are paying a lower rent compared to most apartment rentals in your area, or your options for renting somewhere else is limited, you may not want to “rock the boat” with your landlord. At least you should know what your options are, so that you can make a good decision based on the circumstances.
Examples of a Landlord Violation
There are number of minor and major ways in which a landlord can violate the lease agreement. Some examples are:
- Not making minor repairs
- Doesn’t return security deposit
- Refuses to pay interest on security deposit to tenant
- Failure to clear walkways and driveways
- Frequent inspects apartment without notice to tenant
The landlord needs a written notice of the violation, in order to remedy it. Even if you believe the landlord is intentionally violating the lease, you still have a legal duty to put them on notice.
Make a Written Request
It’s important to have documentation of the violations, and you should be as detailed as possible. First, explain any historyof the problem, and your attempts to get a resolution. Explain the need for the violation to be “cured” or corrected, and the promise made in the lease agreement to do that. Sign and date it, and send it Certified Mail through the post office, requesting your landlord’s signature. It’s good to have this for your records, and if you want to take legal action, it will be evidence that you can submit to the court. If you make verbal requests, then it’s your landlord’s word against yours, and a judge could rule for your landlord.
Third Party Involvement
Another step to take prior to or in lieu of suing your landlord is to involve a third party. If the relationship between you and your landlord is strained, you probably won’t be able to communicate effectively to resolve the matter. A third party can be helpful though, and it has to be someone that doesn’t have a vested interest on either side. For example, a property manager has a financial interest in siding with the landlord and won’t be a good pick. If your landlord agrees to involving a third party, you can hire a mediator.
Small Claims Court
Suing your landlord in small claims court for violating the lease agreement should not be your first move if you want to stay in your apartment. Most landlords will do everything possible to evict you, in order to avoid future lawsuits. However, if you plan to move out or have already done so, then small claims court is a reasonable option to get money back for damages. It will also help to warn future tenants if they research court cases against your landlord, as part of their apartment search strategy.
Don’t abandon your apartment when the landlord violates the lease agreement, unless you’re positive that you have a legal right to do so. The same goes for withholding rent payments. Otherwise, you’ll be held liable for damages, back rent and legal fees if the landlord turns around and takes you to court.