Unfortunately, wrongful eviction of tenants happens. While there is very little you can do to prevent your landlord from beginning an eviction process, you can fight against eviction and win. The following tips will assist you in your fight against a vindictive landlord.
Ask an Attorney
Believe it or not, hiring a lawyer may be one of the easiest ways to fight a wrongful eviction that could possibly not cost you a single cent. Pursuant to your state’s laws, a landlord found by a court to have wrongfully evicted a tenant may be required to pay the tenant’s legal fees. This means that if you take your landlord to court for a wrongful eviction and win, the landlord will be responsible for paying all of the court costs and your lawyer’s fees.
Your local attorney referral service, which should be listed in a phone book, can provide you the names of attorneys who practice landlord-tenant litigation. Often, these attorneys will meet with you at no charge to review your case and determine whether you have a valid claim against the landlord. If the attorney agreed to represent you, he would then work at little to no cost to you and recover his expenses and fees at the end of the case. However, this may not always be the situation, so be sure to ask how the attorney is paid and what his fees are prior to agreeing to hire him.
Contact Your Local HUD Office
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prohibits discrimination against tenants based on religion, national origin, familial status and several other aspects. A claimed violation of these laws is considered very serious and will be investigated by your local housing authority and possibly the HUD. Your local housing authority should be able to provide you the forms and other assistance for making a claim for wrongful eviction. In cases of claimed discrimination, you may also want to hire an attorney. The same rules for paying the attorney may apply, but you should check nevertheless.
Warn the Landlord
Hopefully, you will have been keeping records of your payments and contact with your landlord throughout your renting the apartment. If so, you will have ample evidence that you are being wrongfully evicted. If you are still living in the apartment and have not yet contacted an attorney, you might consider presenting your evidence to the landlord to see if he will cease the proceedings. Do not give the landlord the documents, but instead write a letter containing the information you are in possession of, state that you have evidence of this information and finish by refuting his claims that you need to be evicted. You can include copies of any of your records, but, again, do not give him the originals.
Take Your Claim to Court
While it may be helpful, you do not necessarily have to hire an attorney to take your landlord to court. Depending on your state, you can bring a lawsuit against your landlord for a wrongful eviction in either small claims or county court. The clerk of the court will be able to assist you with the paperwork you need to file. However, it is still a good idea to notify your local housing authority office that you are filing the case even if you do not hire an attorney.
Wrongful eviction is a terrible occurrence, but one that sometimes cannot be avoided depending on the landlord’s malice. Fortunately, there are governmental organizations and attorneys that are willing and ready to assist a wrongfully evicted tenant.