Tenants’ Rights: When to Speak with a Tenant Attorney

Although they are costly, lawyers may occasionally be required to defend your rights as a tenant.

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Tenants often encounter small problems that are readily fixed with common sense and by consulting reliable sources on landlord-tenant legislation. It is preferable if you are more aware of the law and your legal rights.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website’s Tenant Rights section offers a wealth of state and local resources, such as links to tenant unions, fair housing organizations, rent control boards, and legal aid organizations for each state. Many legal aid websites also provide helpful information on tenant rights, even if you are not eligible for legal aid services. From breaking a lease to mold in rentals, the Muraco Law website has a wealth of helpful materials and publications about tenant rights. Small claims court is also available.

However, certain problems are difficult to fix and might gravely jeopardize your pleasure of your rental—or worse, your ability to remain there at all. Obtaining legal counsel in these circumstances may be the best, if costly, means of defending your rights.

Think about contacting a lawyer if any of the following apply to you.

You are being evicted by your landlord

Hiring a lawyer might improve your chances of success if your landlord issues a termination notice that you plan to contest. Select a local attorney with substantial experience defending evictions and who is educated in landlord-tenant law. Such an attorney can devise clever plans of action or methods that you may not be aware of. If the facts warrant it, the attorney may contend that your landlord’s eviction was unlawful since it was motivated by retaliation.

Your Landlord is Displacing You Without Following the Correct Legal Process

Landlords are required by state and municipal legislation to adhere to the eviction processes. Think about contacting a lawyer if your landlord tries to evict you by handling things themselves, such as by locking you out, stopping your utilities, or even removing your doors, windows, or belongings. Such “self-help” therapies are prohibited. A landlord cannot conduct any self-help steps against you, not even to scare them, no matter how compelling their argument may be for terminating the lease.

Your Landlord Treats You Unfairly

You may require legal assistance to put an end to your landlord’s unlawful behavior and help you be compensated for any losses you may have incurred if you feel that your landlord is treating you unfairly. Hiring legal counsel to file a lawsuit against the landlord is one alternative.

A state or local organization participating in HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) may receive a fair housing complaint; another alternative is to submit one with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Every year, HUD and state, municipal, and FHAP agencies receive close to 12,000 complaints alleging discrimination. You will have the advantage of a free HUD attorney to defend you before an administrative law judge if HUD looks into your complaint and finds there’s grounds to think your landlord has been discriminating. The judge has the authority to penalize your landlord, provide you damages and legal expenses, and grant you further remedy.

Your Landlord Isn’t Going to Fix What Needs Fixing

Serious issues may arise if your landlord isn’t carrying out crucial duties as required by the law and your contract. Consider a landlord who, for example, refuses to restore a broken window until a burglary happens or who keeps putting off necessary repairs for the heating system until winter is well underway.

In certain situations, you may choose to take independent action to enforce one of your state’s tenant remedies (such rent withholding or “repair and deduct”), but you may want some guidance on how to proceed properly. Your best bet could be to see a lawyer. A lawyer can also try to get in touch with the landlord on your behalf, look into the possibilities of a speedy settlement, and file a lawsuit if necessary.

Your Landlord Is Not Keeping His Word

Landlords will occasionally offer assurances to entice prospective tenants. For instance, a landlord may pledge to create an electronic gated parking lot or a more effective intercom system if the applicant is worried about the crime rate in the area. You may need to engage a lawyer to write a severe letter to your landlord threatening legal action if the landlord doesn’t follow through, reminding them that they may be held accountable for certain illegal behaviors occurring at their properties.

You’ve Become Sick or Injured

Mishaps may occur in properly-managed rental properties as well. However, your landlord may be responsible for any injuries if an accident occurs as a consequence of their negligence. For instance, you may fall down the front stairs of your building and break your leg on an ice spot. (Perhaps the landlord ought to have made arrangements for routine de-icing to eliminate the risk.) Alternatively, you may find out about a mold infestation in your rental only after it has severely harmed you and your family.

You should choose a personal injury attorney with experience in premises liability in this situation.

Many legal arguments exist to persuade a judge or insurance adjustor that your landlord should be held accountable even if they did not directly or willfully cause the issue. Attorneys are adept at determining which ideas could be relevant and use them to support their positions.

Your Items Have Been Harmful

Your personal belongings may occasionally sustain harm as a result of a landlord’s neglect of the rental property. For instance, an electrical fire in your living room caused by a landlord’s poor wire repair work might destroy your furniture and other possessions.

In the event that you possess renters’ insurance, your insurance provider will pay for the damage, and its attorneys will then pursue payment from your landlord. Consider engaging a lawyer to assist you in obtaining payment from your landlord if the damage to your property is significant and you do not have insurance or your coverage is insufficient. Alternatively, you might spend an hour or two speaking with a lawyer who can advise you on the best course of action and the points you should make in order to be compensated.

How to Seek Legal Assistance

If you want legal assistance, select a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant disputes. Read the article “How to Find an Excellent Lawyer” for assistance in finding a lawyer, or go to the Muraco Law Directory directly.

Engage an attorney as a “coach.” It doesn’t have to be expensive to hire a lawyer. You may discover a lawyer who will occasionally agree to meet with you as a coach for an hour, depending on your requirements, your financial situation, and your level of confidence in your ability to handle an issue on your own. You might only need a small amount of legal assistance to help you move in the direction of success, but even that can make a difference.

Look for a provision in your rental agreement about attorneys’ costs. In order to shield themselves from pointless litigation, many landlords insert a “attorneys’ fees” language in their rental agreement or lease. In the event that you prevail in a lawsuit against your landlord and your lease or rental agreement contains this language, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your reasonable legal expenses and court costs. (Courtes in several states will determine that your provision functions both ways, even if it seems to only provide damages to the landlord who prevails.)

Practically speaking, it will be simpler for you to get legal representation if your lease or rental agreement contains an attorneys’ fees clause. An attorney doesn’t have to worry as much about being paid by you because the landlord will cover the attorney’s fees if you prevail. It should be noted that the phrase probably only applies to disagreements pertaining to the lease or rental agreement (such as problems with rent, evictions, and security deposits); it does not apply to disagreements about discrimination, bodily injury, or other similar concerns.


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