Tenants bring lawsuits against landlords and property managers for many reasons, including property damage, injuries due to negligence, breach of contract or lease agreement, Fair Housing Discrimination, retention of security deposits, wrongful eviction, and even illegal credit reporting. Here are the most common lawsuits landlords face, and how they can prevent them.
1. Wrongful Eviction
When a landlord or property manager evicts a tenant without following through the proper required procedures, the tenant may sue for wrongful eviction. Eviction procedures vary by state and city/region, and are according to specific landlord-tenant laws. When a tenant sues a landlord or property manager for wrongful eviction, they can also sue for damages, court costs, attorney fees, and more. If you want to evict a tenant, make sure you have a valid reason and follow procedure exactly to avoid a lawsuit.
2. Breach of Quiet Enjoyment
A breach of “quiet enjoyment” is one of the most common reasons for tenants suing landlords and also one of the most abused provisions of residential contracts/leases. Ways in which landlords and property managers commit this type of breach include: interruption of utilities such as electricity or water, improper entry into a tenant’s property without giving timely and proper notice, letting someone else into a tenant’s property without notice or consent, violation of privacy through gossip, or arriving at a tenant’s place of work to discuss tenant and/or property issues. Avoid this lawsuit by giving your tenants the privacy they deserve, and give them due notice if you plan to enter the property for whatever reasons.
3. Habitability (or Livability)
Officially called “breach of the implied warranty of habitability,” this is also one of the more common lawsuits that landlords have to deal with. If any of the landlord's actions make the rental property uninhabitable, the tenant may sue. Steer clear of this lawsuit by ensuring that your property is fit for living and addressing any repairs in a timely manner.
4. Illegal Credit Reporting
There are several ways landlords or property managers can violate the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation, including not reporting tenants to the credit bureau, filing unnecessary and unwarranted eviction actions (which can negatively affect a tenant’s credit rating), and discussing a tenant’s or potential tenant’s credit information with someone who does not need to know this information. Failure to send out rejection letters to applications is also considered illegal by the FCRA. Become familiar with the FCRA in order to keep tenants from suing for any violations.
5. Fair Housing Discrimination
This lawsuit is unique because it’s governed by both federal and state legislation. Each type of legislation pertains to different people, situations, types of housing and also covers what type of discrimination is illegal. In general, it is illegal for a landlord or property manager to discriminate in regards to not renting or selling property, telling a potential tenant that a property has been rented/sold when it hasn’t been, advertising in a discriminatory way (for example, making exclusions such as not allowing children, “singles only”, only mature tenants, etc.), and treating one group of people differently than others. Prevent a Fair Housing lawsuit by understanding exactly what you can and cannot do or say when you are renting or selling a property.
6. Conversion of Tenant Property
Conversion of tenant property refers to the act of a landlord selling off property that belongs to the tenant without the right to do so. In most cases, it can be very difficult for a landlord to prove they have reasonable cause to sell the tenant’s property (such as furniture, computers, etc.) Some landlords claim they sold (or “converted”) tenant property in order to regain unpaid rent or held it in lieu of a security deposit. Do not sell a tenant's property under any reason to avoid this lawsuit.
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