Landlord-Tenant Disputes FAQ
Disputes are common in all relationships, including the landlord-tenant relationship. Since most landlord-tenant relationships last at least a year, landlords and tenants should prepare for possible conflicts. They should understand the nature of and potential remedies for landlord-tenant disputes.
This article will explore a few frequently asked questions about landlord-tenant disputes.
What are some common landlord-tenant disputes?
Landlord-tenant disputes often grow out of violations of a lease or rental agreement. These written agreements form the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. They are also a guide to the rights and responsibilities of each party.
Common disputes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Habitability: Does the rental property substantially comply with local housing codes?
- Accessibility: Does the tenant have access to common areas of the rental property?
- Occupancy: Does the tenant comply with the rules of occupancy?
- Right of quiet enjoyment: Does the landlord respect the tenant's privacy?
- Necessary repairs: Who is responsible for these repairs, and are they repairs completed in a reasonable time?
- Housing discrimination: Did the landlord discriminate based on a protected characteristic?
- Nonpayment of rent: Does the tenant pay rent on the due date?
What are some remedies for common landlord-tenant disputes?
Before contacting landlord-tenant lawyers or the local housing authority, landlords and tenants should try to resolve the issue themselves. Lawyers and small claims court should be the last resort for many concerns.
The first step in remedying any dispute is checking the lease agreement. The terms of the lease should outline each party's responsibility. For example, tenants are often responsible for minor repairs, such as replacing a broken lightbulb.
The second step is to give the other party proper notice. If a tenant is not paying rent, before starting eviction proceedings landlords should provide an opportunity to pay outstanding rent. A notice should inform the tenant that they face eviction if they do not pay all overdue rent.
The third step is giving the other party reasonable time to remedy the issue. Reasonableness in this context depends on the underlying issue. For example, if the rental unit doesn't have hot water in winter, waiting 30 days is unreasonable.
If, after taking steps to remedy the responsible party does not fix the issue, either party can consider more serious options.
Repair and Deduct
For necessary repairs, tenants in some states can make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their monthly rent. Tenants should only exercise this option after the landlord or property management was given notice and failed to repair the issue.
File a Complaint
Events like housing discrimination are illegal under fair housing laws. Tenants who experience housing discrimination can file a complaint with their local or state fair housing agency.
They may also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
How can I avoid landlord-tenant disputes?
Although disputes are common during a tenancy, there are steps residential landlords and renters can take to avoid serious conflicts:
- Study the rental agreement's lease terms and know their legal rights and responsibilities
- If there is a problem, notify the other party immediately
- Make hard copies and notes of all correspondence about any problems with the property
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?
Landlords and tenants have an alternative to litigation: mediation. In mediation, a mediator works with both parties to reach an agreement. Mediation is a cost-effective way to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.
Litigation is often time-consuming and costly, with attorneys' fees and court costs. Mediation services are often available for little to no cost through various programs.
Although mediators are mistaken for a judge, the mediator cannot bind either party to an agreement. The mediator's job is to facilitate communication between a landlord and tenant.
Can I resolve landlord-tenant disputes in court?
Small claims court is often the last resort to resolve landlord-tenant disputes. Small claims courts hear limited cases involving money, such as unpaid rent or an unreturned security deposit.
Small claims court is less formal than a traditional civil court. The parties often represent themselves. Like other civil cases, both parties may offer evidence to support their position. The court uses this evidence and testimony in making a decision.
Still Have Questions? Get Legal Help
Landlord-tenant issues are often challenging. If you are trying to resolve a dispute, consider seeking legal advice from a qualified landlord-tenant attorney. Landlord-tenant attorneys are experts in legal issues in landlord-tenant law, like tenant rights. They can offer you sound advice. Speak to an experienced, local landlord-tenant attorney today.
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