Six Steps to Take When your Tenant Rights are Violated
Don’t let your landlord violate your tenant rights.
While most renters are cautious throughout the lease process in finding not only the perfect property but the right landlord, issues can still arise despite these best intentions. Tenant rights violations happen despite the laws put in place to stop them, and tenants are left to defend their rights to safety, privacy, and all the other benefits we should all expect in the place we call home.
Here are some of the steps tenants should take when confronted with a violation of their tenant rights.
Step 1: Record the incident or infraction.
As with any conflict, it’s best not to rely upon your word against the word of your landlord, particularly if the matter may be escalated to a more formal proceeding. Start making a written log of both the incidents and your conversations with the landlord to provide an up-to-date record of exactly what happened, including the date and time; this information can be referred to later should you need to show evidence.
Step 2: Inform your landlord and keep a record.
It might not be the case that a violation of your tenant rights is a willful and malicious act on the part of your landlord. You should begin by reaching out to your landlord to offer them the opportunity to either fix the issue or make amends before seeking to take further steps. Perhaps there was a miscommunication or a simple oversight that a conversation can fix. Regardless, you should still keep a record of your exchanges with your landlord should it prove that the incident needs to be adjudicated, and a copy of all of your written communications to and from your landlord for that same purpose.
Step 3: Move out until repairs are made.
If the issue with the rental unit is one regarding essential maintenance or material living conditions, you may be entitled to move out of the unit temporarily until the needed repairs are made, while subtracting the daily rate of any extra rent for accommodation from the monthly total. This may not be an option available to everyone, based upon cost, so seek other measures if you have to stay in the home during that period.
Step 4: Contact a lawyer.
Many people are hesitant to contact a lawyer for any reason, even when legal help is needed and warranted. You can do your part by sending letters and making phone calls, but you can only do so much as a renter; in talking with a lawyer that specializes in tenant rights, you can learn about all of your options for remedying the situation, while communicating to your landlord the seriousness about addressing the issues in question.
Step 5: Take the matter to court.
Going to court is never an ideal outcome, but it can be necessary in cases of especially recalcitrant landlords. If you’re working with an attorney (and you should be) they may recommend taking the matter to small claims court to have your rights enforced or even to seek damages. Your attorney may also recommend taking the matter into mediation to find an agreeable resolution, provided that your landlord agrees. Mediation is far less expensive than court, and a more collaborative process; however, it’s an option that requires both parties to be willing to work together for a solution.
Step 6: Terminate your lease agreement.
It may be necessary for you to simply terminate your lease rather than trying to address or resolve the violations with your landlord. If you choose to terminate your lease before the end of your term, most states allow you to do so without penalty provided that the property has become uninhabitable or the landlord has violated your right to privacy.
The termination of your lease agreement for violations is separate from the standard early lease termination provisions as laid out in your lease; don’t allow your landlord to demand the prescribed notice and payment that would otherwise be expected. It’s best to consult with an attorney to make sure you’re meeting the standard for breaking your lease early to ensure you won’t be held liable for additional costs or penalties.
LegalShield’s Landlord-Tenant lawyers are here to help!
Many tenants may be nervous to push back against landlords and assert their rights, unsure about their legal grounds to do so. With a LegalShield legal plan, you can talk with an attorney for expert advice on how to handle tenant rights issues; have your lease agreement reviewed; and access support for writing letters; all to make sure your tenant rights are protected.
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