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EVICTION DEFENSES

Tenant Defenses to Eviction

Federal, state and local laws can provide tenants with possible defenses that can provide protection for a tenant if their landlord seeks to evict them from their home. Working with a landlord-tenant lawyer can help you understand the law, protect your rights and keep a roof over your family’s head.

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Common Defenses That May Be Available to Fight Eviction

The terms and conditions of your lease agreement and applicable laws are important to understand if you face possible eviction. A lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant law can advise you concerning your lease, the law, and options that may be available to you. If you receive a notice or are served in a civil matter, they can identify potential defenses, help seek possible resolution or defend the matter.

Below we cover some of the most common defenses a lawyer can use to protect your rights if your landlord seeks to improperly remove you from your home. 

If you'd like to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible, a personal plan from LegalShield provides unlimited legal consultation and document review, plus your lawyer can write letters or call your landlord on your behalf. They’ll even defend you in court should an eviction proceeding require you to appear at a hearing.

The Landlord Must Give Proper Notice

Formal eviction is normally the last step in a process a landlord must follow, which normally includes their seeking a court order before they can have a tenant put out. For failure to pay rent or violation of the lease, the tenant should be given notice with the time allowed by law to cure the problem. If an eviction lawsuit is filed, the tenant should be properly served unless no one can be located at the premises to properly serve, then they can post the summons on the door and may be required to also send a copy by certified mail.

Receiving a Notice to Vacate can send shivers down your spine. Where will you live? Will your credit be damaged? Both your lease and the law dictate the rules for providing proper notices before a landlord can seek to evict the tenant. If your landlord has not followed those rules, a lawyer can help you seek to cure the problem, possible settlement, or defend if needed.

Knowing your rights and options can provide peace of mind, allow you to properly plan, avoid formal eviction proceedings in court or make sure the proper steps are taken so that you can move forward with the best possible resolution based on your circumstances.

Be prepared for the outcome. You need to be prepared to move out with your belongings if needed. Ignoring the matter can make it worse and leave you in a more difficult situation. Knowing your rights, options, and the law is not just for landlords. Tenants who have access to a lawyer can get the much needed help they need during a difficult time.  

  • Was proper notice provided based on the law and terms of your lease?
  • Did the notice give you a sufficient amount of time to remedy the problem as required by state law?
  • Was the eviction lawsuit properly served or posted?

Eviction is already stressful enough. Don’t go it alone and try to navigate these complex legal questions. Get a personal legal plan from LegalShield and have access to a provider lawyer’s knowledge of the law related to evictions so that you can protect your family and your finances.

You can be on the phone with a provider lawyer within as little as 4 hours of membership approval.

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DID YOU KNOW?

One study found 51% of tenants without legal representation had a final judgment issued against them, compared to 22% of renters with legal representation.

Seron, Carroll, et al. “The Impact of Legal Counsel on Outcomes for Poor Tenants in New York City's Housing Court: Results of a Randomized Experiment.” Law & Society Review, vol. 35, no. 2, 2001, pp. 419–434. JSTOR,

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The Landlord Accepted a Partial Rent Payment

While state laws can vary, partial payment of rent after a tenant receives a proper notice to pay or quit from a landlord, can provide a possible defense to eviction if the landlord accepts the payment, knowing that the partial payment does not meet the lease requirements. Note that if you make partial payment, your landlord may try to get you to sign a document waiving your rights to claim this defense.

If your landlord presents you with a partial payment waiver, you should have a lawyer review that document before you sign it. Be prepared a landlord may then provide an additional notice for the balance.

LegalShield provides access to provider lawyers who are well versed in all the rules and laws that govern eviction and can advocate for you and help protect your rights. From legal advice to document review to contacting the landlord on  your behalf, a personal legal plan from LegalShield can provide the access to the legal protection you need at a time like this.

The Landlord Has Failed to Properly Maintain the Property or Otherwise Violated Your Rights

Federal and state laws require landlords to fulfill certain obligations to their tenants. If they fail to meet those obligations, they generally forfeit the right to evict you and may even owe you money. 

  • Tenants have a right to a safe living environment with working utilities. 
  • If you give your landlord proper notice of a defect and they fail to fix it, you may have a defense against eviction and may even have a claim for rent reduction.   
  • Even if you’ve failed to pay rent, if your landlord has blocked you from the premises, removed your property or otherwise made it impossible for you to live in the property, you may have a defense against eviction.

If your landlord has failed to maintain the rental property which must be kept in a habitable condition, provide necessary services such as running water, trash receptacles and removal, a tenant can have a possible defense to eviction. A tenant may have notice requirements of their own if necessary repairs or services are not provided by the landlord.

Depending on state law, a tenant may be able to make certain repairs that impact health and safety, and seek substitution services or make reasonable repairs and deduct from the rent or terminate the lease. 

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man and woman talking

The Landlord is Attempting a Retaliatory Eviction

If you’ve done something you have a right to do, such as reporting your landlord to a regulatory agency for discrimination, and your landlord tries to evict you shortly thereafter, you may defend yourself by claiming the eviction retaliatory.

Did you receive an eviction notice after taking any of the following actions?

  • Reporting your landlord for code violations.
  • Reporting your landlord for discrimination.
  • Asking for repairs or complaining of poor living conditions.
  • Exercising your rights under your lease.
  • Asserting tenant rights under local, state or federal law.

To use this defense, your landlord does not have to have necessarily initiated a formal eviction. The retaliatory eviction defense can apply also if your landlord suddenly raises your rent, refuses to renew your month-to-month lease, prevents you from accessing a part of the rental property, or turns off utilities like gas, water, or electricity. Courts will generally assume eviction was retaliatory if the landlord takes action against you within a certain time period.

Let a Provider Lawyer Help with Your Eviction

Trying to handle a legal matter on your own and understanding possible defenses defenses and options you may have, and the general complexity of landlord-tenant law, can cause a lot of anxiety. A way to pause and catch your breath is to contact a lawyer and let them handle the situation for you.

For as little as $24.95 per month, you can get legal advice and consultation on an unlimited number of personal legal matters. Your provider lawyer can review any personal legal documents, up to 15 pages each, such as your lease or a notice from your landlord, provide feedback and even assist with a letter or call to your landlord.

Your personal legal plan also provides trial defense benefits with a certain number of pre-trial and trial hours available if you are named in a covered civil action. Trial defense benefits are not available in all states and do not apply to pre-existing matters. For pre-existing matters a 25% Preferred Member discount is available off the hourly rate of a provider lawyer.

Having access to a provider lawyer with a personal legal plan can save you a significant sum. And the stress relief is priceless. These legal services would easily cost several hundred if not thousands of dollars if you hired a lawyer directly.

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