You can sue your landlord for providing you with unsafe and uninhabitable conditions. If your landlord does not reply to your complaints, you have the option of taking the legal route.
Let us discuss what are the unsafe living conditions, your rights as tenants, and how you can sue your landlord for these violations.
When You Can Sue Your Landlord?
Your lawsuit filing against the landlord is usually considered an act of last resort. If you have filed a formal complaint against your landlord to no avail, you may consider using the landlord.
Living in unsafe and uninhabitable conditions is one of the major reasons that tenants can use to sue a landlord. In fact, it is one of the core legal responsibilities of landlords to fulfill when it comes to tenant rights.
Here is a brief description of different scenarios when you can sue a landlord.
Illegal Clause in Rental Agreement
Your landlord cannot include a clause in the rental agreement that is illegal. For instance, refusing to pay for the maintenance by including a clause in the agreement.
Your landlord cannot violate the Federal Fair Housing Act rules. If you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you can file a complaint with the HUD and sue the landlord.
Not Following Security Deposit Laws
Reimbursing the security deposit after settlements is legally binding for the landlord. Also, your landlord cannot withhold the security deposit once the agreement expires.
Unsafe and Uninhabitable Property
It is the legal responsibility of a landlord to offer sage and habitable property to the tenant. Although the definitions of these terms vary by state, generally the concept is the same throughout.
Entering Premises without Permission
Once you have signed the rental agreement, your landlord cannot enter the premises without prior notice. Your landlord must get permission from you failing to which may lead to a lawsuit.
Not Reimbursing for Repairs
It is your legal right to receive compensation for maintenance and repairs from the landlord. If your landlord refuses to reimburse you for repairs, you can file a lawsuit.
Finally, your landlord cannot force an eviction upon you. You have the right to stay on the property unless the landlord has a valid legal reason. The eviction must come with a notice of 30 or 60 days.
What are Unsafe and Uninhabitable Conditions?
We have mentioned one of the main reasons to sue a landlord if you find unsafe and uninhabitable conditions in your rented property.
State laws define the safety and habitable conditions differently throughout the US. However, we can find consensus on general terms and conditions which the landlords must fulfill to remain legally compliant.
The landlord is responsible for providing a property with physical safety structures. If you find any holes in the wall, a broken fence, or any other issues that relate to structural or environmental hazards, you can report them to the local authorities.
Infested by Insects
Insects and crawlers can cause health and safety hazards to you and the property. If you have moved to a property that hasn’t been in use for a while, you are likely to encounter such issues.
If your voice goes unheard, you can take the legal route here.
Exposed Electrical and Plumbing
Exposed, broken, and faulty electrical and plumbing lines are direct causes of health and safety hazards.
For instance, if your water supply connection is prone to leakage, you’ll use contaminated water leading to health issues. Similarly, faulty electrical wiring can cause serious safety issues for you and your family.
This condition applies to rental agreements for furnished properties with appliances. The landlord must provide fully functional and safe appliances as agreed upon in the lease agreement.
It is your right to claim any repairs or replacement from the landlord against defective appliances installed.
Asbestos and Molds
Deteriorating asbestos insulation and falling ceiling paint are health hazards. Similarly, lead paint or black traces on walls are likely molds that can cause you breathing problems.
Resolving all such issues is the legal responsibility of the landlord and a failure allows you to take the legal route here too.
Unsafe Entry, Exit, or Stairs
Some structural and physical issues can also cause safety hazards to you as a tenant.
For example, if the property has a broken door entry, a broken safety grill on stairs, or a broken fence at the backdoor.
How to Sue My Landlord for Unsafe Living Conditions?
You should be aware of the situations where you can sue your landlord. However, it takes due course to take the legal route.
Here is the process in a few simple steps to use your landlord for unsafe living conditions.
Know Your Rights
The first step is to know your rights as a tenant. Housing and rental laws protect both the tenant and the landlord.
As a starting point, you can review the lease agreement and see if the safety and health issues are included. Then, you can take a few steps before knocking at the court.
Remember, you must have a valid reason to sue your landlord. Unsafe condition in your rented property is a valid and legal reason to sue your landlord.
Write a Letter of Complaint to the Landlord
Before you hire a lawyer, you must formally inform the landlord about the property conditions.
Writing a formal letter of complaint is usually the first formal step toward legal action. In many cases, tenants write a formal letter of complaint when the landlord does not oblige the verbal communication.
Your formal letter of complaint can serve as legal proof in court as well. In practice, it is the first legal step that you should take.
File a Complaint at HUD
The next step is to reach out to the concerned local authorities like the Housing and Urban Development Authority in your area.
Usually, tenants take this step when the landlord does not reply to their verbal and formal letter of complaint.
A formal application with the HUD will also serve as documented proof for you to pursue the case in court.
The HUD or other relevant authority will investigate the living conditions and decide whether you can take legal action.
File a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
Once you go through these formal steps of approaching the landlord and local authorities, it is time to consult a legal expert.
You can reach out to the small claims court registrar to file a lawsuit against your landlord.
You should have a valid reason, documented proof of unsafe and inhabitable living conditions at the rented property, and a copy of related documents.
You’ll then need to furnish these proofs when the court hearing proceeds.
In most cases, such lawsuits are filed in the small claims courts. These courts have simpler and faster legal procedures so you do not need to hire a lawyer necessarily.
Reach a Settlement or Court Decision
Your legal action can compel the landlord to negotiate. If you find a reasonable offer from the landlord, you can reach an out-of-court settlement at any stage.
However, you can pursue the case and wait for the court’s decision as well.
Remember, a lawsuit may not be decided in your favor. Also, you must bear in mind the consequences like spoiled relationships with the landlord.