Resolving Landlord-Tenant Disputes in Court

When renting a house or apartment, although the landlord owns the property and has the right to establish certain rules, tenants also have rights. Each year, the courts are full of cases involving tenant-landlord disputes. In most cases, tenants feel as if the landlord acted discriminatory or violated their privacy. If choosing legal action, consider the follow tips

1. Attempt Mediation

While grounds to sue your landlord may exist, tenants should attempt to resolve the issue before stepping in front of a judge. Between lawyer and court fees, it may not be financially worthwhile to sue a landlord. Still, if the issue surrounds security deposits or other funds, tenants naturally want to recover the money.

Mediation is very inexpensive. Moreover, some lawyers will draft a collection letter for a nominal fee. In some instances, a letter from a lawyer is all it takes for a landlord to begin taking their tenant seriously.

2. Contact Local Fair Housing Agencies

Before contacting an attorney, it helps to speak with a representative from a local fair housing agency. By law, a landlord cannot deny a renter’s application or evict a renter based on their sexual preference, color of their skin, age, or nationality. Unfortunately, this is common. Proving a landlord’s prejudice is difficult. However, with the right evidence, a tenant may be able to convince local housing authorities and a judge that they were unfairly evicted.

3. Seek Advice from an Attorney

Fortunately, many attorneys offer free consultations. During this session, explain your situation to the attorney and seek their advice. When dealing with a landlord dispute, tenant should select attorneys who are knowledgeable in landlord-tenant laws in your state. Each state has its own set of laws. Some are more favorable toward the needs of the tenant, whereas other states have laws which offer more benefit to landlords. Through a free consultation, an attorney has the responsibility to offer sound legal advice and discuss your odds of winning the case.

4. Bringing the Case to Court

Proving your case in front of a judge is difficult. Court cases are he-said, she-said, and it is the judge’s responsibility to filter through the lies and exaggeration to find the truth.

To help their case, tenants should come to court prepared. If using an attorney, he or she will likely prepare an undisputable case in advance. If representing self, consult an attorney and inquire about documents that should be brought to court.

If the dispute surrounds money, such as claims of unpaid rent, unreturned security deposits, and so forth, tenants should arrive to court with copies of their lease agreement, cancel checks, etc. If suing because of an invasion of privacy, failures to complete repairs, improper eviction, or discrimination, rehearse a statement prior to the court date. Understandably, judges have little patience and no time for unprepared cases.

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