Receiving an eviction notice can cause a tenant's heart to sink, especially if they believe they're being wrongfully evicted.
At this moment, they might wonder whether they have the right to seek legal action against their landlord. This article will explain what an illegal eviction is and answer the question: "Can I sue my landlord for wrongful eviction?"
Can Tenants Sue Landlords for Wrongful Eviction?
Tenants have the right to file lawsuits against landlords if they feel they’re being unlawfully evicted. Most of these cases end up in a small claims court with a judge making the final ruling.
Legal Reasons Tenants Might Get Evicted
Some of the common reasons tenants are rightfully evicted include:
- Nonpayment or incomplete payment of rent.
- Lease violations. They may include criminal or drug activity, violation of pet restrictions, and housing an unauthorized tenant.
- Damage to the rental property.
Although the process varies from state to state, landlords, in general, must follow a specific set of procedures for evicting a tenant. For example, they must serve an eviction notice that includes a pay rent or quit notice, a cure or quit notice, or unconditional quit notice.
The landlord must then sue the tenant to try and secure an eviction. If the landlord follows the proper procedures and proves just cause, the court will likely rule in their favor.
Types of Illegal Evictions
However, even if the landlord follows the eviction process correctly, it doesn’t mean they can’t be sued for wrongful eviction and lose in small claims court. Some of the most common reasons renters sue for unlawful evictions include:
Tenants and landlords can develop contentious relationships for several reasons. This is especially true if the tenant complains about unhealthy conditions in the apartment and reports issues to the local health department or housing authority.
Landlords cannot evict a renter just because they are mad about their actions. If a tenant receives an eviction notice for this reason, they may have a solid case to file a lawsuit.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from evicting tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. If tenants believe the eviction was discriminatory, they may want to speak to a lawyer and file a suit in small claims court.
Eviction for Withholding Rent for Health or Safety Reasons
This is a less common reason, but a renter may have legal grounds to sue their landlord if they are evicted because they are withholding rent until a safety or health issue at the property is resolved. This might include a bug infestation or a leak that caused mold.
How to File Against a Landlord For Wrongful Eviction
There are a few options if you wish to file against your landlord.
- You can file entirely on your own. Although this is the most budget-friendly option, it is also labor-intensive. Filing requires extensive research and management, which can be time-consuming if you're unfamiliar with the process.
- You can ask for help from an attorney or lawyer. On the other extreme, this requires significantly less effort on your end. But it can get costly. Lawyers often bill by the hour, and your spending will increase quickly.
- A middle ground would be using an online filing service like Dispute. Although there is a small fee, Dispute is significantly cheaper than a lawyer. These services have software that makes the process much simpler. And if you have questions, there is a customer support team to contact with questions.