Agreeing to rent a space to live in is an agreement based on trust. You trust that the landlord can legally rent the space and that they are renting a space that is fit to be lived in. However, there are times when the landlord is deceptive, intentionally or not. For example, your landlord may rent out an illegal apartment. When this happens, you may ask yourself - "Can I sue the landlord for the money paid? Can I sue for any damages to my personal property and health?"

The answer is yes, and here's what you need to know.

General Landlord-Tenant Laws

Each state will have its own unique set of laws regarding rental properties. Landlords and tenants are both covered by laws that are intended to protect their interests. However, when an illegal apartment is rented, both the landlord and tenant could be in trouble. That means you can sue your landlord for renting you an illegal apartment. But you also may be responsible if found living in an illegal apartment.  

Here are Five Ways to Tell if the Apartment Might be Illegal.

  1. Lower rental price when compared to similar units in the area
  2. Weird plumbing setups, such as the shower and toilet in different rooms or bathrooms that are communal with other units.
  3. Utilities that are not separate from other units on site.
  4. You have no written lease, or you pay through a cash arrangement.
  5. It's legally a hazardous structure, such as having no windows or only one way out.

What Do I Do if I Think it's an Illegal Apartment?

If the housing authorities find out about the illegal apartment, landlords can face a large fine, and tenants face immediate eviction. That can place a strain on your financial situation and life in general. If this happens to be the case, you may have enough cause to sue your landlord in small claims court.

But first, you should try the following:

  1. Report a Landlord for an Illegal Apartment - You can try a note and see if the landlord will be responsive. Keep a copy of your efforts in case you need the evidence.
  2. File your complaint with your local health department - The local health department will investigate by inspecting the property and preparing a report outlining the violations for the landlord. They will give the landlord time to correct the issues. If the landlord does not correct the issues, then they will be fined.

If your landlord still does not fix the issue, you may want to try suing them in small claims court to get the money you paid (and other damages) back. To sue your landlord in small claims court, you'll want to follow these steps:

  1. Contact your local court or an attorney and find out where to file your case.
  2. Download or obtain the appropriate paperwork from the small claims court.
  3. Fill it out, sign, and notarize the documents.
  4. Pay the court's filing fees (varies by state and size of "claimed amount).
  5. Return the document to court for filing.
  6. Wait to hear back from the court on the status of your case (approximately 2-4 weeks).
  7. Serve your small claims case to the other party with the help of local law enforcement or a process server.
  8. Attend your hearing and present your argument.
  9. Collect your Judgement

Small Claims forms can be difficult to navigate. We can help you generate, sign and notarize a small claim for $99 from your phone in just minutes using our software. This way, the only time you need to go down to the courthouse is when it's time to have your hearing.

If you have any questions regarding suing your landlord or accessing small claims court, please get in touch with us.