California tenants can sue their landlord for a variety of reasons.
If you cannot resolve a dispute with your landlord verbally, it may be time to take legal action.
If you’re like most tenants in California, you probably aren’t trying to create a problem with your landlord.
Sometimes, unfortunately, a problem will develop that cannot be easily resolved through a conversation. These problems are often called landlord-tenant disputes and you may want to consider talking to an attorney about your legal options.
Today, we’re exploring ten common reasons to sue your landlord for negligence so you can make an informed decision regarding how to resolve the dispute.
Reasons to Sue Your Landlord for Negligence
There is a wide range of reasons to sue your landlord for negligence.
Some of these reasons include housing discrimination, illegally keeping your security deposit, and allowing a unit to fall into an uninhabitable state. If you find yourself struggling to resolve one of the following issues with your landlord, it may be time to take legal action.
We recommend tenants discuss their landlord-tenant dispute with an experienced real estate lawyer, as a lawyer will provide a recommendation on how to proceed.
A landlord-tenant dispute attorney will have the experience needed to guide you toward a resolution.
Here are 10 common reasons to sue your landlord for negligence:
1. Illegally Holding Your Security Deposit
State laws differ on the specific reasons a landlord can take deductions from your security deposit. He or she cannot take deductions for normal wear and tear on the property. And he or she cannot hold on to your security deposit after your rental agreement is over.
Some landlords will fail to return security deposits and claim falsely that you somehow violated the terms of your lease. This is a time for you to sue.
2. Violated California Security Deposit Laws
Under California law, a landlord is required to return a tenant’s security deposit within 21 days after the tenant has returned the keys and vacated the property. The landlord must also provide an itemized statement of deductions.
Violating security deposit laws is one of the most common reasons to sue your landlord for negligence.
Want to learn more?
Take a look at this breakdown of California landlord-tenant laws on security deposits.
3. Housing Discrimination
Your landlord must abide by the rules of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
If he does not, you may have a legal reason to file a suit. But first, you will have to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This department will investigate your complaint and if it is determined that your landlord committed any housing discrimination, further action will be taken.
4. Illegal Clauses In Your Lease Agreement
Landlords are not free to make up lease agreements with any clauses that go against the landlord-tenant laws in your state and are illegal. If, for example, you own a service animal, it is allowed under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Your landlord cannot refuse to allow you to keep your service animal.
Your landlord cannot put in clauses that absolve him from making needed repairs to the property. And he cannot put in a clause that empowers him to force you to move out any time he wishes.
5. Refuses to Reimburse You for Repair Costs
Your landlord is responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe property for his tenants, along with making any appropriate repairs needed.Your landlord may refuse to make such repairs. If this happens, and you feel it necessary to hire someone else to make these repairs, your landlord should reimburse you for the payment you made. If he refuses again, you may sue him to recover the cost of the repairs plus any possible damages.
6. Allows Your Unit to Become Uninhabitable
Your landlord must keep his units inhabitable. That means providing common services for normal living conditions. This includes heat and running water. If you have an issue with these, you should talk to your landlord. If he refuses to respond appropriately, you usually have the right to notify him that you will withhold rent or move out if the issue is not resolved. You may also sue for this negligence.
7. Fails to Disclose Hazards
This is a big one.
Issues that negatively impact the health of the tenant are some of the most common reasons to sue your landlord for negligence.
Landlords are required to tell you if there are any known hazards from lead paint or mold, existing or previous, on the property. These can provide long-term health implications. Intentionally hiding this information from you is illegal and grounds for a lawsuit.
8. Enters Your Unit Illegally
Landlords are often asked to stop by to check something out or make a repair.
This is done at the request of the tenant. But if a landlord plans to enter your property without an invitation, he must provide reasonable notice, and the planned entry must be for legal reasons. Failure to provide notice or illegal entry can give you cause for legal action.
9. Allows or Provides Cause for Injury
If you are injured on the property because of the landlord’s neglect to maintain a safe environment, you can file a lawsuit. If you slip and fall due to a lack of legally required stair rails or banisters or wet floors without warning signs, you may have a case for landlord negligence. You cannot sue, however, if your fall was the result of your own carelessness.
10. Illegal Eviction
Whether there has been some disagreement or not, your landlord may just decide to evict you without any legal cause. He may just try to take back the property without going through the eviction process (a form of harassment). He may file a lawsuit against you. You can go to court to defend yourself. But you can also countersue that he is trying to evict you illegally.
If you’re unable to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute through conversation, you may need to explore your legal options.
We’ve outlined just a few of the reasons to sue your landlord for negligence, so it may be in your best interest to seek guidance from an experienced real estate lawyer. Whether you decide to try to resolve the matter in small claims court or hire the help of a lawyer is up to you.