5 Tips to Avoid Filing Retaliatory Evictions

Following the proper legal procedures is important when looking to evict a tenant. Evicting a tenant out of spite is illegal and can result in further legal problems. Without contemporaneous notes it will be difficult to prove your eviction isn’t done out of retaliation.

Though retaliatory evictions are illegal they’re not uncommon. The Landlord Act defines the responsibilities of landlords and the rights of tenants. Retaliatory evictions occur when a landlord files an eviction for something within the tenant’s legal rights. Some examples of common reasons a landlord would file a retaliatory eviction is as follows:

Excessive Complaints

Tenants that complain over things such as cold or hot apartments may find themselves evicted for complaining about something within their legal rights. Landlords often do this so they don’t have to deal with expensive fixes.

Calling The Health Department

When certain issues such as mold go unfixed for a long period of time, landlords may find themselves with a surprise visit from the Health Department. Contemporaneous notes showing that steps were taken to resolve the issue becomes crucial at this point. Vindictive landlords may infringe upon their renters rights by filing an eviction in anger.

Calling The Building Department

When more expensive fixes such as a leaking ceiling, broken windows, broken air conditioning units, and so on go without being fixes immediately, you may find your tenant calling the building department just to complain. Calling the building department is within the renter’s rights and filing a retaliatory eviction out of anger is illegal.

Organized Protest

There are some tenants who will take landlord disputes to the next level and organize other tenants into taking advantage of their rights by means of protest. The Landlord Act gives tenants the right to peacefully protest against issues. Take contemporaneous notes of what occurs during the protest and avoid filing an eviction out of retaliation. Doing so within 6 months of a protest without documenting another cause may result in the court finding you guilty of a retaliatory eviction.

Other Acts of Retaliation

Not all landlords choose to simply file an eviction as soon as tenants perform actions that they don’t like. Some landlords choose to perform actions that are less risky legally. Performing any of these actions may be less risky but can lead to additional problems in the future. Examples of other acts of retaliation are as follows:

  • Not Renewing The Tenant’s Lease
  • Increasing Rent
  • Threatening or Harassing The Tenant
  • Making the Tenant’s Stay Unpleasant

All of these acts of retaliation are illegal whether they result in an eviction or not. Should a court ever find evidence of these acts being performed towards tenants, you may find yourself in a difficult legal battle. The Landlord Act prevents landlords from abusing their power and protects renter’s rights should any of these acts of retaliation occur.

Proving Retaliatory Evictions

Even if a tenant feels that their eviction is retaliatory, proving a retaliatory eviction can be difficult. Most states have laws in place to protect tenants from retaliatory evictions by landlords. However a tenant proving their claim will have a difficult time without contemporaneous notes of actions that may prove their landlords retaliatory intent. Generally if an eviction is filed within 6 months of a tenant’s complaints, organized protest, calling the health or building department, it’s possible that the judge may deem your eviction as retaliatory.

Legal Reasons to File Evictions

Though retaliation isn’t one of the reasons a landlord can legally file for eviction, there are many reasons why a landlord can legally evict a tenant. No matter what reason you end up needing to evict a tenant having contemporaneous notes provides clear evidence of what occurred and protects yourself from having your eviction deemed as retaliatory. Eviction laws can vary according to state or jurisdiction so check your state laws before proceeding to file an eviction. It’s also important to look up proper notification laws before proceeding with the eviction. Common legal reasons to file an eviction are as follows:

Past Due Rent

In order to evict a tenant for past due rent, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing first. Nonpayment of rent is the most common reason for evictions in any state. It’s very likely that most of your evictions will fall under this category.

Expired Lease

Tenants that refuse to leave may be evicted if you choose to not extend an expired lease. In order to evict a tenant this way, they must have received a non-renewal notice first. Without a non-renewal notice you can’t legally evict your tenant.

Illegal Activities

Contemporaneous notes of illegal activities are crucial in proving that an eviction for this reason is done right. When done correctly your notes will provide clear evidence of the illegal activities a tenant performed during the course of their time renting from you and ensures your eviction will stand in the legal system.

Withholding Rent

The Landlord Act gives tenants the ability to withhold rent if their landlord doesn’t fix a specific problem. However the tenant must notify the landlord in writing first and give reasonable time to comply with their request. Tenants that don’t take this important step lose their renters rights and find the landlord at a legal advantage to file an eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Property Damage That Has Decreased Property Value

At times you will encounter tenants that have damaged property to the point where the property’s value has gone down. In these cases the Landlord Act gives the landlord full legal right to evict the tenant. Maintaining contemporaneous notes of damages as they are discovered play an important role in protecting yourself and ensuring tenants don’t attempt to blame damage on previous renters. Having photographs of damages can also play a key role in documenting property damages to a particular tenant. Before renting to a new tenant it becomes crucial to take notes and even photographs of the property before the new tenant comes in. Doing so will nearly guarantee any legal proceedings will go in your favor.

Threat to Health or Safety of Others

Should you ever rent to tenants who have become a threat to the health or safety of others, evicting them becomes very important. This is typically a rare reason to evict tenants but some examples of behavior that may qualify under this eviction category include drug use, picking fights with neighbors, and so on. Having contemporaneous notes of multiple incidents will back up your eviction and further protect you from having your eviction seen as retaliatory.

Disruptive Tenants

Tenants that are consistently receiving complaints from other renters of being disruptive can be legally evicted. These tenants are typically not violent or dangerous but may be seen as annoying. With enough documented complaints that illustrate how the tenants were being disruptive, you will find yourself at a legal advantage to ensure your eviction is solid. Maintaining contemporaneous notes of various complaints from different tenants will provide the judge enough evidence of disruptive behavior.

5 Tips to Resolve Rental Disputes Better

Many times landlords retaliate in negative ways because they don’t know the proper way to handle a rental or tenant dispute. As a landlord you need to be prepared for various kinds of disputes. It’s inevitable that issues will come up at some point with your new tenants. By using these 10 tips you will be avoid being unaware and be more prepared to handle disputes and avoid illegal actions.

  1. Talk About It

When resolving landlord disputes over your rights and your renter’s rights the first step is to schedule a meeting to talk about things with the tenant first. Without talking about it you leave things unresolved which may cause things to get worse. Many times a problem can be solved if both parties are able to meet and talk about things in a calm manner.

  1. Meet in Person

Speaking to your tenant over the phone can only do so much. By meeting in person you may find yourself dealing with a more reasonable person. Many times people say things over the phone that they may not say in person. If you’re struggling with working out disputes over the phone, scheduling an in person meeting may resolve some issues.

  1. Document Everything

Whether you just had a phone call or had to schedule a meeting with your tenant make sure to document every interaction you have with your tenants. Taking contemporaneous notes of every occurrence protects you from negative legal actions.

  1. Stay Calm

Your demeanor when resolving a dispute is very important. You don’t want to come across as hostile as that may be seen as threatening. Even if your tenant has become hostile or agitated you want to stay calm to ensure you are legally protected should any legal actions be required later on.

  1. Know The Law

Knowledge is power and knowing the law can prevent you from performing any actions that are considered illegal for a landlord to perform. For example you may need to go speak with a tenant about something but without knowing that making threats is illegal, you may end up saying something that’s incriminating towards yourself without intending to.

Taking the time to resolve issues with your tenant first may save you a lot of time, trouble, and money. Simply evicting tenants and going to court isn’t the only option. Instead of evicting every problem tenant right away, utilize these 5 tips mentioned above. Using these 5 tips will make the process of resolving disputes much easier. Whether you’re resolving a simple maintenance request or talking to a tenant about property damage you’ve noticed on the property it’s very important to take contemporaneous notes of every incident and interaction you’ve had with tenants to ensure you protect yourself should an eviction become necessary.


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