The business of being a landlord is far more complex than simply showing properties and collecting checks. The legal obligations and potential liability associated with being a landlord in either a commercial or residential context can be overwhelming, particularly to the inexperienced landlord.
Some of the key litigation areas for landlords include:
- Collection of past due rent
- Pursuit of payment for damages
- Defense against tenant claims
Residential and Commercial Leases
The foundation of your position should litigation with your tenant become necessary is your lease. In order to ensure that your interests are protected and that the law is on your side, it’s important that you begin the landlord-tenant relationship with a well-constructed lease that thoroughly addresses all aspects of the relationship and minimizes your risk.
You may be tempted to use a lease template or adapt from someone else’s lease, but that could be a costly mistake. Start off strong with a lease that’s written for your business and complies with state and local law while also furthering your interests.
One of the most common types of landlord-tenant litigation involves eviction. Eviction is frequently triggered by non-payment of rent, but that isn’t the only reason a landlord might act to evict a tenant. Other breaches of the lease may also give rise to an eviction, such as failure to maintain the property as agreed or improper use of the premises.
The procedure and timeline for an eviction case will depend on several factors, including state and local law, the terms of the lease and the reason for the eviction. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to ensure that you comply with all procedural and notice requirements while moving the eviction along as efficiently as possible.
Landlord Suits for Payment of Money
One of the core components of a residential or commercial lease is that the tenant make regular rental payments. Failure to make those payments may result in eviction, but eviction alone isn’t a complete remedy. Even if the lease has been terminated and possession regained by the landlord, there may be past-due rental payments owing.
Another scenario in which a landlord may choose to file suit against a tenant or former tenant involves damage to the premises. Such claims may arise when the tenant when the tenant actively damages the property, either through negligence or intentionally. It’s also possible, though, that a failure to maintain the premises as required under the lease could result in a tenant’s liability for damages.
Whether you’re looking to collect on sums due under a lease or to hold a tenant or former tenant responsible for negligent or intentional damage to the premises, our attorneys can help.
Litigation Against Landlords
While most landlord-tenant litigation originates with the landlord, a property owner may also be sued by a tenant. These claims take a few different forms, including:
Breach of Lease
A lease, like any other contract, involves obligations on both sides. Just as a landlord may file suit against a tenant for breach of the lease if he fails to make rental payments or to fulfill some other term, the tenant may sue the landlord. Such a suit may be triggered by any breach of the lease, such as failure to deliver possession of the premises on schedule or failure to make repairs as required under the lease.
In addition to breach claims, failure to properly maintain property may lead to tort claims. For example, if a landlord negligently repairs a stairway in the hallway of an apartment building and a tenant is injured as a result of the negligence, the tenant may file a tort claim against the landlord.
Municipal Litigation Against Landlords
In addition to the private right of action that arises for a tenant under the lease, landlords may be answerable to governmental entities, primarily with regard to building maintenance. Of course, avoiding this type of litigation is the best strategy, and the first line of defense will be to understand and comply with maintenance standards.
If litigation or the threat of litigation should arise, our attorneys are prepared to negotiate on your behalf and, if necessary, to defend you in court.
If You’re a Landlord, Talk to a Litigation Attorney
The best time to develop a relationship with a landlord-tenant litigation attorney is before you need one. The attorneys in our offices can help avoid litigation, from creating favorable lease terms to helping ensure that you’re meeting your legal obligations. Then, if the need for litigation arises, we’ll already be familiar with your operations and ready to act swiftly and effectively.