10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord (Win Money)

10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: April 8, 2024 3:25pm CDT

10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord

Tenant rights refer to the legal protections and entitlements that tenants have when they rent or lease real estate property from a landlord.

These laws and guidelines aim to create a balanced and equitable relationship between landlords and tenants and prevent abuse or exploitation in the rental market.

In addition to providing rules about what is expected of each party in the renter-landlord relationship, they also allow you to take legal action when your landlord breaches your tenant rights, which can be a necessary step to safeguard and enforce your interests.

However, discerning the appropriate moment and reasons to initiate the process of filing a lawsuit against a landlord can be complex, as it often requires a clear understanding of tenancy laws and the severity of the specific violation you are dealing with.

The good news is that this topic is precisely what this article is about.

Landlord standing by a For rent sign in front of house

As you continue reading, you will see how we list and then explain each of the ten reasons you can sue your landlord and some common pitfalls and challenges you may experience while seeking legal recourse as a tenant.

Now, to make sure everyone is up to speed, we will answer the following question about the possibility of suing your landlord in two sentences.

Can I Sue My Landlord?

Yes, it is completely in your right as a tenant to sue your landlord.

Their position of power over your living arrangement does not absolve them of civil liability, and there are many valid reasons why a tenant would file a lawsuit against their landlord in small claims court.

10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord
10 Reasons Tenants Can Sue Their Landlords Infographic List: Breach of Lease, Failure to Make Repairs, Wrongful Eviction, Health and Safety Code Violations, Security Deposit Violations, Invasion of Privacy, Discrimination, Retaliation by Landlord, Lead Paint Hazards, Mold and Asbestos Exposure

  1. Breach of Lease
  2. Failure to Make Repairs
  3. Wrongful Eviction
  4. Health and Safety Code Violations
  5. Security Deposit Violations
  6. Invasion of Privacy
  7. Discrimination
  8. Retaliation by Landlord
  9. Lead Paint Hazards
  10. Mold and Asbestos Exposure

Breach of Lease

A lease agreement is a legal contract between a landlord and a tenant that outlines the terms and conditions for renting property.

Landlord breach of lease with tenant

Legally, its purpose is to clearly define the responsibilities and expectations of both parties, including payment, duration of the lease, rules for the use of the property, and conditions for termination, thus protecting the rights and interests of both the landlord and tenant.

If a landlord breaches the terms of a lease agreement, tenants have the right to take legal action against them.

Common Ways Landlords Violate Lease Terms

  • Unauthorized Entry: Landlords sometimes enter the rented property without giving proper notice to the tenant, violating privacy rights.
  • Failure to Repair: Landlords may ignore or delay essential repairs, compromising the livability of the rental unit.
  • Illegal Rent Increases: Some landlords increase rent without adhering to local rent control laws or without providing the required notice to tenants.
  • Illegally Withholding Security Deposits: At the end of a lease, landlords may withhold security deposits without providing a detailed account of legitimate deductions.

Before you can sue your landlord for breaching the terms of the lease, you must first notify them (often via the property management company) of the breach in writing and provide them with ample opportunity to rectify the issue.

Rent Controlled Housing

Generally speaking, rental agreements and state and local laws require this step before you can take legal action.

It’s also crucial that you document any evidence to act as proof of the breach. Evidence such as photographs, emails, text messages, or witness statements can be crucial in supporting your claim.

When you find yourself in a position as a tenant facing potential lease violations on the part of your landlord, you should seek advice from a lawyer to understand the strength of your case and the legal remedies available.

A tenant rights lawyer is a type of attorney specializing the laws about the tenant-landlord relationship who can instruct you on how to improve your odds of filing a successful lawsuit.

Failure to Make Repairs

Landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure that the properties they rent out are safe, livable, and well-maintained, which involves not making necessary repairs.

Landlord failing to make repairs to leaky roof

Here are some critical aspects of this legally required duty:

Repairs and Maintenance

  • Prompt Repairs: When something breaks or malfunctions, landlords must fix it within a reasonable time frame to avoid inconvenience to tenants.Functionality of Essential Services: Essential services like heating, water, electricity, and plumbing must be kept in working order.
  • Building Stability: The landlord must maintain the structural integrity of the building, including floors, walls, and ceilings.
    Above all, the dwelling must be fit for habitation, meaning it’s structurally sound, has adequate water and heating, and is sanitary to live in.

Failure to meet these landlord responsibilities can lead to legal consequences for them, including being ordered to make repairs, paying damages to tenants, or even fines from the local government.

Wrongful Eviction

Although the basic concept of landlords seeking to evict tenants from a property is straightforward, it’s complex from the perspective of a legal process.

Landlord holding eviction papers wrongfully evicting tenant

Before a landlord can legally evict you, the law requires they follow a set of steps, such as posting a formal notice and filing an eviction case in court.

These requirements mean to you, as a tenant, that if your landlord skips the steps they are legally required to follow as part of the eviction procedures or engages in illegal practices like harassment or taking and throwing away your property, you can sue them.

Illegal eviction practices can include one or more of the following methods:

Illegal Eviction Tactics

  • Forced Removal: Physically removing a tenant or their belongings without a court order.
  • Shutting Off Utilities: Deliberately cutting off utilities like water, gas, or electricity to force a tenant out.
  • Lockouts: Changing the locks without a court order to keep the tenant from entering the property.
  • Harassment: Intimidating or harassing a tenant in an effort to get them to leave without following the proper legal process.

Tenant Being Evicted by Landlord

Depending on your jurisdiction, you can report the illegal eviction to local or state housing agencies that can assist or intervene on your behalf.

Health and Safety Code Violations

Landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental properties are safe to live in, which includes having to comply with health and safety codes.

These housing standards are designed to ensure that rental accommodations are safe and habitable for tenants living there and include requirements for maintaining structural integrity, safe electrical systems, proper sanitation, and access to clean water.

Landlord refusing to fix health and safety code violations

If a landlord fails to promptly address reported hazards endangering the health or safety of occupants, their tenant may have grounds to sue.

In order to be successful in a lawsuit for safety and health code violations, you will need to gather evidence of the violations and prove your landlord failed to rectify the issues.

A lawyer can provide you with legal representation and guidance on the specific steps and documentation required based on the applicable local laws and regulations.

Security Deposit Violations

Many jurisdictions have security deposit laws that are designed to protect both landlords and tenants by ensuring that landlords have a financial safeguard against property damage or unpaid rent while also protecting tenants from unfair deductions from deposits.

Landlord itemizing deductions from tenant's security deposit

Security deposit laws typically specify the maximum amounts landlords can require as a deposit, the timeframe within which the security deposit must be returned, and the conditions under which deductions from the deposit are allowed.

Many states and cities require landlords to provide an itemized list of deductions if any portion of the deposit is withheld.

They also have laws that cover who receives the accrued interest from the deposit if it is kept in an interest-bearing bank account.

The following are a couple of examples of scenarios where a landlord is wrong for not returning the security deposit:

Example 1: Normal Wear and Tear

A landlord wrongfully withholds a tenant’s security deposit, claiming the money is being used to pay for the cost of repainting walls.

However, the walls were not damaged by the tenant and instead merely faded over time, which is considered normal wear and tear and not the tenant’s responsibility.

Example 2: Pre-existing Conditions

A landlord charges a tenant for damages that were already present when the tenant moved into the property, which the tenant documented in a move-in inspection report. In this instance, the landlord is in the wrong and should not refuse to return the security deposit.

How To Sue Your Landlord For Security Deposit?

To sue a landlord to return a security deposit, you will need to file a claim in small claims court and present evidence demonstrating the following:

  1. You left the rental property in good condition.
  2. The landlord failed to return the deposit within the legally required time frame or did not provide you with a valid itemized list of deductions.

How to sue landlord in small claims court for security deposit

The inverse is true for landlords, as they must provide evidence justifying their reasons for withholding or deducting from a deposit.

Invasion of Privacy

A tenant’s right to privacy refers to the legal protection of a tenant’s personal space within their rented property, including the right to stop the landlord or others from entering the premises without proper notice or consent, as well as the right to be free from unreasonable disturbances or invasions of privacy.

This right is typically outlined in landlord-tenant laws and lease agreements to ensure that tenants can enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy and peaceful habitation within their rented space.

Landlord invading privacy of tenant by installing security camera

Similar to other types of tenant rights violations, tenants can sue their landlord for violating their privacy.

The following are two example scenarios where a landlord illegally violates the privacy of a tenant:

Example 1: Entering Rental Property Without Proper Notice

A landlord invades a tenant’s privacy by entering the rental property without providing the required notice, thus infringing on the right of the tenant to have privacy in their home.

Example 2: Unauthorized Surveillance

A landlord violates a tenant’s privacy by installing surveillance cameras or other monitoring devices without the tenant’s consent on the rental property. Depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction, this can be a severe crime.

If you have reason to believe your privacy rights as a tenant have been violated by your landlord, you can file a complaint with the relevant housing authority.

Additionally, you can take legal action by hiring an attorney to sue your landlord in a civil lawsuit for breaching your privacy rights as a tenant.

Legal remedies for tenant privacy violations can include monetary damages and injunction orders to stop the privacy violations from continuing.

Discrimination

A tenant has the right to sue a landlord for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status (known as protected classes).

Fair Housing Act against discrimination in the United States

If a tenant believes they have been subjected to discriminatory practices in renting, they can file a lawsuit in federal or state court to seek remedies for the illegal act.

The following are two examples of landlords illegally discriminating:

Example 1: Discrimination Based on Family Status

A landlord refuses to rent an apartment to a potential tenant after finding out that the tenant has children, stating that they prefer to rent to single individuals or couples without children to avoid noise and damage. This is a prime example of residential housing discrimination based on familial status.

Example 2: Discrimination Based on National Origin

Upon hearing a tenant’s foreign-sounding accent, a landlord illegally decides to increase the rent price, citing concerns that tenants from certain countries are less likely to pay rent on time. Discriminating based on national origin is illegal.

Protected classes from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act

How To Sue a Landlord For Discrimination?

The steps to file a discrimination lawsuit against your landlord include:

  1. Collect Evidence: Document all instances of discrimination, including emails, texts, witness testimonies, and any other relevant communications or actions that demonstrate discriminatory behavior.
  2. File a Complaint: Submit a formal complaint with the appropriate government agency, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a local fair housing agency, who will investigate the claim.
  3. Legal Action: If the agency finds evidence of discrimination, it can file a lawsuit on your behalf, or you may choose to file a private lawsuit in a civil court with the assistance of an attorney.

Retaliation by Landlord

Anti-retaliation laws are designed to protect tenants from being unfairly punished or evicted by their landlords as a consequence of the tenant exercising their legal rights, such as complaining about unsafe living conditions.

Landlord retaliation

If a landlord engages in retaliatory behavior, such as increasing rent, decreasing services, or initiating an eviction after a tenant makes a legitimate complaint, the tenant can sue them.

The following are two examples of illegal retaliation by a landlord:

Example 1: Unlawful Eviction

A landlord discovers that a tenant has filed a complaint with a local housing authority about a lack of heat in the building. In response, the landlord changes the tenant’s apartment’s locks without notice, effectively evicting them without due process.

Example 2: Utility Shut-off

A landlord shuts off the water and electricity to the property after a tenant calls the police to report harassment. This action is illegal as it constitutes a deliberate interference with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment and habitability of the rental unit.

To sue a landlord for retaliation, tenants must provide evidence that the landlord’s actions were retaliatory and that they took necessary measures, such as complaining to a building inspector.

Lead Paint Hazards

Landlords are legally required to disclose known lead-based paint and hazards in the property to tenants (lead is a highly toxic metal).

The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 mandates that landlords provide a lead hazard information pamphlet and include a specific warning statement in the lease agreement for all properties built prior to 1978.

Lead paint hazard

Fast Fact: Lead paint was a prevalent choice among house painters in the mid-20th century in the United States, as it was sturdy and inexpensive.

Exposure to lead is dangerous and can cause a range of health issues, especially in children, including neurological damage and developmental delays.

When lead paint is discovered and poses a hazard, landlords must comply with local laws for its containment or removal to ensure the property is safe for occupants.

Tenants can sue a landlord for lead paint exposure if the landlord fails to meet these legal requirements, resulting in harm. They must prove that the landlord was negligent in managing the lead paint risks.

Note: Specific legal processes and tenant rights may vary depending on the laws of the jurisdiction (state as well as local municipalities).

Mold and Asbestos Exposure

Exposure to toxic mold and asbestos is harmful to one’s health. Being exposed to mold can lead to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, and other health problems, while breathing in asbestos (fire-resistant insulation material) can cause long-term lung conditions, including cancer.

Toxic mold and asbestos in rental home basement

Landlords are legally required to maintain safe living environments free of hazardous materials like mold and asbestos.

If landlords fail to remediate mold or asbestos despite being informed, tenants may have the right to pursue legal action.

Tenants who suffer health issues due to such negligence can potentially sue for compensation related to medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other types of economic damages.

In Conclusion About Valid Reasons To Sue Your Landlord

Tenant rights are essential to ensure that renters live in safe, habitable conditions and are treated fairly by landlords. When these rights are violated, taking legal action is a critical step for tenants to enforce their rights and seek remedies for any injustices they have faced.

Landlord-Tenant Relationship Rental Property

If you’re facing disputes with your landlord, it’s essential to understand your rights and the legal options available to you.

Consulting with an attorney can provide you with personal advice tailored to your situation, ensuring you’re well-informed before taking any action.

Legal action should only be considered after exhausting all other avenues of resolving issues with the landlord, as it should be a last resort to settle disputes.

When a landlord consistently fails to fulfill their duties, legal action may be necessary to protect the rights of the tenant and ensure proper resolution.

We are Express Legal Funding, a financial company that specializes in providing pre-settlement funding to plaintiffs involved in legal disputes, including those where they are suing their landlords (we have experience doing just that for tenants in wrongful eviction cases).

We can offer cash advances to people who are waiting for their lawsuit to settle, allowing them to cover living expenses and other financial needs while their case is ongoing.

This type of funding is non-recourse (risk-free because it’s not a lawsuit loan) and can help litigants avoid financial hardship and pressure to settle early for a lower amount, giving them the financial stability to pursue fair compensation for their legal claims.

About the Author

Author profile

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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