Four Legal Issues with Apartment Eviction

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When a landlord tries to evict a tenant from an apartment, there are numerous issues that can arise. Below are six legal issues with apartment eviction situations, involving areas such as causes of action, defenses and other considerations.

Causes of Action

Evictions for Non-Payment of Rent

A failure to pay the full amount of rent in accordance with a lease is grounds for an eviction. Understandably, the amounts owed may be subject to dispute. Accordingly, the parties involved should keep and be prepared to show any all relevant paperwork (bills, receipts, etc.).

Evictions for Cause

Tenants that engage in certain activities, such as criminal activity (and in many jurisdictions, drug-dealing that involves the apartment), can be subject to eviction.

Defenses

Notice

Landlords must provide a timely notice of termination. Typically, the rental period is a good benchmark for serving a notice of termination. Thus, a month to month lease would typically require a 30-day notice of termination. Various jurisdictions may also have different time requirements depending on the nature of the evictions and the tenancy involved. With that in mind, an improperly served eviction notice will provide stop an eviction, if only for a little while.

Defenses to Rent

Although tenants must pay their full rent when it is due, a tenant may be justified in not doing so. One of the more common defenses to non-payment of rent (or paying less than is due) relates to conditions to the apartment. Not only can defects with the apartment justify a tenant withholding rent until the landlord addresses the conditions, but could also reduce the amount of rent due to the landlord.

Retaliation

It is possible that when a tenant complains about conditions in an apartment, especially to a government agency, the landlord will respond by commencing an eviction. Such a response is an unlawful, retaliatory eviction, and can subject a landlord to legal costs.

Miscellaneous

Self-Help

A landlord cannot starts an eviction by locking the tenant out of their apartment. Similarly, a landlord cannot enter an apartment and put the tenant’s belongings outside. In many jurisdiction, self-help will lead to criminal and civil penalties. Conversely, when a landlord has fully and lawfully evicted a tenant, they are free to change the locks.

Legal Help Can Be Invaluable

The prospect of becoming homeless is a daunting matter, and when facing eviction, a tenant should consider consulting with an attorney. (In addition to consulting with local bar associations and the phone books, a potential source of legal assistance in some cities are legal aid-clinics at local law schools). Furthermore, a botched eviction can be a costly mistake for a landlord. Thus, if someone is being evicted, or trying to evict someone, legal consultation can be helpful. A lawyer can advocate on behalf of their client, as well as deal with any issues to crop up during the eviction process, thereby increasing the chance for a favorable outcome.

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