10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord

If you are renting an apartment or house, it’s always best to try to remain on good terms with your landlord; nobody wants their housing situation to become a source of stress. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, though, when the landlord is violating your rights or refusing to honor their contractual commitments. In these cases, pursuing a legal remedy may be your best option.

Here are the most common reasons to sue your landlord.

1. The Landlord Has Kept Your Security Deposit

Landlords in California have 21 calendar days to return your security deposit after you’ve moved out of the property. After that, they must provide an itemized list of deductions if they keep any money. Common reasons for deducting money from the deposit are:

  • Unpaid rent.
  • Damage to the property.
  • Cleaning costs (the apartment must be at the same level of cleanliness as when the tenant moved in).

However, a landlord cannot charge the tenant for normal wear and tear, such as faded paint, worn carpet, or loose doorknobs.

2. The Landlord Is Entering the Property Illegally

Landlords have a right to enter and inspect their property, but this is balanced against the tenant’s right to privacy in their home. Unless it’s an emergency, California landlords must give 24 hours’ notice before entering the property. Even then, if the landlord is repeatedly entering with little or no reason, you might still have a harassment case.

3. Housing Discrimination

Federal and state laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against current and prospective tenants based on certain protected characteristics. In California, these include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation, veteran or military status

4. Failure to Reimburse for Repair Costs

Leases may vary, but it is typically the landlord’s responsibility to repair the property. Sometimes the two parties may agree that the tenant will make repairs, and the landlord will reimburse the tenant for the cost. However, if the landlord refuses to honor the agreement, the tenant can sue for this money. So be sure you talk to the landlord before making any repairs.

5. Injury Due to Landlord Negligence

Tenants may sue their landlords if they are injured because the landlord fails to maintain safe conditions. For example, if a ceiling piece falls on your head or a handrail gives out while leaning against it. A major factor in such cases will be whether the landlord knew or should have known about the unsafe conditions.

6. Failure to Disclose Hazardous Conditions

If hazardous conditions on the property can affect the tenant’s health, the landlord must disclose these in advance. Common examples are lead paint and mold. If you are harmed due to the landlord’s failure to disclose such hazards, you may have a case.

7. The Property Has Become Uninhabitable

Landlords are required to keep rental properties in “habitable” condition. If uninhabitable conditions arise and the landlord refuses to fix them, the tenant has legal recourse, usually in the form of vacating the property and seeking reimbursement for associated costs. Examples of uninhabitable conditions include lack of hot water, entry doors that don’t lock, and leaking sewage or gas. Remember that you must first give the landlord a chance to make repairs, and if you vacate the property and don’t successfully prove it was uninhabitable, you will likely be liable for unpaid rent.

8. Illegal Provisions in the Rental Agreement

Tenants have rights under state and federal law, and a rental agreement generally can’t require a tenant to relinquish those rights. So, for example, a lease can’t require the tenant to vacate the property immediately on notice of eviction or allow the landlord to enter without notice.

9. Illegally Raising the Rent

Some California cities have laws limiting how much a landlord can increase an existing tenant’s rent per year. Outside of those cities, however, there is no such limit. Landlords must provide adequate notice to the tenant before the increase goes into effect. Most increases require at least 60 days’ notice, or 90 days if the increase is more than 10%. There are exceptions to this rule.

10. Illegal Eviction

A landlord must have legal cause to evict a tenant and go through a formal process. If the landlord evicts you without cause or tries to do it outside the required procedure, you may have a legal claim against them.

Landlord-Tenant Specialists in Southern California

Landlord-tenant law is complicated, especially in California. When your home, and potentially your health, is on the line, the best thing you can do is consult with an attorney. Our team has years of experience in this field and can help you reach a fair outcome that protects your rights. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Written By

Hoffman & Forde