What You Should Know About Tenant Law
Are you facing eviction? Is your landlord harassing you? Well the good news is that you have rights. The bad: you probably don’t know what they are. Read on to learn more about tenant law and how you can fight back.
The first thing you should know is that your landlord cannot evict you without a court order. He or she must file a notice with the courthouse, just like they would a lawsuit, and have it served to you properly, either by a sheriff or disinterested third party. They may not hand deliver the notice in person or hang it on your door. Doing so constitutes improper delivery and could have their case thrown out. If you’re unsure about delivery, contact an attorney immediately.
Let’s say you’ve been asking your landlord to fix a leaky faucet or noisy refrigerator and they haven’t done so yet. It has been months and still nothing. All of a sudden, you receive an eviction notice. What do you do? Well, this series of events could constitute what’s known colloquially as a revenge eviction. The landlord decides to evict you instead of dealing with the problem. Most states have anti-revenge laws. Remember, it’s always best to contact an attorney if you’re unsure about local tenant law.
Pro-Tenant or Pro-Landlord?
Many people believe that legal distinctions weigh in favor of landlords when it comes to tenant law. In fact, they’re pretty even. Some folks have explained in certain lay terms the difference between laws that strongly favor landlords and laws that benefit tenants, but the truth is, it’s all conjecture. Judges translate tenant laws, and those translations may differ depending on a number of things including jurisdiction (and what the judge had for breakfast that day). It’s good to hire an experienced attorney who is familiar with local court customs.
Answer All Legal Notices
Some people think legal notices magically disappear over time. They don’t! In fact, you could lose your case by “default judgment” if you fail to answer, at least in writing, typically within 30 days of the initial notice. A simple denial letter will usually suffice, but again, it’s best to seek the help of an attorney to figure out what your answer will be. Your answer must be tailored to local tenant law, so unless you’re prepared to sift through mounds of precedence and court rulings, call a lawyer and have them do it for you.
Landlords Have Rights Too
Landlords are people, too. They have to make choices in their own best interest, even when those choices seem unfair to tenants. The process of fighting an eviction may take a very long time, sometimes months, because the court must make a decision that doesn’t infringe on either party’s rights. The process can be confusing, but you must maintain faith that the court will come to the right conclusion, even if it doesn’t fall in your favor. That’s why it’s so important to speak with an experienced local lawyer before challenging your landlord in court.