Preparing to Sue Your Landlord

Thinking about suing your landlord? If you find yourself in a position where you are considering bringing a lawsuit against your landlord. Because the remedies available to tenants vary depending on the city you live in, be sure to consult with an attorney to find out more about how these tips apply to your situation.

1. When Can I Bring A Lawsuit?

In California, your landlord has a duty to provide you with a safe place to live free from interference or harassment. If you are experiencing poor living conditions, dealing with mold, bed bugs, rodents, or if your place needs repairs you may have grounds to sue or file a petition with the Rent Board. If your landlord is harassing you, this too may provide a basis to sue your landlord.

2. Request for Repairs in Writing

Before you can bring a lawsuit or move out you will need to document the problem. If you are dealing with serious issues with your housing the first step is to inform your landlord. If your landlord doesn’t know you’re having problems it makes it much harder to hold them accountable for the issues. As we have mentioned before, making requests in person or by phone is fine, but you should ALWAYS put those requests in writing as well. Letters and emails are better than text messages.

3. Document the Problem

In addition to informing your landlord, be sure to take photos and videos. . For issues like mold or really bad living conditions consider getting mold testing done and  contacting the applicable city agencies to come and inspect. Keep copies of everything you send or receive from your landlord. Without evidence it’s your word against theirs. This will also make it easier to find a lawyer willing to take your case.

4. Exhaust the available remedies

Lawsuits are not fun and can take over a year to resolve. Before escalating the situation make sure you have tried to get your landlord to resolve the issue directly. Again, this means making sure your landlord is on notice of the problem at hand. If the relationship is beyond repair or you feel uncomfortable trying to discuss the issue further with your landlord, consult a lawyer first to discuss potential strategies.  If you’ve asked your landlord repeatedly to address the issues and they continue to refuse or ignore your requests, it’s time to prepare your case.

5. Hire a Lawyer

There is no “right” time to hire an attorney. However, if you aren’t sure how to deal with a problem or want assistance strategizing to protect yourself it can be extremely helpful to talk to a tenant attorney especially if you are considering moving out because of the problems. If you do feel like you have no choice but to take legal action, be sure the person or firm you hire is a dedicated tenant’s rights lawyer.  Some firms out there claim to be tenant advocates but also help landlords evict tenants, while other firms primarily practice other types of law. Landlord-tenant laws are highly specialized and differ greatly not just based on the state you live in but on the city.