Tenant Counter Claims

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on December 13, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Often, landlords find themselves trapped in unpleasant situations, where eviction is one possible solution to get rid of problem tenants. However, they may be surprised to find some tenants responding with a counter-claim against a landlord’s action for eviction. A counter-claim may contend the eviction should be stopped, since it is nothing but a ‘retaliatory eviction’, resulting from a complaint made by the tenant to a government agency about his / her landlord violating housing rules and regulations. However, for these complaints to be valid, they must be made before a landlord commences an eviction process, and may not provide much of a defense against eviction for non-payment of rent. But, a counter-claim could seek damages for a landlord’s violation of consumer protection laws, or even an abatement in rent due to problems with the apartment.

While, some states do not have adequate protection laws for tenants, in other jurisdictions tenants have the following rights:
* Proper heating;
* Hot and cold running water;
* Proper garbage removal i.e. from the designated receptacle, e.g., the apartment building’s dumpster;
* The right to common areas, such as, lobbies, stairways, halls that are well maintained and clean and safe;
* Tenants also have the right to housing that is in compliance with state and local building codes and housing regulations.

An action for a ‘rent abatement’ is a request that the court allow the tenant credit against the rent, for that period of time, when any of these rights were not fulfilled, or when the landlord refused to comply with the lease. A tenant could, either request a small percentage be deducted for a minor violation, or request the entire rental amount be abated, if the apartment was effectively rendered uninhabitable by the landlord’s violation.

Landlords can also be subjected to consumer protection actions. In some jurisdictions, a landlord may become a subject to a claim for any cleaning expenses he / she may deduct from a damage deposit. In others, in case a landlord did not properly escrow a tenant’s damage deposit, or if the tenant was not notified of alleged damages within a fixed period of time after the tenant vacated the premises, the landlord may have to return the entire damage deposit. Please note that if the tenant does not give a forwarding address to the landlord within a few days of moving, any notice requirement will likely be deemed waived.

On that cautionary note, another fair bit of advice, avoid expensive landlord / tenant litigation, by taking necessary precautions, such as, screening tenants and conducting background checks on prospective tenants. A simple click of the mouse and any landlord or property manager can visit www.e-renter.com for tenant screening and background check services. www.e-renter.com, the best tenant screening agency in America!

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