It’s easy to forget that lease agreements not only protect Phoenix landlords and their properties, but also the tenants living in the rental. However, it’s important to know that written lease agreements are legally binding. They protect not only the rights of landlords but those of tenants as well.
In other words, there are instances in which a tenant can rightfully sue their landlord.
If you want to avoid legal trouble with your tenants, keep reading. We’ve outlined the top 10 reasons tenants can legitimately sue you to resolve a serious landlord-tenant dispute.
Top 10 Reasons a Tenant in Phoenix Can Sue Their Landlord
1. Illegally Keeping a Security Deposit
Every state is different when it comes to the specifics about collecting, securing, and returning security deposits. However, one thing is true, if you don’t follow the rules of your state, you’ll find yourself in hot water.
Typically, you are only allowed to use a security deposit for the following items in Phoenix, AZ:
- Damage to your property beyond normal wear and tear
- Early termination of lease agreements
- Non-payment of rent
- Excessive cleaning costs
- Unpaid utility bills upon move-out
If you use it for anything else, you might find yourself being sued by your tenant for breaking the law.
2. The Property is Uninhabitable
If your tenants can’t live in your rental because it’s dangerous or poses a health risk, it may be considered uninhabitable.
For example, if your rental has mold due to water damage, a rat infestation, or even storm damage that has wrecked the property, you will be on the hook to resolve the issue immediately. In other words, you’ll have to make repairs right away.
If your property is declared uninhabitable and you refuse to make repairs, your tenants might sue you. That is, if they don’t just abandon the property and move on.
3. Wrongful Eviction Proceedings
There’s no denying that evicting a tenant is something all landlords hope to avoid. However, sometimes it’s just plain necessary. That said, there are specific eviction proceedings in place that you have to follow no matter how upset you are at your tenants for breaching the lease agreement.
If your Phoenix, AZ tenants fail to pay rent and you have to evict them, you cannot simply kick them out of your property. Not to mention, you cannot do the following:
- Change the locks on your property
- Move any of your tenant’s personal property out
- Cut off the utilities to your property
Keep in mind, you can’t retaliate against your tenants by evicting them either. For example, your tenant can rightfully sue you if you evict them for:
- Filing a complaint with the Government Authority
- Notifying you about potential health hazards such as lead paint or mold
- Being involved in a Tenant’s Organization
- Suing you for an unrelated reason
If you wrongfully evict your tenant, no matter the reason, they can sue you for incurred damages. This might include court costs, attorney fees, and more.
4. Housing Discrimination
If you violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, your tenant can rightfully sue you for discrimination. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. If your tenants feel you have discriminated against them in any way, even during the tenant screening process, you could find yourself in court.
Want to ensure that you never discriminate against your tenants? Then hire an experienced Phoenix property management company such as Stratton Vantage to screen tenants for you. Not only do the property managers seek out the highest quality tenants for your rental, but they also know all the federal, state, and local laws so you don’t have to.
5. Breach of Quiet Enjoyment
Every tenant that resides in your rental property has the right to “quiet enjoyment” of the premises. In other words, your tenants are entitled to live in peace without privacy violations or being harassed by you.
If your tenants feel you have breached their right to quiet enjoyment, they may be able to leave the property without notice.
Worse yet, you might find yourself being sued for doing the following things:
- Interrupting your tenant’s utility services
- Improper entry into your property
- Gossiping about your tenants
- Showing up at your tenant’s work to talk about landlord-tenant issues
- Letting others into your property without notice or consent from your tenants
6. Using Consumer Reports & Violating Tenant Rights
If you violate the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you could find yourself in court should your tenant decide to sue.
Consumer reports are used to help screen tenants for your rental. However, they can also be used during eviction proceedings.
Here are some of the most common ways landlords misuse consumer reports:
- Requiring a co-signer when unnecessary
- Filing unnecessary or wrongful evictions
- Failing to report tenants to the credit bureau
- Denying an application for unwarranted reasons and affecting the tenant’s ability to lease elsewhere
- Failing to send proper rejection outlines when rejecting a tenant’s application
- Requiring a higher security deposit for one tenant over others
To prevent being sued by your tenants, you should educate yourself about all federal credit reporting laws. Either that or hire a reliable property manager you can trust.
7. Injury at Your Rental Property
Your tenant might be able to rightfully sue you if they are injured on your property in Phoenix because of your negligence. One example of this would be if your tenant slipped and fell because you didn’t provide a lawfully required banister in the stairwell.
That said, if your tenant is injured because of their own negligence, they would not be able to sue you.
That’s why we recommend you require all tenants to have renter’s insurance for cases like that.
8. Not Disclosing Lead Paint or Mold Issues
Landlords are required by law to disclose any known mold or previous or existing lead hazards at their properties. Because these issues can cause long-term health problems, it is illegal for landlords to hide them from tenants. If your tenants find out you failed to disclose this type of information, they can rightfully sue you.
9. Not Reimbursing Your Tenant for a Repair
Sometimes tenants will perform repairs in a rental property because a landlord refuses to do so in a reasonable amount of time. When this happens, you must reimburse your tenants for the money spent on the repair. This is especially true if the repair was affecting the health and safety of your tenants and needed immediate attention.
If you don’t pay your tenants for necessary repairs they perform on your behalf, they can sue you to recover the money spent plus damages.
10. Illegal Lease Agreement Clauses
You are not allowed to put clauses in your lease agreements that violate the landlord-tenant laws in your state. For example, you cannot write in a provision that states you are not responsible for making repairs to your property. In addition, you cannot state that you have the right to kick your tenant out at any time you want. Another example involves a no-pet policy. While it is your right to not allow pets in your rental, you cannot refuse service animals under the Fair Housing Act.
If you include any clauses in your lease agreement that are illegal, you can bet your tenants will take you to court.
Interested in having us manage an investment property for you? Then contact us today and see how we can help you avoid being sued by your tenants.
At Stratton Vantage, we want to make sure you never worry about having to be on the wrong side of a court battle. From drafting legally compliant lease agreements to ensuring speedy maintenance and repairs to your property, we know your tenants will never have a complaint about you – or us. So, let us handle the day-to-day operations of owning a rental property while you enjoy the passive income.