4 Times a Landlord Cannot File to Evict a Tenant
As the owner of the rental property, the landlord may believe they have the right to get a tenant to move out whenever they wish. The tenant, however, has signed the lease, giving them the legal right to stay in the rental as long as they follow the terms of the lease and state law. The landlord cannot file for an eviction because they get into a disagreement with the tenant or because the tenant has filed a health or safety complaint with the town. Here are four times the landlord does not have the legal right to evict a tenant.
Every landlord tenant conflict is not grounds for eviction. Evicting a tenant to get back at them for an action you did not approve up will not hold up in court. You cannot evict a tenant because they have made you angry by complaining or by legally reporting you to a housing authority. An eviction based on retaliation is known as a retaliatory eviction and it is illegal.
Tenant actions that could cause a landlord to file a retaliatory eviction:
- Your tenant reports you to the health department because of a mold problem in their unit that is caused by a roof leak you have not fixed.
- Your tenant pursues legal action against you because he or she slipped on ice on the front stairs of the property and broke their leg. You did not salt or shovel the stairs.
- A tenant had a maintenance issue at the property that you refused to fix, so he or she called a repairman to fix the problem. The tenant deducted the amount of the repair from their monthly rental payment.
If you attempt to evict a tenant within three to six months after their complaint or legal action against you, a judge may determine that you are simply trying to retaliate against the tenant.
You can still file to evict a tenant who has complained or pursued legal action against you if you have legitimate grounds for an eviction, such as nonpayment of rent or other breaches to the lease agreement.
A discriminatory eviction is an eviction based on the tenant being a member of a certain class. You cannot evict a tenant because you don’t like the color of their skin, the religion they practice or the fact that they have children.
The Federal Fair Housing Act protects seven classes of people. The protected classes are race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status and disability. Your state may have additional protected classes, so make sure you adhere to your state’s fair housing laws as well.
Examples of a discriminatory eviction:
- 1: A Jewish tenant puts a menorah in their window during Hanukkah. You file for an eviction because you think the menorah may discourage Christians from renting your property. You feel that there are more people who practice Christianity in your area and thus they represent a larger tenant base. This is religious discrimination and it is illegal.
- 2: A young couple moved into a two-bedroom apartment in your property one year ago. You find out the wife is pregnant. You do not want a screaming newborn disrupting the other tenants in your property, so you file to evict the couple. This is discrimination against families, and it is illegal.
Your state or county may allow certain tenants to be classified as protected tenants. These can be tenants that are over a certain age, such as 62 years old, who have lived at a property for a certain number of years, such as 10 years. It can be very difficult to evict a protected tenant from a property, even for legitimate reasons such as nonpayment of rent.
Tenant Withholding Rent Until Safety or Health Issue Is Fixed
Under most circumstances, you can file to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. There is. however, an exception. You cannot evict a tenant if they are withholding rent until a safety or health issue at the property has been addressed.
You are responsible for paying a tenant’s utilities. You do not pay the electric bill.
To have lights in their home, the tenant must pay the electric bill themselves. When they pay their monthly rent, they deduct the portion they have paid to the electric company. Since your failure to pay the electric bill threatened the safety and living standard of the tenant, you cannot pursue the tenant for the remainder of the rent or file for an eviction because they did not pay the full amount of rent.