12 Times When a Landlord Can Sue a Tenant
There are plenty of tenant problems that can be resolved without litigation. That said, there are some circumstances where difficult tenants simply won’t take responsibility without the threat of a court date. Landlords who feel their tenants are exploiting the situation can read on to find out about 12 of the most common reasons to sue for damages.
1. Unpaid Rent
Landlords in Victoria rely on tenants’ rent to pay their own bills, so when one or more of them refuses to pay on time, it can cause some serious headaches. Before taking the tenant to court, most landlords try sending a formal notice to pay the back rent. If that doesn’t work, landlords can evict their tenants and sue them for what they owe. Even the threat of eviction is usually enough to get tenants to pay up.
2. Lost Rent From Illegal Move-Outs
Tenants are required to pay the rent until their leases are up. If they move out before the lease expires, it’s considered a breach of contract. Landlords can take them to court to recover any rent owed for the time remaining on the lease if they are unable to find a new renter. Just keep in mind that, in Texas, landlords must make good-faith efforts to re-rent should a tenant want to break the lease.
3. Cost of Finding a New Tenant After a Move Out
In some cases, landlords can sue former tenants for the costs incurred to find a new tenant after an illegal move-out. Damages can include utilities, marketing costs, and more.
4. Unpaid Utility Bills
If a tenant vacates the property, either illegally or when the lease runs out, he or she is responsible for paying any outstanding utility bills. As long as the utilities are in the tenant’s name, the landlord can deduct outstanding bills from the security deposit. If it won’t cover the expense, landlords can sue to recover the money to pay off the bills.
5. Property Damage
Landlords can sue their tenants if they cause damage to the property. Most start by deducting the cost of repairs from the tenant’s security deposit. However, if the amount of the security deposit won’t cover the repairs, landlords can also take their tenants to court to get what they are owed.
6. Unapproved Alterations
If tenants want to make alterations to the unit that are not specifically addressed in the lease agreement, they need to seek landlord approval. If a tenant makes changes without approval, the landlord can sue to recover the cost of restoring the unit if the security deposit will not cover the work.
7. Unapproved Pets
Many landlords stipulate no pet policies in their leases for a reason. Dogs, cats, and other household pets can cause a lot of unintended damage. If a tenant has an animal in the unit and is not allowed to under the current lease agreement, the landlord can sue for damages to the property, including the unit and shared spaces, caused by the illegal pet.
8. Illegal Uses of the Property
Tenants may only use their properties in ways that are compatible with their lease agreements and the law. If the tenant uses the unit to conduct any illegal dealings and adversely affects the landlord, he or she can sue to recover damages.
9. Disposing of Abandoned Property
When they move out, tenants are required to remove or dispose of any personal property that was kept or stored in the unit. If a tenant fails to do so, the landlord can sue for the expenses of disposing of the abandoned property. It doesn’t matter whether the tenant has broken his or her lease or moved out on time.
10. Tenant Owes More Than Is Covered by the Security Deposit
The purpose of a security deposit is to give the landlord money to pay for any damage to the unit after the tenant moves out. If the damage can’t be covered in its entirety by the security deposit, or the back rent or utilities owed by the tenant are greater than his or her deposit, the landlord can recover what he or she is owed in small claims court.
11. Counter Suing Over Security Deposits
It’s not uncommon for tenants to sue their landlords over withheld security deposits, even if they know they are in the wrong. Landlords can file countersuits to prove their right to deduct from the security deposit or withhold it in its entirety.
12. Breaches to the Lease Agreement
The lease signed by both the tenant and the landlord before moving in is a legally binding contract. If the tenant has broken any clause of the lease that causes the landlord harm, whether monetary, physical, or emotional, he or she can take that tenant to court to recover damages.
Is It Worth Suing a Tenant?
Let’s face it: going to court is stressful. It can also be quite costly, as legal and court fees add up, and suing a tenant can wind up initiating a countersuit. Some landlords are hesitant to bring suit against their tenants unless they owe significant amounts of money, but that’s often a mistake.
Landlords who win in court won’t just recover the lost rent or cost of repairing property damage that they’re owed. They’ll also get the chance to clear their names and have the case placed on record, which can protect them should former tenants attempt to file frivolous lawsuits in the future.
It’s often the case that just the threat of a lawsuit is enough to get unruly tenants in line. Few people want to face evictions or have their reputations tarnished by a lawsuit. Many tenants opt to settle outside of court after receiving a summons to avoid hassles and damage to their reputation, which works out well for both parties.
Hire a Lawyer
Landlords who have already exhausted their other options don’t have to navigate the complex field of tenant law alone. Instead, hire a lawyer as soon as it becomes clear that the tenant is not going to pay what he or she owes.