When Should a Tenant Hire a Lawyer?

When should a tenant hire a lawyer

As a tenant, you may face issues with your landlord that require resolution. Understanding your rights is the first step to a successful outcome, followed by knowing how to protect those rights should the need arise. While you can study all the available landlord-tenant law resources, these types of disputes are rarely easy to resolve, and seeking legal advice and guidance from an experienced tenant lawyer will be essential.

So, when should you hire a landlord-tenant lawyer? Below we provide a guide for tenants that answers that question and much more.

Benefits of Hiring a Tenant Lawyer

Knowing when to hire a tenant lawyer and the benefits of doing so can help keep an issue from escalating while protecting your rights.

A tenant needs to consider hiring a lawyer in such landlord-tenant matters that involve any of the following as examples:

  • Discrimination;
  • Security deposit disputes;
  • Illegal rent increases;
  • Habitability issues;
  • Substandard repairs or maintenance of the property or rental space;
  • Landlord disputes, such as the failure to keep a promise;
  • Retaliation claims;
  • Lease termination; and
  • Eviction proceedings;
  • Lease agreements review

A tenant lawyer is available to assist you with any disputes with a landlord and help you understand the terms of your lease agreement. In addition, you will obtain the following benefits when hiring an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer.

Expertise and Legal Advice Specific to Tenant Rights

Expertise and Legal Advice Specific to Tenant Rights

A variety of legal matters can arise between tenants and landlords or property owners, and, as a tenant, you may need to be knowledgeable about your rights. An experienced landlord-tenant attorney can provide the legal advice you need to make decisions and, if necessary, take legal action.

Your attorney will utilize knowledge of both federal and state laws concerning contractual agreements, such as leases and property management responsibilities and obligations. Accompanying this knowledge will be prior experience with legal issues involving tenants and landlords within your local area.

Protection of Rights and Interests

With a strong understanding of the federal, state, and local laws surrounding rental properties, your attorney can provide legal services to navigate the issues that arise and defend your rights and interests should they be threatened.

Disputes with a landlord can interfere with your interest and enjoyment in the rental property. In some instances, many landlords knowingly infringe on tenants' rights, such as locking you out of the rental property without following the proper court procedures for eviction. In other instances, you may be injured due to the landlord's negligence.

A tenant attorney will know how to address these issues, protecting your rights and interests.

Increased Chances of a Favorable Outcome

Increased Chances of a Favorable Outcome

While you can initiate a solution on your own in some cases, such as taking the landlord to small claims court to recover a security deposit, you will increase the chances of a favorable outcome if you first seek legal advice and guidance. For example, you received a termination notice and chose to fight it.

Your tenant lawyer can use knowledge of landlord-tenant law and build a confident strategy in less time and with a higher likelihood of success, whether the goal is to keep residing in the unit or recover monetary damages after eviction.

Efficient Resolution of Legal Matters

Landlord-tenant disputes can drag on, and you may begin to believe that you have no recourse. By working with an experienced tenant lawyer, you can reach an efficient resolution of your legal matter sooner, thanks to the knowledge and expertise of your legal team.

Understanding Tenant Rights

Understanding Tenant Rights

As a tenant, you need to know you have rights. Tenant rights include the right to a safe and healthy living environment and habitable rental space.

In California, as a tenant, the examples of your specific rights are:

  • Discrimination-free housing opportunities;
  • Refundable security deposits;
  • Right to have a habitable living space;
  • Right to enjoy a peaceful habitation;
  • The right to withhold rent for the landlord's failure to conduct necessary services; and
  • The right to sue a landlord for acts of retaliation;
  • The right to be free from harassment by landlord.

The above is a non-exhaustive list of the tenants’ broad range of rights. You also have protections under the California rules for termination of lease and eviction.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the San Francisco Rent Board provide a list of resources to help you further understand your tenant rights. Our Halavanau Injury and Accident Law team can also provide guidance and representation should you find yourself in a dispute with landlords.

What You Need to Know About Tenant-Landlord Relationships

The tenant-landlord relationship is a two-way street, with both parties having obligations and responsibilities. These tenant-landlord relationships are statutory or based on common laws and a signed rental agreement. While communication and transparency by both sides can help keep the relationship positive and respectful, all too often, one or the other fails to do their part.

The landlord is generally responsible for maintaining all public areas, including walkways and stairways, and keeping these free of safety hazards. The landlord can be held liable if a tenant sustains a personal injury on a faulty stairway. In addition, landlords must maintain and make necessary repairs to ensure the habitability of your rental space. The landlord is also generally responsible for maintaining certain habitability standards in the residence and promptly repairing any issues, such as lack of hot water, heat, or leaks, as a few examples.

The tenant agrees to maintain the rental space, keep it free of hazards, pests, and the like, and maintain included appliances or promptly notify the landlord regarding any malfunctions. The tenant also agrees to make timely rental payments in exchange for the right to occupy the property and is responsible for carrying the renter's insurance on his own personal property when applicable.

Unfortunately, all too often, disputes occur in landlord-tenant relationships, and professional help is necessary to resolve a dispute or violation of rights adequately.

Instances Requiring Legal Assistance

Instances Requiring Legal Assistance

There are several situations where legal assistance will not only benefit a tenant but will be necessary for your rights to be protected. Some of these include the following:

Lease Agreement Violations and Disputes

A lease agreement is a contractual document between the property owner/manager and the tenant. As such, it should lay out the responsibilities of each party and what actions can be taken should there be a dispute or violation of any of its terms.

Disputes can arise over the interpretation and understanding of specific terms of the lease, requiring legal review and resolution. A violation of the lease agreement occurs when your landlord fails to fulfill a specific obligation under that lease and in accordance with the law.

Security Deposit Conflicts

Security deposit conflicts commonly occur, with each side claiming their rights. While, in some instances, security deposit disputes can be resolved in small claims court, you should consider consulting with a landlord-tenant attorney for guidance on the best steps to take for a successful outcome.

Discrimination and Fair Housing Violations

As a tenant, you have the right to fair housing and the lack of discriminatory practices. However, discrimination and fair housing violations still occur, leaving you without a place to live, unfair rent increases, and more. When you believe a landlord is discriminating against you, a lawyer can take steps to halt illegal actions and file for damages for any harm you have suffered.

Habitability Concerns and Unsafe Living Conditions

Your landlord has certain obligations when it comes to providing habitable and safe living conditions, both under the lease and within current law. A failure to take necessary steps, such as repairing the heating system as winter approaches or a broken first-floor window that becomes a safety issue, puts these landlords in direct violation of their legal obligations.

While you can attempt to force the landlord liable to take action by withholding rent or seeking reimbursement for repairs, you initiate yourself by decreasing rent payments; you can better protect your rights by consulting first with an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer in your state.

Your experienced attorney can speak with the landlord on your behalf, seek a quick solution and settlement, or file a lawsuit against the landlord in court if necessary.

Legal Disputes and Eviction Proceedings

Legal disputes can arise for many reasons in the tenant-landlord relationship. One of the most common of these involves eviction. When it comes to these evictions, the landlord may have the right to proceed with the legal process for any of the following main reasons, among a few more:

  • You are conducting a legitimate business on a residential-only property;
  • You are conducting illegal activities on the property;
  • The landlord has decided to remove the property from the rental market;
  • The rental property fails to meet current health and safety regulations, which can only be remedied after a tenant moves out; 
  • Violations of the lease agreement, such as violating a pet policy;
  • Non-payment of rent; 
  • Owner or immediate family member move-in; 
  • Ellis Act eviction.

Still, even under the above grounds, your landlord must adhere to the legal process, including timelines for you to vacate the property. Most landlords abide by this when evicting a tenant, but others may not, and, in some circumstances, a landlord may try fabricating a basis for eviction to re-rent the unit at a higher market price. You may also believe you are falsely accused of one of the acts listed above and will need legal help.

If a landlord attempts to force you out without legal justification, such as a retaliatory action due to a disagreement or other issue, seeking the help of a tenant attorney will also be beneficial. Whenever you feel you are being unfairly targeted for eviction, your attorney can do a case evaluation, fight the eviction, and seek to recover damages on your behalf.

Call Halavanau Injury and Accident Law Today for an Initial Consultation With Our Tenant Attorneys Today

Call Halavanau Injury and Accident Law Today for an Initial Consultation With Our Tenant Attorneys Today

If you are currently concerned about habitability issues, your rights as a tenant, or are in dispute with your landlord, whether for one of the above reasons or something entirely different such as personal injury claims, it is time to seek guidance from a skilled California tenant attorney.

Our tenant attorney and the support team at Halavanau Injury and Accident Law are here to protect your rights and provide you with the help you need. Call our San Francisco law office today at (415) 692-5301 and schedule a free consultation, or submit the online contact form for your legal issue.

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