Been wrongfully evicted by your Landlord? This tends to happen more often than not. Wrongful eviction can be countered however. While there is little you can do to prevent your landlord from beginning an eviction process, you can fight against eviction, win, and even receive damages. The following tips will provide you some basic information to help you in your battle against a wrongful eviction.
Be Smart…Ask an Attorney
Hire a lawyer…or at least get an opinion from one. Hiring a lawyer may seem simple, and the best way to fight an eviction, but you would be surprised how many people fail to actually do this. Instead they attempt to write angry letters to the landlord or the local city official in hopes something will change. This tends to never happen. People fear retaining an attorney during a wrongful eviction process because of the cost. However, retaining one may not cost you a dime. Pursuant to your state’s laws, a landlord found by a court to have engaged in wrongful eviction of a tenant may be required to pay the tenant’s legal fees…plus any damages that the tenant may have. This means that if you take your landlord to court for a wrongful eviction and win, the landlord will be responsible for paying all of the court costs and your lawyer’s fees.
Your local attorney referral service, state bar website, or a simple google search can provide you the names of attorneys who practice landlord-tenant litigation. In fact, the local law school may have a few attorneys as well. Often, these attorneys will meet with you at no charge to review your case and determine whether you have a valid claim against the landlord. If the attorney agreed to represent you, he would then work at little to no cost to you and recover his expenses and fees at the end of the case. However, this may not always be the situation, so be sure to ask how the attorney is paid and what his fees are prior to agreeing to hire him. Also be sure to keep all correspondence or documentation between you and your landlord regarding the wrongful eviction and bring copies to the attorney when you meet with them.
Do Your Due Diligence…Contact Your Local HUD Office
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prohibits discrimination against tenants based on religion, national origin, familial status and several other aspects. A claimed violation of these laws is considered very serious and will be investigated by your local housing authority and possibly the HUD. Your local housing authority should be able to provide you the forms and other assistance for making a claim for wrongful eviction. In cases of claimed discrimination, you may also want to hire an attorney.
Be Upfront…Warn the Landlord
In best case scenarios the tenant has kept records of the entire rental process including payments, correspondence, maintenance requests etc. If you have done so, congratulations, you will have ample evidence that you are being of the wrongful eviction. If you are still living at the residence and have not yet contacted an attorney, you might consider presenting your evidence to the landlord to see if he will cease the proceedings. Of course, these are copies. NEVER ever bring the originals with you if you do not have to. Also, do not give the landlord the documents, but instead write a letter containing the information you are in possession of, state that you have evidence of this information and finish by refuting his claims that you need to be evicted. It may also be a good idea to inform them that you are in the process of seeking legal counsel, or that you already have spoken to legal counsel, if true. You can include copies of any of your records, but, again, do not give him the originals.
Take Your Claim to Court
While it may be helpful, you do not necessarily have to hire an attorney to take your landlord to court. Depending on your state, you can bring a lawsuit against your landlord for a wrongful eviction in either small claims or county court. Be prepared though, this may be tedious and while not necessarily expensive, the last thing you may want to do is take off work in the middle of the day to go present something at oral argument in front of a judge that has the ability to decide your residency in the future. The clerk of the court will be able to assist you with the paperwork you need to file. However, it is still a good idea to notify your local housing authority office that you are filing the case even if you do not hire an attorney.
Wrongful eviction is a terrible occurrence, but one that sometimes cannot be avoided depending on the landlord’s malice. Fortunately, there are governmental organizations and attorneys that are willing and ready to assist a wrongfully evicted tenant.