FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What are landlord's responsibilities for repairs and maintenance of the property?


Landlords are required to keep a rental property habitable by making repairs and maintenance. This includes making sure the heater, A/C, water, washing machine, garbage disposal, and other major appliances are working properly. The rental property must be clean and structurally safe for the tenant. Laws vary from state to state, so please contact our law office if you have any questions.




What tenant's need to do if the landlord is not keeping up with repair and maintenance to provide a habitable home


If you request any necessary repairs and the landlord fails to respond, there are a number of things you can do, including:

  • Depending on the state you live in, you can withhold paying rent or pay less rent until the repairs are made.
  • You also have the option to hire someone to make the repairs, then deduct it from the next month's rent with proof of repairs.
  • If the problem violates state, building, or health codes, you can contact local authorities. If inspectors find the problem violates any codes mentioned, the landlord may be ordered to fix the problem, as well as potential fines or penalties.
  • If the problem makes the property uninhabitable, you as the tenant can move out before the end of the rental-lease agreement. To get a lawsuit against the landlord, you must prove: 1) the uninhabitable conditions were due to the landlord's lack of fixing the problems; and 2) you left the property in a reasonable amount of time.
Reference: FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors. (2019). Landlords' Duties: Repairs, Maintenance, and Notice to Tenants for Entry. Retrieved from https://realestate.findlaw.com




Does my landlord need to provide advance notice before entering my rental property?


Most states require a landlord to give 24 or 48 hours advanced notice to tenants before entry to take place. However, a landlord can enter a rental property at any time without notice in order to make an emergency repair. In some jurisdictions, landlords can enter a rental property without notice if the tenant is away for an extended period of time, in order to check up on the property and make necessary repairs. If a landlord breaks this law, they can be subject to a lawsuit by the tenant. Some states, like California, provide a tenant with a claim for harassment if their landlord enters the rental property without proper notice and also provide for a monetary fine against the landlord. Reference: FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors. (2019). Landlords' Duties: Repairs, Maintenance, and Notice to Tenants for Entry. Retrieved from https://realestate.findlaw.com




You may be entitled to monetary and/or other relief from your landlord, if your landlord:


  • Refuses to make necessary repairs
  • Fails to rectify mold/mildew problems
  • Fails to remedy a pest infestation
  • Permits a nuisance to exist and/or persist that is interfering with your use and enjoyment of your home
  • Interferes with your privacy and/or fails to give proper notices of entry to your home
  • Threatens to evict you for reporting violations of laws




What is the legal process for suing a landlord?


1. Try to resolve the issue - Send a letter requesting what you need, whether it's your security deposit or necessary repairs to the rental property. 2. Look up your state's laws - The process for going to small claims court varies by state. 3. Look up your state's limits - There is a limit to how much you can sue in small claims court and can vary from $2,500 to $25,000. 4. Find out if you need a lawyer - You can either represent yourself in small claims court or you can be safe and hire a lawyer to represent you. 5. Must be in a reasonable amount of time - Depending on your state, if a certain amount of time passes, you may no longer be eligible to sue a landlord. 6. File your complaint - Go to the courthouse in the same town as your rental property. You will need to file a complaint with the court clerk, which describes the charges you’re making against the defendant. It’s best to bring copies of any proof you might have when you’re filing. You should keep the originals.You typically will need to pay a filing fee, which varies by court (typically $50). 7. Wait - After your file a complaint, a few things can happen:

  • The court notifies the defendant who receives a copy of your complaint and a summons to appear in court. The defendant needs to answer this complaint, typically within 30 days.
  • If the defendant doesn’t answer the complaint within the allotted time, you can ask the court for a default judgment. Here, you can take your case to a judge without the defendant being there.
  • If the defendant answers, the court sets a date for the hearing, usually within the month; or the defendant can also file a counterclaim against you, which will be heard at the hearing.
8. Bring proof - Bring to court any documents, including photos, videos, text messages, and emails, which will help prove your case. 9. Receive the verdict - The judge decides whether the plaintiff wins a judgment against the defendant or not, and if the defendant has filed a countersuit, whether that will be granted or not. 10. Consider appealing - Either party can appeal a verdict they disagree with to a higher court. The higher court decides whether it will grant the appeal. Note that higher courts typically grant appeals only on cases where the judge made a mistake, not to simply give you a chance to retry the case. 11. Collect your judgement - If you win your case, you need to collect your judgment. If you aren’t paid immediately, you have option: garnish the defendant's wages or bank account; put a lien on their property; or hire a collection agency. Reference: Agadoni L. (2017, October 3). How to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord or renter. Retrieved from https://www.landlordology.com




Tenant Eviction (Unlawful Detainer) Checklist


  1. Note that you have only five (5) calendar days to respond to the Complaint; not five (5) court days. For example, if you were served on Tuesday, the following Monday would be the last day to respond. If the fifth (5th) day falls on a weekend or court holiday, the next following business day will be your last day to respond. For example, if you were served on a Monday, the last day for you to respond would be on Saturday. Since Saturday is a weekend, your last day to respond would be extended to Monday, unless that Monday is also a court holiday; in which case, your last day to respond would be on Tuesday. If you fail to file a timely response, you might get a default judgment.
  2. Use Form UD-105 to file an Answer to the Unlawful Detainer Complaint.
  3. For discovery, use Form UD-106 and promptly serve it on opposing party.
  4. If you are doubtful as to how to respond or if you feel there are serious flaws in the Complaint, consult the Law Offices of Jennifer R. Snyder in Newark, CA.