The landlord/tenant relationship is often a contentious one although it does not have to be that way. Landlords should try to have a good relationship and maintain it by taking care of tenant concerns. However, it often happens that either a tenant or a landlord perhaps due to past experiences, approach this relationship ready for a fight. The common types of disputes that occur between landlords and tenants can be things like upkeep and repair issues or serious issues like non-payment of rent potentially leading to eviction. The process of terminating a lease agreement typically for a specific cause thereby removing the tenant from the rental unit is called eviction. Issues commonly leading to eviction include but are not limited to failure to pay rent on time, keeping pets against the rules of the rental agreement, and engaging in criminal activity on the rental property.
Every state in the country has laws are in place to ensure that eviction is carried out following due process thereby protecting both tenants and landlords. It is not as simple as just asking a tenant to leave, the process ensures that the tenant has their and gives the tenant ample time to find a new place of residence. The tenant is first served a formal notice of eviction detailing the cause for issuance which can be corrected. If the tenant fails to respond within the required timeframe, the landlord files for a formal court eviction proceeding known as an unlawful detainer action. It is a wise course of action to try your best and avoid disputes altogether. Disagreements are often best handled outside of court. Tenants should study their lease agreement and have a basic understanding of their responsibilities.
However, problems may arise but it's often best to try and settle it by talking to the other party honestly. Although, not all disputes are resolved by talking with your landlord, instead of immediately rushing to court, there are other options to resolve landlord/tenant disputes. You can always state in your rental agreement what remedial steps you will take if a dispute arises. Below are some steps that can be taken to avoid and remedy landlord-tenant disputes
Understand The Terms Of Your Rental Agreement And Adhere To Them
Avoiding disputes before they even begin is the best strategy to follow. Problems may arise because the tenant due to lack of knowledge may break terms of the lease agreement or they might be unaware of their rights under the law. It is therefore important to learn housing law, specifically the portion that applies to you whether you are a landlord or a tenant.
Never Lose Your Cool In An Argument
If you have gotten into an argument with your tenant or landlord, it is advisable to keep calm and never lose your temper even if the other party does so. It is best to stay as calm as possible and try to take care of the situation on your own. If the other party does not cooperate in this regard or is acting aggressively then you may have to seek legal recourse in court.
Try To Verbally Settle Your Disputes Amicably In A Face To Face Meeting
Landlord/tenant disputes can often be resolved out of court by having both sides thoroughly discuss the issue. If you feel that you have been wronged, it is best to not give any indication of ill will harbored towards the other party. It is possible that you may find common ground or a mutually agreed upon solution to your problem. Such a resolution is always cheaper and easier in the long term. Oftentimes, landlords and tenants have traded verbal barbs over the phone or by e-mail and haven’t actually met each other. In such a situation, a face-to-face held in neutral territory may help forge a resolution.
Try Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods Such As Mediation & Arbitration
If you have had little to no success in verbally solving a dispute then there are two things that you can do. The first is that you can acquire the services of a professional mediator. Professional mediators are skilled people that can assist to resolve the dispute without going to court. Property-dispute mediators are often trained to deal with rental property disputes. The other thing that you can do is to submit to an arbitration. Although it is similar to mediation, it is different in the fact that arbitration is binding. After an arbitrator hears both sides of the case, they will issue a ruling to which you must adhere.
Document Everything And Have Your Lawyer Review The Facts
A paper trail is the best defense for both parties in a landlord/tenant dispute. If a tenant repeatedly breaks the rules of the lease agreement, or if they make unreasonable demands, documentation can help prove your case. Similarly, if a landlord has committed any excesses or has not kept his part of the agreement, it should be documented by the tenant. Having ample documentation may discourage the other party from litigating the dispute and serve to provide a mutually agreed upon solution. Have your lawyer review the documentation and advise you on the best course of action.
Litigating The Dispute In Small Claims Court Or Civil/Criminal Court
After direct communication and mediation have failed to resolve a landlord/tenant dispute, the only avenue left is to file a claim with small claims court. Although every type of case cannot be heard in small claims court, most landlord/tenant disputes involve a sum of money below a certain amount and it can be handled in small claims Matters commonly resolved in small claims court include unpaid rent or un-returned security deposit issues. Going to small claims court is usually cheaper than going to civil or criminal court, and often leads to a quicker resolution. In issues that cannot be handled by small claims court, the dispute is then settled in civil or criminal court depending on the facts of the case. The actions of both parties dictate the manner in which the case is tried
As we have stated before, it is best to avoid going to court because it is the least expensive and quickest option. If talking to the other party directly, using a 3rd party mediator or submitting to an arbitration do not work or are simply not an option, then you will have to litigate the matter. It is important to make sure that your real estate attorney is experienced in landlord/tenant law and capable of handling such cases successfully. You, as the client should always be prepared to supply any necessary documentation at all times.