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Federal, state, and local laws govern the rights and obligations that landlords and tenants owe each other. Disputes can arise for a number of reasons.

Tenants may believe they have been unfairly evicted, refused housing because of their race or religion, or forced to live in a property that caused them an injury due to broken windows, mold growth, or faulty wiring.

Landlords sometimes have to deal with tenants who are habitually late to pay their rent, damage the property, or refuse to leave even after being asked to for valid reasons. A skilled landlord-tenant lawyer can help mediate these disagreements.

Common Tenant Issues
  • Eviction and illegal retaliatory eviction
  • Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, family status, or disability
  • Problems getting a security deposit back
  • Unsafe or unsanitary conditions in the unit or around the property
  • “No pets” policies enforced against a service animal, such as a seeing eye dog
Common Landlord Issues
  • Ensuring the property can legally be rented out
  • Checking that the building is up to code
  • Managing finances and setting up a small business to avoid personal liability
  • Enforceable lease provisions
  • Reasons, rules, and procedures for legal eviction of a tenant
  • Required disclosures
Leases

Both landlords and tenants can benefit from the expert guidance an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer can provide when preparing, reviewing, and negotiating a lease, the contract which sets the terms, length of time, and price of the rental agreement. Particularly for commercial leases, both parties should closely scrutinize all provisions to reduce the chance of dispute that could lead to legal action later.

Eviction

If a landlord can show that their tenant violated the terms of their lease — such as by stealing or destroying rental property, making harassing statements, breaching the terms of the lease (i.e., routinely smoking in a unit after agreeing not to), or failure to pay rent — they can initiate eviction proceedings to remove the tenant from the property.

A tenant-landlord lawyer can facilitate that process by preparing the necessary paperwork, including warning letters, demand letters (formal requests for the tenant to change their behavior or leave the property), and finally, termination of tenancy letters. It should be noted, however, that tenants generally have ten days to pay back rent before an eviction process can begin.

Security Deposits

Though laws vary by jurisdiction, landlords are generally required to fulfill certain basic obligations regarding security deposits. For example, they are typically required to disclose the name and address of the bank where they are keeping the tenant’s security deposit. Also, landlords are commonly permitted to require two months’ rent for the initial year’s security deposit and one month’s rent for subsequent years with that tenant.

Tenants are generally entitled to have their security deposit returned to them within 30 days after vacating the property (assuming no damage was done to it). If a landlord fails to return a security deposit and cannot show damage to the unit, the tenant has the right to sue for its return.

Habitability

Landlords must maintain the property and any amenities, appliances, and included equipment that is named in the lease agreement in good, safe, and working order. That typically includes essential things like heaters, water boilers, air conditioning units, stoves, plumbing, electrical wiring, roofs, and windows. Landlords are also responsible for keeping the property free from health hazards like mold and pests such as rodents and insects. Tenants have the right to withhold rent until issues like these are remediated or to pay to fix the issue themselves and deduct the cost from their rent payments.

Privacy

The right of a landlord to enter their rental property without notice or permission varies by jurisdiction and circumstance, but generally, tenants have a right to privacy and a landlord must notify them before entering the property, and they can typically only enter at reasonable hours for specific reasons, such as to:

  • Deliver a package
  • Make a repair or improvement
  • Fix a health or safety issue
  • Show the property to new prospective tenants
  • Perform a move-out inspection
  • Issue an eviction notice

A landlord can enter without notifying the tenant in the case of an emergency, such as a gas leak, fire, flood, or natural disaster. Tenants are not permitted to change door locks without permission from their landlord and must provide the landlord copies of the new keys if they do.

Get Expert Advice From a Landlord-Tenant Lawyer

If you’re having problems with a property owner or renter, don’t wait until the situation escalates and gets out of hand. A landlord-tenant lawyer can assist in negotiating lease terms, recovering back rent, settling security deposit disputes, initiating evictions, collecting judgments for damage to rental property, stopping harassing or discriminatory behavior, and opposing improper evictions.

If you need to speak with an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer, Pond Lehocky Giordano offers a completely free consultation. For more information, call 1-800-568-7500 or fill out the form on this page.

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