Most often, landlords sue their tenants for early move-out, unpaid rent, and property damage. On the other hand, a tenant can also sue the landlord for various reasons, and the primary reason is the unreturned security deposit. When a landlord gets sued by a tenant for unreturned security deposit, there are certain things he or she needs to understand to effectively handle the lawsuit.
As a landlord, you will need first to evaluate whether you have a case. This means that you must know the ins and outs of the lease agreement that you signed with your tenant. Besides, you must clearly understand the lease laws that govern your state. For instance, does the law and the agreement you signed with your tenant state that the tenant must give a 30-day notice before demanding the security deposit? You must find out if you have violated any of the terms of the contract.
As a landlord, try to handle any issue that might arise regarding the security deposit out of the court, and this might require you, to be honest, and understanding when dealing with a tenant who has the tendency of suing landlords over security deposits. If you can’t agree on anything, consider arbitration or mediation to get the issue solved.
If mediation or arbitration doesn’t work, the tenant is likely to file a lawsuit. The court will allow you to countersue. However, you must be wise to ensure that you can defend yourself successfully, and this will necessitate an attorney. Since the lawsuit is likely to involve a low amount of money (the security deposit), consider hiring an attorney on an hourly basis to avoid overspending.
Note that some courts might not allow lawyers in small cases. In such a case, you will need the lawyer to advise you accordingly. Besides, the attorney can tell you the documents that you might need to present in court and how to present yourself to the court for you to win the case.
Avoid being sued in the first place
The simplest way of landlords to avoid any chance of getting sued by a tenant is always signing a lease agreement and living up to it. In case the tenant sues you, you can use the agreement to defend yourself as long as you have not violated the terms and conditions. Besides, practice being nice to your tenants and honor your word.