Legal Treatments Available for Landlords

Legal remedies available for landlords fall into two primary categories: recovering possession of the rented premises and payment of money damages. The main challenge for a landlord is understanding the specific steps needed to regain possession, which may vary significantly depending upon the type and location of their rental house. Landlord-tenant legislation are somewhat different in each state, and may even differ among counties and cities within the exact same state. Before pursuing any treatment, it’s essential to check the local and state laws in which the property is located (see Resources).

Struggling to Pay Rent

A tenant's failure to pay rent is the toughest scenario for a landlord. The landlord should pursue recovering possession of the premises from the tenant via a court-ordered eviction or unlawful detainer lawsuit. Before this treatment can be chased, appropriate written notice should be given to the tenant. In most scenarios, the notice is a 3-day pay or quit notice; that is, the renter has 3 days to pay the rent due or surrender possession of the premises. However, the mandatory notice period varies in some specific scenarios. For example, in California, in the event the rental housing unit is sold in foreclosure and the tenant wasn’t a party to the foreclosed mortgage, then the notice period is enlarged from 3 days to 60 days.

Breach of Rental Agreement

When the tenant breaches the lease arrangement –other than non-payment of lease –a proper written notice must be served on the tenant before the landlord could regain possession of their premises. In such scenarios, the notice is generally described as a treatment or quit notice that gives the tenant the right to fix whatever condition exists that is the reason for the breach. For example, such breaches include using a pet not permitted under the lease, neglecting to repair tenant-caused property damage or breaking common-area rules. In California, the necessary notice is a 3-day notice to cure or quit. Other jurisdictions may take a longer period or a period of time reasonably sufficient to classify the violation.

Termination Tenancy

A landlord may give a notice to terminate the property to recover ownership of their premises. In this instance, the renter has no choice to take action to conserve the tenancy. This notice is given when a lien is monthly as well as the landlord is permitted to terminate the tenancy by giving a 30- or 60-day note ; however, this is a circumstance where jurisdictions may vary greatly regarding the rules for the notice. Some jurisdictions will permit a landlord to provide such a notice without cause, though other jurisdictions, in particular rent-controlled cities, require a mere reason to evict a tenant. Just cause is generally considered to be egregious conduct, such as being a nuisance or danger to the other tenants. In tenancies involving Section 8 housing assistance, only cause is required for eviction.

Notice of Abandonment

A landlord might be able to recover ownership of the premises without needing to file a suit once the tenant abandons the premises. For example, in California, if the rent is unpaid for 14 consecutive days and the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned the premises, the landlord could mail and post a notice to the tenant signaling this belief. If the tenant fails to respond within 18 days after mailing the notice, the rental unit is deemed abandoned.

Civil Suit for Damages

In case the tenant owes the landlord money for any reason—for instance, back rent or property damage—the landlord may file a lawsuit and pursue a money judgment. If the landlord must file a lawsuit to recover ownership, this lawsuit can include a claim for money damages as well. However, in cases where the tenant has vacated the premises but still owes the landlord money, the lawsuit will only find a money judgment. From the best-case situation, the landlord has a sufficient security deposit from the tenant that to cover the money damages.

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