A landlord, property manager or lease management company may file for a tenant eviction in the event the tenant does not substantially comply with the lease agreement. An eviction is a lawsuit filed in local county court to repossess the right of a tenant to occupy a dwelling.
However, a defendant tenant has the right to answer the eviction action and file a counter-claim with the court if they can prove the landlord plaintiff has not met his lease obligations or is acting with discrimination.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Determine your legal defences. A tenant defendant has legal defences as to the reason why they are withholding or refusing to pay rent. However, these reasons must be clearly demonstrable to the court. This will require gathering necessary evidence. If the dwelling is in a state of disrepair that makes it hazardous or can cause injury, a tenant may use this as a valid defence.
Evidence will include testimony of other tenants or visitors, photographs, receipts or invoices from contractors, code violations, and any other documentation that demonstrates the conditions of the dwelling.
Consult an attorney to determine whether or not you have legally defensible positions to answer the counter-claim.
Answer the eviction action. In most states, once a tenant defendant is served with an eviction notice, they must file an answer to the eviction before filing a counter-claim in the same court. An answer is a legal statement that the tenant defendant admits or denies the allegations made by the landlord plaintiff in the eviction lawsuit. The answer should also include the reasons why the tenant defendant has not paid rent and a request a full refund of any deposits and/or reimbursement for repair bills.
File your counter-claim to the eviction. The counter-claim should include a list of all failures of the landlord to honour the lease agreement or comply with housing laws, amounts of any repairs or improvements made by the tenant, the approximate rent depreciation for the poorly maintained dwelling, any personal injuries the tenant suffered and the tenant's security deposit (including reasonable interest on same).
Tips and warnings
- If the landlord fails to maintain the dwelling so it is uninhabitable, the tenant may sue the landlord.
- Counter-claims cannot be based purely on employment status; a defendant tenant must demonstrate the plaintiff landlord has not met the contractual obligations of the lease or complied with local, state or federal housing laws.
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