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Absentee Landlords Can be Sued for Breach of Leasing Contract

Absentee Landlords Can be Sued for Breach of Leasing Contract

If you're renting property from a landlord who doesn't live onsite or nearby, it can sometimes cause problems. The landlord may be unable to promptly address problems and make timely repairs, and often isn't in a position to supervise landscaping and cleaning services to ensure that the property is well maintained.

A Lease is a Contract

When you agreed to rent the property, you and the landlord probably both signed a lease, which is a form of a contract. The lease obligates both you and the landlord to do certain things, and also explains what actions each of you can take if the other party fails to meet his or her obligations. These obligations and actions may be governed by city, county or state law.

For example, your lease may obligate you to pay your rent by the fifth day of each month and may authorize your landlord to charge you a $50 late fee after the fifth of the month and to initiate eviction proceedings if the rent hasn't been paid within 30 days. Or the lease may require the landlord to make necessary repairs within three days of being notified of a problem and empower the tenant to proceed with repairs and withhold part of the rent if the landlord hasn't resolved an issue within three days.

Breach of a Lease

If an absentee landlord breaches, or breaks, the items that have been agreed to in the lease, then the tenant may have the right to sue the landlord for breach of contract in civil court. (Similarly, the landlord may have the right to sue the tenant for breach of contract if the tenant breaks the lease.)

If you're a tenant, you'll want to hire a real estate attorney to read and review the lease, explain your legal options and help you file a lawsuit, if appropriate. Depending on the language in your lease, you may not be allowed to sue. (For example, if the lease requires mediation as a first step in resolving landlord-tenant disputes, then you'll have to go through that process before filing a lawsuit.)

It's important to remember that two wrongs don't make a right. Just because your landlord has broken the terms of the lease doesn't give you the right to also break it. You may have a stronger court case if you can show that you've done everything that's required to you under the terms of the lease.

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