Tenant Remedies for Landlord Breach of Contract or Statutory Obligation
The tenant is required to first establish that (1) the landlord has done something he or she shouldn’t have done or (2) failed to fulfill an obligation of a material nature before seeking remedy. Those actions or inactions which can lead to redress by a tenant include:
- Breach of Contract
- Breach of Statutory Obligation, and
What action may the tenant take if the landlord breaches the lease agreement?
When the landlord materially breaches the lease agreement or does not fulfill his or her obligations as set forth by the lease agreement, the tenant has the following remedies.
- Terminate the Lease. If the landlord’s breach of a lease agreement is of a material nature where the health or safety of the tenant placed in jeopordy, then the tenant must provide the landlord written notice of the act or omissions constituting the breach. The tenant must also provide notice that if the act or omissions constituting the breach are not remedied with seven days then the agreement will terminate at such time. If after receiving the written notice, the landlord does not make a reasonable effort to remedy the breach with the seven days, the rental agreement is terminated, and the landlord is required to return to the tenant the balance of prepaid rent, if any, and the tenant’s remaining security deposit.
- Abate the Rent. If the landlord breaches the lease agreement through failure to perform his or her obligations, the tenant has the right to request an abatement of rent. The tenant must provide the landlord written notice of the conditions constituting the breach of agreement. Most often the tenant must identify a condition of disrepair in the premises which are jeopordizing the health and safety of the residents or the habitability of the unit. If within seven days the landlord does not remedy the condition of uninhabitability as set forth in the notice, the tenant is entitled to an abatement of rent as dictated by state laws.
Where a landlord remains in breach, the tenant entitled to an abatement of rent shall receive a discount of the pro-rata daily rent for each day from the date of notification of breach that the conditions are not remedied until the day the conditions are remedied. If the necessary repairs are not completed through the subsequent rental period, the abatement of rent will continue at the same rate and until such time as the conditions are remedied.
If the rental premises become uninhabitable and the tenant cannot stay there, the tenant shall receive one hundred percent abatement of rent for each day from the date of notification of breach until the date the conditions are remedied and the premises are once again inhabitable.
If the rental becomes entirely uninhabitable the tenant may choose to terminate the lease. However, if the tenant chooses abatement of rent as the remedy for breach of lease, then the tenant may not choose an alternate remedy.
- Seek Damages. One of most common remedies for landlord default is to sue for damages. This remedy is appropriate for wrongful eviction, failure to repair and maintain the premises, and in the case of breach of a commercial lease agreement the tenant may seek damages in a number of other default type situations, including wrongful removal of sign, breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment, unreasonably withholding consent to lease, and failure to deliver possession, among others.
Seeking monetory damages is also a remedy for tenants who believe they’ve been the victim of discrimination.
- Sue for Performance. A tenant may seek a court order requiring the landlord to perform specific express obligation found in the lease agreement or implied under common law. This may be an attractive option for a tenant who cannot fine another residence that meets their needs and does not wish to terminate the lease agreement.
- Seek Injustive Relief. If the landlord’s breach of contract is something that can be remedied through a court ordered injunction, then seeking such an injuction may be the best remedy for a tenant who wished to stay in the lease under the current terms.
Disclaimer: The information provided on the page is intended for informational purposes only. Each state has its own landlord-tenant laws that dictate the remedies for a tenant in the event of landlord default under a commercial or residential lease agreement. You should contact a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction if you have any questions regarding the laws in your state and how they apply to your particular situation.