If you are renting a home, apartment, mobile home, or some other building from someone, you are a tenant. A landlord is the person who is renting the home, apartment, mobile home, or some building to you. Both the tenant and the landlord have legal rights.
A tenant can be evicted from the property for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons are failure to pay rent, destruction of property and refusal to follow rules and regulations.
Before a landlord can file a lawsuit to evict the tenant, the tenant must be served a Demand for Posession/Notice to Terminate. After the specified time on the Demand for Possession/Notice to Terminate has passed, a complaint may be filed in district court. There is a fee for filing the complaint. A copy of the complaint and a notice of the court hearing must be served on the tenant. The complaint form is available from the court.
The cost of filing your lawsuit is $55. In addition, if you are seeking money damages, $90 for claims up to $600, $110.00 for claims over $600 up to $1,750, $130 for claims over $1,750 up to $10,000, and $215 for claims over $10,000 up to $25,000 is required. The plaintiff is responsible for paying the filing fee and other fees. If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the fees may be added to the judgment against the defendant.
If the tenant fails to appear at the court hearing and answer the complaint, a default judgment for possession of the property and money judgment may be entered. Ten days after the default judgment has been entered, the landlord may obtain a document called an order of eviction. This authorizes the landlord to evict the tenant and remove the tenant’s belongings from the rental property.
A tenant who disagrees with the eviction notice may request a trial. If a jury trial is requested, the court may require the tenant to deposit future rent payments into an escrow account until the case is settled.
A tenant may claim that rent is not being paid because the property is unlivable or in need of repair. In these cases, the court may reduce the amount of rent owed or require the landlord to make some repairs.
Generally, the person who signs a lease agreement is responsible for making the rent payments. If you sign a lease with someone else as joint tenants, and the other person refuses to pay his or her share, you may be held accountable for the entire amount. Likewise, if you sublet your rental property to someone else, you are still responsible for all rent payments.
If a tenant moves out before the lease expires, the landlord can file a complaint with the district court to collect the payments remaining in the lease period. The landlord must try to re-rent the premises. This is called mitigation of damages.
A tenant can file a complaint with the district court if his or her damage deposit is not refunded or if he or she disagree with any charges made by the landlord against the deposit.
For damage deposits less than $5,500, you may file a claim in small claims division of the district court. If the damage deposit is between $5,500 and $25,000, you may file a claim in the general civil division of the district court.
For further assistance regarding landlord and tenant rights, contact an attorney or a legal aid society, or mediation center.