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How to Avoid Getting Sued by Your Tenant in Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach judge in a courtroom holding a gavel

One of a property owner’s worst fears is getting sued by a tenant over a real issue that could have easily been avoided. At Real Property Management, we take care to provide an extraordinary tenant experience, and keeping the rental occupant happy is one of our top priorities. As a property manager in Fernandina Beach, we’ve seen the importance of having a well-written lease agreement and sticking to the terms. Don’t let anything simple slip through the cracks and watch out for these five common reasons that a tenant can sue you.

 

Uninhabitable Living Space

You definitely don’t want your property in Fernandina Beach to become unlivable. This can occur from a number of causes: pests (think of all the critters on the island), flooding, or another natural disaster like fallen tree branches. Even worse, the property may be uninhabitable due to negligence on your part. This is unacceptable and can absolutely lead to a disgruntled tenant.

In order to get ahead of the problems that you can fix, make sure to perform routine maintenance checks. Do your due diligence and make any repairs or service requests necessary. Don’t let mold grow or dirt get out of control and respond immediately to any essentials that need to be fixed like running water or broken air conditioning during a hot summer.

As far as the situations for which you can’t prepare, respond as quickly as possible. Do you know that a big storm is coming? Take steps to prepare your property and be readily available to fix any resulting damage. If you are too overwhelmed to constantly check on any of your properties, hire a property manager in Fernandina Beach to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

 

Security Deposit Issues

This one may seem obvious, but if you don’t return a security deposit that your tenant was promised they would get back, they have grounds to sue. Typically, a tenant may not get the full deposit back if it is used in part to pay for any damages they caused. This leaves a lot of room for dispute. The best way to avoid this issue is by clearly stating the rules from the start.

Outline exactly how much the security deposit is, document when the tenant pays at move-in, and list out when they get their deposit back or why they won’t receive the full amount. Give the tenant a receipt then save the money somewhere separate from other finances; you don’t want to accidentally spend the money and not have enough to give them when it comes time to pay it back.

If the tenant incorrectly disputes the amount of money they were owed, you should be in the clear as long as you have documentation and financial statements throughout the entire process. If you try to intentionally short them or don’t want to deal with the details, however, remember that saving a few bucks isn’t worth the amount you’ll end up having to pay in court.

unhappy biracial rental home owner in Fernandina Beach sitting in kitchen

 

Discrimination

According to Fair Housing, you can’t discriminate against potential tenants for many reasons. You can turn applications down if they have a bad record or can’t pay rent, but you can’t turn them away for any unfair reasons like race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

Even if you aren’t being intentionally discriminatory, check yourself for any personal bias before turning a resident down. Document why they are not approved and make sure the reason complies with the law. This should help your case if you are ever wrongfully accused of discrimination. Avoid giving someone the wrong idea by clearly communicating why they were not approved to live at your property in Fernandina Beach.

When it comes to current tenants, the same rules apply. Don’t discriminate when it comes to maintenance requests, evictions, or rent payments and treat everyone equally (if you have multiple properties or tenants).

 

Injury or Liability

A tenant can also sue over an injury or property damage. In fact, this is one of the most likely reasons that a person will seek reimbursement for their troubles. Medical bills or repairs can be extremely expensive, so you can’t blame a tenant for seeking help for a problem caused in their rental unit.

One of the best ways to avoid liabilities is by following the guidelines we shared to keeping your Fernandina Beach property livable. If you’re certain that everything is well-maintained and up to code, another way to protect yourself is by considering landlord coverage. Standard policies cover dwellings and structures, personal property, and provides liability protection.

As long as you are covered and provided a legally livable home, injuries and damage are out of your hands. As always, make sure to document the steps you take in order to keep your tenant safe and communicate openly.

 

Wrongful Eviction

A final reason (though we’re sure there are many more unique situations that arise) that a tenant may sue you is because you wrongfully evicted them. While you are allowed to evict tenants who violate the terms of your agreement, you must follow the correct procedure to do so legally. Reasons for wrongful eviction include:

  • Discrimination (see section above on discriminatory practices)
  • Retaliatory eviction
  • Nonpayment of rent IF it’s because you will not fix a health or safety issue
  • The tenant is protected

While it is frustrating to have a difficult tenant, you can’t just evict them on a whim. A tenant who has just been wrongfully kicked to the curb is likely to be upset and want to seek justice for their situation.

Most landlords do not purposefully commit any of the above reasons that may lead to a tenant suing them, but some are new to the business, too busy to pay attention to every detail or have a bad communication style that leads to misinterpretation of their actions. In order to avoid getting sued, make sure to have a clear understanding of the laws in place and treat your tenants fairly.

Need help managing all the nitty-gritty details that come along with property management? Reach out to us at Real Property Management and we can help you today.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.