Can I sue my former landlord for notmaintaining and making repairs as well asnot returning my security deposit?

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Can I sue my former landlord for notmaintaining and making repairs as well asnot returning my security deposit?

I rented an upscale home for 3 years. Requests for repairs were consistently lied about and put off. The owner/landlord was repeatedly a no-show when he was to make the repairs. Sometimes I used repair and deduct but some exceeded the $350 limit. Basement flooding resulted in flooring and partial walls being ripped out, never repaired, and the basement bath unusable. A recurring leak in another basement area resulted in moldy carpet – he brought us a can of lysol spray. I could go on. The home was in foreclosure twice until we were able to move. Can I sue for failure to perform?

Asked on July 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) If  the security deposit *should* have been returned--i.e. there was no damage you, your household, or guests caused to the premises, and you did not have any unpaid rent which the landlord could properly deduct from the deposit--you could certainly sue for its return. (Or rather: you can almost always sue if you want to and there may be a claim; the conditions above are the ones under which you are reasonably likely to win.) Having not paid rent (repair and deduct) will create real issue, though--that is, whether you were entitled to repair and deduct, withholding rent. This will depend on the circumstances, including the specific repairs not done by the landlord and what notice you gave the landlord to make them (landlords have to be given a chance to make the repairs).

2) Serious defecets in a rental premises--e.g. having rooms or features of the house unusuable, or creating health issues--could be a violation of the lease; a breach of the implied warranty of habitability (the premises must be usable for its intended purpose; i.e. residence), or both. This would give you grounds for recovery.

In sum: you describe a scenario which in theory gives you grounds for recovery. Whether you would prevail, and for how much money, will depend on the specific facts. You should consult with an attorney to evaluate your situation in detail.


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