If I rented an apartment in one state but now live in another, where can my former landlord bring suit against me?

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If I rented an apartment in one state but now live in another, where can my former landlord bring suit against me?

My old landlord is taking me to small claims court. However, since the landlord/tenant laws are different from state to state, how can a my state’s small claims judge rule on this case when the apartment was located in another state? She is suing me for $3,000 for: having a pet which she found out I had a did nothing about, for not painting the walls, for not patching picture hanger holes and for not paying last month’s rent. I just told her to use my security deposit towards it.

Asked on August 20, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A lawsuit can be filed in the state where the plaintiff (landlord) lives or in the state where the defendant lives (you are the defendant) or in the state where the claim arose.

If the lawsuit was filed in your state, it was probably due to limitations on the jurisdiction of Small Claims Court in the landlord's state regarding filing a lawsuit against someone in another state.

There are fundamental principles of landlord/tenant law that are applicable and which a judge in any state will apply.  For example, the security deposit is not applicable as a payment of your last month's rent.  The security deposit is for cleaning and repairs.  The lease is a contract between landlord and tenant.  If you violated a provision of the lease by having a pet, that is another issue for the court to decide.


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