Damage or Destruction of Property
Damage caused by a tenant may not be good cause for an eviction. Damage caused by the tenant's negligence, such as by a guest or household member, may not be good cause for an eviction.
A landlord can sue for a money judgment to remedy damages in a lawsuit separate from an eviction case. Since money damages lawsuits are required to be part of an "ordinary proceeding," a tenant whose landlord is attempting to get a money judgment for damage in an eviction proceeding can file an "Exception of Unauthorized Use of Summary Proceedings," to ask the judge to dismiss the damages issue from the eviction case. The landlord can still file a new lawsuit for the money to fix the damage or destruction.
The landlord may only evict for total destruction of the premises by a natural disaster or fire. The destruction must not be the fault of the tenant or the landlord. The landlord may not evict for partial destruction that is not the fault of the tenant. Partial destruction is a defense to eviction. You can also read Flood and Fire Victim's Rights as Tenants for more information on tenants rights when the rental is damaged.
If the landlord has alleged a crime has been committed, there are two issues at play: criminal charges and eviction. If a person has been charged with a crime, it is in their best interest to discuss the eviction case with their criminal defense attorney. If they do not have a criminal defense attorney, it is in their best interest to hire one. While this information is no substitute for legal advice, it presents some issues to be considered when criminal activity is the basis for an eviction suit.
No person charged with a crime can be forced to give evidence against themselves. This means that any person charged with a crime does not have to testify about the alleged crime at an eviction trial. And if any person charged with a crime does testify about an alleged crime at an eviction trial, any testimony given at the eviction trial can be used against the person in the criminal case.
If a tenant misuses a rental property, uses a rental property for a purpose other than that for which it was leased, or in a manner that may cause damage to the property, the landlord may be able to terminate the lease. Using a home for criminal activity may constitute such misuse. On the other hand, if a tenant is merely charged with criminal activity unrelated to the leased property, the landlord may not have good cause for eviction.
At trial, the landlord must prove the legal ground for the eviction. Police reports of incidents or alleged crimes without proper authentication cannot be used as evidence for evictions. "Proper authentication" means that the police officer who responded to the call and wrote the incident report must be present in court and testify about the incident. If the police officer is not present in court, a person facing eviction based on a police report should object to any discussion of the police report and ask the Court to exclude the police report.
If unapproved occupants are the reason for your eviction, make sure to read the general information on Lease Violations in the drop-down menu above. In general, check the terms of your lease. Does it have any specific rules about visitors? Does it limit the number of days a tenant may host overnight visitors? If not, consider whether the "unapproved occupants" are more like long-term visitors. Are they family members or friends? Do they intend to leave by a certain date?
If the unapproved occupant intends to remain permanently in the leased property, can you ask your landlord to add that person to the lease? Even if your landlord will not agree to do this, you may be able to ask the judge to exercise "equitable discretion," if, for example, your personal situation has changed since you entered the lease.
If your landlord is trying to evict you for causing disturbances, keep in mind that there may be a duty to other tenants. A landlord who allows one of his tenants to disturb his other tenants may be in breach of his obligation to ensure that his tenants are in peaceful possession of their property. If you think that a neighbor may be partly responsible for the issue, you could try to informally resolve the problem before the eviction trial. If not, you may be able to bring other witnesses to the eviction trial who can testify on your behalf. Remember, it is your responsibility to get witnesses to trial.
If your landlord is trying to evict you for bad housekeeping, you should check your lease to see what it says about cleanliness and safe conditions. In general, mere "bad housekeeping," could probably be corrected before an eviction trial. If there is a more serious issue that impairs the health and safety of tenants, the landlord may have good cause for eviction. However, if circumstances beyond your control have led to unclean or unsanitary conditions inside the rented property, you should present the facts of those circumstances to the judge. If possible, attempt to correct the issue or ask the judge to exercise "equitable discretion," to give you an opportunity to fix the problem.
In some cases, you may be able to fix the problem of unapproved pets before an eviction. Check your lease to see whether pets are allowed under specific conditions. For example, if your landlord requires a pet deposit, but you have not paid one, try to honor your responsibility under the lease. If your animal is a service animal, and not a pet, you should make sure that you have the documents you need to prove that to the Court.
Unapproved Changes to the Property
If unapproved occupants are the reason for your eviction, make sure to read the general information on Lease Violations in the drop-down menu above. Check the terms of your lease. What limitations or restrictions are there on making changes to the property? Do the changes stated in the eviction lawsuit exceed the limitations or restrictions? In cases where changes to the property are at issue, the size, scope, and nature of the changes may be important to the judge's decision on whether the changes are a violation of the lease. Are the changes at issue small and limited to one part of the home? Can the property be quickly and easily restored to its previous condition? Or are they major changes that will be time-consuming and expensive to reverse? In addition to eviction, keep in mind that landlords may have other remedies against tenants who make unapproved changes to the property.
Please click on the tab titled "Expired Lease or No Cause" for more information.