How to resolve rent increase disputes

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, a lease dispute can be stressful, disruptive and a source of unnecessary expense and hassle. Fortunately, for those faced with determining how to resolve a lease dispute, you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Maryland landlord-tenant law attorney Rebekah Lusk, who leads the Landlord/Tenant practice at Lusk Law, LLC, understands what you are going through and is available to help with issues involving breach of a lease. Lusk Law also manages a wide variety of other landlord/tenant cases including failure to pay rent, wrongful detainer, tenant holding over, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Rebekah is also a landlord, so she knows from firsthand experience how to find solutions for both commercial and residential legal disputes.

Call Lusk Law, LLC today at (443) 535-9715 to schedule an appointment to learn more about how we can help you resolve your dispute.

How Our Attorney Can Help Resolve a Residential Lease Dispute

While an attorney can help resolve a residential lease dispute by examining leases and negotiating with both landlords and tenants to solve the issues involved and defending your position if it comes to litigation, it is best to prevent disputes from arising in the first place.

At Lusk Law, we help landlords with all matters related to their property and leases. Some of the measures we take to prevent and resolve disputes are:

  • Creating custom leases with clauses that limit the number of disputes that can arise in your dealings with tenants — and protect you if you are sued.
  • Reviewing contracts and leases to make sure they are in compliance with Maryland and federal law and that all contracts are drafted and signed correctly. We review the details of all documents and make sure the language clearly spells out what is expected from all parties.
  • Helping landlords screen tenants to prevent problems by investigating their past records as renters and their financial ability to meet payments.
  • Being available to discuss any issues as they arise and to come up with solutions that can avoid litigation.
  • Representing your interests in landlord-tenant court, district court, and circuit court if necessary. We manage a wide variety of cases in addition to breach of lease, including failure to pay rent, wrongful detainer, tenant holding over, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act.

Need to Resolve a Commercial Lease Dispute? We Can Help.

Commercial leases are generally more complicated than residential ones, as there are more issues involved, and they often involve more money and longer periods of rental. Commercial leases need to have clauses that are specific to a property, to the parties involved, and to the specific situation. An attorney can consider all factors to help draft commercial lease agreements that are mutually beneficial to the tenant and landlord and that will avoid problems and disputes over time. However, if issues arise, an experienced business attorney at Lusk Law can help resolve commercial lease disputes.

Depending on the situation, your commercial lease should be either a gross or net lease.

  • Gross leases — include all of the property owner’s costs, such as property tax, maintenance and insurance, in the monthly rent payment.
  • Net leases — require the tenant to pay for some or all of those costs while the landlord pays the rest.

Many commercial leases include aspects of both gross and net leases. In any case, all obligations must be spelled out clearly to prevent disputes.

At Lusk Law, LLC, our attorneys will help you determine which type of lease is best suited to your situation. Call us today at (443) 535-9715.

Problems that Lead to Lease Disputes

Maryland law requires that a landlord with five or more dwelling units for rent must include in each lease a statement that the premises will be available in a reasonably safe, habitable condition or a statement concerning the condition of the premises. The lease must also spell out the landlord’s and the tenant’s obligations as to heat, gas, electricity, water, and repair of the premises. Tenants may request in writing an advance copy of the lease before signing so they are aware of all provisions and rules.

To avoid lease disputes, they should be written clearly and should plainly outline the responsibilities of tenant and landlord, and all parties should understand what they are agreeing to.

Anticipate Potential Problems to Resolve Lease Disputes Before They Happen

According to the Maryland Attorney General, here are some of the most common issues that lead to residential lease disputes:

  • Security deposits. The security deposit, to protect the landlord from damage to the property, may not be more than two months’ rent. The landlord must put the security deposit in an escrow account and return the deposit plus interest, less any damages rightfully withheld, within 45 days after the tenancy ends. The landlord must send a list of damages and costs to repair them by first-class mail within 45 days or forfeit the right to the security deposit. Disputes often arise as to what is damage and what is “normal wear and tear.”
  • Rent increases or other changes in terms. Disputes may arise when terms of the lease change. Landlords must notify tenants with leases with an automatic renewal clause of a rent increase or any other change with enough notice for the tenant to decide whether to renew.
  • Breaking a lease. Landlords can hold tenants who break a lease responsible for the rent due through the remainder of the lease, but must make a reasonable effort to re-rent the property.
  • Failure to make repairs. Landlords are required to repair serious or dangerous defects they are notified about within a reasonable time, or tenants can pay rent into an escrow account established at the local District Court.

Serious conditions include:

    • Lack of heat, light, electricity, sewage disposal, or water
    • Rodent infestation
    • Lead-based paint hazards
    • Structural defects that threaten physical safety
    • Conditions that present a serious fire or health hazard.

A tenant can also report the landlord to local authorities for further action if problems are not addressed. Should any of these common issues arise related to your rental property, we can help resolve the lease disputes so both parties can move forward without litigation.

Contact Us to Prevent and Resolve Lease Disputes

At Lusk Law, LLC, we help our clients avoid mistakes that lead to disputes, and we work to resolve them if they do arise. We provide sound legal advice that can save you money and build your reputation. We help clients across Maryland, so contact us today at (443) 535-9715 to discuss your issues. Advocates For Life’s Obstacles and Opportunities

How to resolve rent increase disputes

Tenant Rights

You have rights as a tenant, and you have options for resolving a dispute with your landlord through negotiation or court. As a tenant, you should feel comfortable going to your landlord for help when an issue arises in your residence. Unfortunately, not all landlords provide the quality of customer service they should or even abide by laws and regulations. If you experienced a problem in your home that led to a dispute with your landlord, know that you have rights and options.

Disputes Between Landlords and Tenants

First, let’s address some basic terms you will need to know. As the renter of an apartment or home, you are the “tenant.” The owner or management company that acts on behalf of the owner is called the “landlord.”

Some disputes between these two parties include:

    Rental deposit refund disputes

Disputes related to the lease

  • Disputes related to needed repairs or habitability
  • Disputes over rent increases

    Whatever the dispute, being proactive may help you address the initial problem with your residence that started the dispute.

    Give Your Landlord the Benefit of the Doubt

    Assume that your landlord is a good person and wants to do the right thing. There is definitely a chance you can get your issue resolved both by being a good tenant and by approaching the problem with a positive attitude.

    There’s no real trick to being a “good tenant.” It starts with the basics, such as paying your rent on time. Taking care of the property. Abiding by the lease, including any restrictions.

    Other things that will help include letting the landlord know as soon as the problem arises and being honest about how it evolved. You missed some shifts at work and will be late on rent, or you accidentally dropped a toy down the disposal, for example. By knowing the truth of the situation, you equip your landlord with more of the tools they need to fix it.

    If you have risen to the occasion of good tenancy, congratulations. Your chances of working out your matter directly, politely, amicably and effectively may dramatically increase compared with the alternative.

    Seek Resolution

    Good tenant or otherwise, always give your landlord a chance to work things out. A few additional skills may go a long way in solving a dispute.

    The Right Mindset

    Keep in mind throughout this process that the key to negotiating is for both sides of the table to walk away feeling like they “won.” This, too, is a good strategy for any negotiating effort. Schedule a time to meet and discuss the issue, and come prepared to offer solutions, not just present problems. Be willing to hear the landlord’s side and to incorporate their concerns into the solution.

    Handling Resistance

    If your landlord is smart, they will also implement these skills, and you will enjoy a productive and pleasant discussion. If this does not happen to be the case, try to remain courteous throughout your discussion while still remaining firm in your convictions. Courtesy and conviction are not mutually exclusive concepts. If needed, you can present the landlord with legal information, excerpts from state building codes, etc., and let them know you are willing and able to move the dispute to a more formal venue, but you would rather not take this route, in the interest of good landlord-tenant relations. If you have access to legal assistance, allow your attorney to advocate for you. If you are a LegalShield member, you can have your provider attorney write a letter or make a phone call on your behalf.

    Be Prepared if There are Problems Later

    Be sure you to keep a copy of your written lease and document the terms of any changes or addendums to the agreement, having both parties sign and date the document. Keep financial records and receipts for all payments. Document and keep evidence/pictures related to any problems with the rental property. Keep a copy of any notices received and make sure you provide proper written notices when required. Have a third party who can testify if needed and have an expert available if the landlord may claim damages to the property. Have the property inspected with the landlord present and document any problems with the landlord before you move in and at the time you move out. Make sure you keep a copy and if possible, have a third party present. Don’t just ignore a problem, especially if you receive a formal notice or are served with court documents. Seeking review, advice, and assistance from an attorney prior to signing any documents and as any question or problem arises, can help you limit the potential problems later.

    Small Claims Court

    If you are served with court documents, you need to be prepared to appear to avoid a default judgment. You should seek advice and assistance from an attorney. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm and get them a copy of the documents immediately. One of the disputes that may wind up in small claims court involves security deposits. Typically, in these cases, the landlord refuses to refund the tenant a portion or all of their security deposit. They may issue a walk-through inspection report that details damages to the property that exceed standard wear and tear, the need to do extensive cleaning, beyond what is considered standard between tenants or outstanding rent that is due. You will need to be aware of all deadlines if you need to file a counterclaim for your own damages as a defendant or if you need to file an initial action as a plaintiff.

    If you don’t have access to an attorney, some states offer landlord tenant dispute hotlines to help you with your court-related representation and decisions. Sometimes, you can find pro bono legal aid through a local or nearby law school.

    LegalShield May Have the Answer You Need in Handling Your Landlord Dispute

    You have rights as a tenant. Do not let a landlord intimidate you into thinking that you don’t. For more information and access to help with your landlord tenant dispute, contact LegalShield.

    LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.

    Start Your Legalshield Plan and Speak with an Attorney About Landlord-Tenant Disputes

    Find out what to do if you have one of these complaints when buying or renting a home.

    On This Page

    • Landlord and Tenant Disputes
    • Complaints About Mortgage Companies
    • Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination

    Landlord and Tenant Disputes

    As a tenant, if you pay to rent a home or an apartment, you may at some point have a dispute with the landlord or management company. Often disputes are about the conditions of the building, essential services, rent increases, or your right to stay. It’s best to come to an agreement directly with the landlord or manager. Make sure you get everything in writing. And if you and the landlord can’t agree, you can turn to outside help.

    Getting Help for a Dispute with a Landlord

    Laws about the rights of tenants and landlords are almost always handled at the state level. Find help from your state with this directory of state-level agencies and resources for tenants. Results differ for each state, but you may find:

    You may eventually decide that you need help from a lawyer. See if you qualify for free legal aid from a non-profit organization.
    Direct complaints about housing discrimination or landlords who receive assistance from the federal government to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Before There’s a Problem

    It’s best to avoid a dispute if possible.

    Understand your lease completely.

    Keep all correspondence between you and your landlord.

    Communicate problems early on and in writing, noting date and time of phone calls.

    Keep proof of rent and deposits paid.

    Complaints About Mortgage Companies

    If you have a complaint against a mortgage company, try to resolve it with the company first. Several government agencies accept complaints about mortgage lenders. In some cases, you should file your complaint with more than one agency, especially at the federal and state level.

    Report a Mortgage Company for Discrimination

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This law prohibits lenders from denying credit because of certain characteristics. File a complaint with the CFPB if a lender has denied a mortgage application because of your:

    • Age
    • Sex (including gender)
    • Marital status
    • Children
    • Race
    • Nationality or ethnicity
    • Religion
    • Income from public assistance programs

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act. This law prohibits discrimination when you rent, buy, or secure financing for a home. Your state may also have a similar law. File a complaint with HUD and the fair housing office in your state if a mortgage company discriminated against you because of your:

    • Race
    • Color
    • National origin
    • Religion
    • Sex
    • Disability
    • Presence of children

    File a Complaint About Mortgage Company Services

    The CFPB enforces several laws, such as the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. These laws require lenders to disclose information to homebuyers before buying and over the life of the mortgage. File a complaint with the CFPB if you have a problem with a new or existing mortgage. Examples of common mortgage complaints include:

    • Applying for a mortgage
    • Receiving loan estimates and closing documents
    • Transferring a mortgage to another servicer
    • Applying your payments correctly
    • Refinancing or modifying a mortgage loan
    • Misreporting mortgage account status to you or to credit reporting agencies
    • Requiring private mortgage insurance
    • Paying additional fees

    Report Deceptive Mortgage Practices and Scams

    The Federal Trade Commission Act is the primary statute of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It states that unfair and deceptive practices affecting commerce are unlawful. Report a mortgage company to the FTC if it makes deceptive statements, omits important facts, or takes misleading actions. Examples include:

    • False statements about their ability to offer a loan
    • Fees for mortgage services that aren’t provided
    • Illegal tactics to collect on mortgage balances

    Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination

    Housing discrimination happens when a housing provider gets in the way of a person renting or buying housing because of their

    • Race or color
    • Religion
    • Sex
    • National origin
    • Familial status (such as having children)
    • Disability

    A housing provider that discriminates against someone could be a landlord or a real estate management company. It could also be a lending institution like a bank or other organization that aids in the homebuying process.

    Housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination covered by the Act can take many forms beyond just raising prices or lying about availability. For example, the Act addresses wheelchair access in some newer properties. Learn what the Fair Housing Act covers, how to complain, and how the investigation process works.

    File a Housing Discrimination Complaint

    If you think you have experienced housing discrimination,

    • Complete and submit a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or
    • Contact your regional HUD office

    LGBTQ Discrimination

    The Fair Housing Act does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But discrimination against someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) may still be in violation of the Act or other state or local regulations. If you think you’ve been discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity, file a complaint as described above.

    Do you have a question?

    Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They’ll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.

    Share this page

    • Print
    • Email
    • Facebook
    • Twitter

    Disputes can often be settled without going to VCAT. If talking about it does not fix the problem, you can put it in writing.

    We may be able to help resolve the issue. As a last resort, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

    Common dispute topics

    If you are looking for the rules on specific topics see:

    For the following urgent issues, contact us straight away:

    • Illegal evictions: If you believe you are being illegally evicted from your rental property, call us on 1300 55 81 81.
    • Urgent repairs: If you have an urgent repair issue in your rental property and the rental provider or property manager does not respond quickly, use our General enquiry form.

    How to resolve disputes

    Disputes can often be settled without going to VCAT:

    • The first step should be to try and resolve the issue by talking.
    • If this does not work, put your request and complaint in writing or issue a formal written notice, depending on the issue.
    • As a last resort you can go to VCAT.

    Talking about disputes

    Talking about the issue should be your first step. You should:

    • explain the problem and say how you would like it resolved
    • tell the other person what obligations you think they are not meeting.

    If you can agree how to solve the problem, make sure you record this in writing.

    If you cannot agree, you can either put the complaint in writing or, if there has been a ‘breach of duty’, you can issue a breach of duty notice. For more information on breach of duty notices, view When a renter or rental provider breaks the law.

    Putting requests and complaints in writing

    If you want to inform the other person of a problem or issue, you can put it in writing using a standard notice.

    Renters should use this notice to tell rental providers (landlords):

    • non-urgent repairs are required
    • you have arranged and paid for urgent repairs and you need to be repaid
    • you have paid utility charges that are not your responsibility and you need to be repaid
    • you caused or became aware of damage to the premises
    • you are terminating the tenancy agreement before moving in
    • you intend to vacate because the premises have been destroyed or are unfit for human habitation.

    Rental providers should use this notice to tell renters:

    • you have paid utility charges that are not your responsibility and require reimbursement
    • the renter has damaged the premises and must repair the damage at their expense
    • you have repaired damage and the renter is liable for the cost of the repairs
    • you want to enter the property
    • you are terminating the tenancy agreement before the renter moves in because the premises have been destroyed or are unfit for human habitation
    • you intend to apply to the VCAT to terminate a fixed term agreement.

    If you have issued a notice and the dispute is still unresolved, contact us for advice on your next steps. We may:

    • advise you of the follow-up form you will need to issue
    • advise you to apply to VCAT.

    Issuing a breach of duty notice

    When someone breaks the rental agreement or law in a way that is defined as a breach of duty law, you should send a breach of duty notice. Both renters and rental providers can do this.

    This can be the first step in ending a rental agreement. For more information, see ‘If the breach is not fixed or happens again’ on When a renter or rental provider breaks the law.

    Going to VCAT

    VCAT can help resolve disputes when other steps have not worked.

    If you need to go to VCAT you will need to provide evidence for your case. You should keep any evidence of breaches of duty or other disputes. This might include letters, emails or phone calls, evidence of losses, photos or videos, or receipts if you are asking to be repaid for something.

    Find out more about what VCAT can do to resolve residential rental disputes.

    Estimated timeframes to VCAT

    COVID-19 has impacted normal timeframes for residential tenancy hearings. VCAT prioritises cases that the renting laws say must be heard within a certain time, and those considered urgent.

    To learn more about whether your type of dispute is impacted, visit Before you apply – Residential tenancy at VCAT.

    Our dispute services

    In some cases, we may offer our voluntary dispute services to help rental providers and renters reach an agreement. For example, when:

    • there is proof Victorian renting laws were not followed, or
    • the rental provider and renter have tried to fix the problem but were not successful.

    Our services are there for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, and those who need it most. For more information, view the Dispute services section – Our compliance policy.

    Further help

    Help for renters

    Renters in the private rental market who are financially disadvantaged or experiencing family violence can get help with dispute resolution from the Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program.

    Dear Landlord is a free self-help tool which helps renters who are facing eviction for being behind in rent. It can help renters understand their options and identify actions they can take depending on their circumstances, including drafting a payment plan request to the rental provider, preparing a VCAT review application, and finding further financial or legal help.

    Disputes between renters

    We cannot help with disputes between renters. Instead, contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria.

    Commercial or retail lease disputes

    Our information and dispute services only apply in limited circumstances to commercial or retail leases.

    For more information about commercial or retail leases, visit Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC).

    Help for older renters

    Renters aged 55 years or more can get advice and support from HAAG.

    Residents in retirement villages

    Older, financially disadvantaged Victorians living in retirement villages can seek assistance from the state-wide Retirement Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program (RHAAP).

    For a list of other organisations that can help with renting matters, view the Renting section on Who to go to for help.

    Forms you might need

    Breach of duty notices

    Notices – from renters to rental providers

    Notices – from rental providers to renters

    Renting law reforms

    Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.

    There were changes to many of the common dispute topics – you can read the relevant topic pages or see a summary of the reforms or detailed fact sheets and guides.

    Some language also changed:

    • Landlords are now called rental providers
    • Tenants are now called renters
    • Leases are now called rental agreements.

    Sections of the Act

    If you want to know what the law says about resolving renting disputes, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

    • Section 452 – General applications to the Tribunal.

    As a tenant, it is important you understand your rights and responsibilities to avoid or resolve accommodation problems with no fuss.

    If an issue arises with your housemates or landlord, the first step is always to speak with them to see if the problem can be resolved quickly.

    However, some rental disputes cannot be fixed with a conversation and require action and in these cases tenants may need outside help from the tenant union or another independent rental dispute body.

    When it comes to rental properties every situation is unique, but there are a few common areas where issues are most likely to arise, including rent, repairs, maintenance, privacy, and sub-letting.

    Rental disputes can happen between housemates

    1. Keep proof of your rental payments

    Every tenant is entitled to a receipt upon payment of rent, so make sure you always request one to keep as proof.

    Don’t throw them out as they are your record of payment and could be needed should a dispute arise regarding overdue rent.

    Disputes also can occur when rent increases.

    In most states of Australia, landlords and agents must notify their tenants of pending rent rises. However, the length of the warning period, regularity of rental hikes, and the jump in cost will differ depending on the state rules.

    If you believe your rent is too high, talk to your property manager first.

    If you are still not satisfied, contact a representative from your state department of consumer affairs or housing and seek their advice.

    As a tenant, you do not have the right to stop paying rent if the landlord won’t do repairs on your residence.

    However, if the premises is unfit for living in, it may be possible for you to end your tenancy early without penalty.

    2. Ensure the house remains in good condition

    When it comes to maintaining a rental property, there are specific responsibilities for both the tenant and the landlord (or the property manager who works on their behalf).

    The tenant is obliged to:

    • Keep the premises reasonably clean.
    • Be careful not to cause damage to the premises.
    • Inform the landlord/agent as soon as possible if any damage is done. It is a good idea for the tenant to write to the landlord/agent with this news, while keeping a copy of the letter.
    • Get the landlord/agent’s permission to install fixtures or make additions, alterations or renovations to the premises. It is best to obtain this permission in writing.
    • Avoid causing a nuisance, and ensure visitors also don’t cause a nuisance.
    • Ensure that the premises are not used for any illegal purpose.

    The landlord has to:

    • Keep the premises in good repair.
    • Ensure all the doors to the outside have locks and that all windows can be secured.

    More from Guides

    How to resolve common rental issues

    Tenant rights: a guide to every Australian state

    Landlords are generally responsible for repairs, unless the tenant is the one who has caused the damage.

    Rental disputes are common but in most cases can be easily fixed.

    If the tenant has broken something on the premises, they will be required to foot the bill.

    If you believe repairs are needed, contact your landlord or agent and arrange a time for the work to be conducted.

    You should never pay for or do non-urgent repairs yourself.

    If the requested repairs are not completed within a reasonable period of time, contact a representative from your state department of consumer affairs or housing and seek their advice.

    A refusal by the landlord to maintain the premises constitutes a breach of contract in most states.

    If your landlord does break the agreement in this way, you may have the right to end your lease and move out.

    If urgent repairs are required to your rental premises, you should try to arrange for the landlord to fix the problem.

    However, in some cases the landlord cannot be contacted in time and you may need to go ahead and organise the repairs yourself.

    Each state has their own laws regarding specific conditions that qualify as requiring ‘urgent’ repairs, however common e xamples include:

    • A blocked or broken toilet system.
    • A Serious roof leak.
    • Burst water service.
    • Gas leak.
    • Dangerous electrical or structural faults.
    • Serious storm, fire or flood damage.
    • Any fault or damage that renders the premises unsafe or insecure.

    Tenants are usually entitled to be reimbursed for repair costs as long as the initial problem was considered necessary to fix and the repairs are below the cost threshold. It’s therefore important that you check to ensure the cost of any urgent repairs you arrange will not exceed this value.

    Once the repairs are complete, the bill can either be sent directly to your property manager or paid by yourself.

    If you pay, make sure to obtain a receipt as proof, so you can be reimbursed later with little fuss.

    Privacy is important in a share house. Picture: iStock

    3. Understand your right to privacy

    As a tenant, you are entitled to live in privacy.

    This means during your stay at the rental property you should not experience interruption or interference by the landlord or anyone acting on their behalf.

    To ensure this occurs, the law in most states requires property managers to obtain agreement from the tenants prior to visiting the property.

    However, specifications outlining when, how often, and with what notice a tenant may be given before the property manager enters the premises will again change on a state-by-state basis

    Legitimate reasons for the landlord or agent to enter the premises include:

    • General inspections. There is a limit to how frequently property inspections can be performed so check with your state department of consumer affairs or housing.
    • Performance of duties defined in the lease (for example, maintenance).
    • Valuation of the property.
    • To show prospective buyers or lenders through the property.
    • To show prospective tenants through the property if the current tenant has been given written notice to move out.

    4. Learn what it means to sub-let

    Sub-letting occurs when the premises houses a ‘head-tenant’, whose name is on the lease, and one or more “sub-tenants”, who are not on the lease.

    The head-tenant holds all responsibility for the premises, while sub-tenants are not entitled by law to the rights and protections that may be provided under the lease agreement.

    A tenant planning to sub-let must get permission before bringing in other people.

    If the landlord agrees, the tenants named on the lease will be responsible for the behaviour of the sub-tenants.

    If a sub-letter damages the residence and will not pay for repairs, the head tenants are likely to be left with the costs.

    If you have any concerns about sub-letting, request that all tenants sign their name on the lease.

    Many disputes can arise between tenants and landlords, based on issues such as rent, the condition of the apartment, or compliance with the lease. If the situation has high stakes, such as a possible eviction, you can look for a lawyer to help you. Otherwise, you may want to use a less confrontational approach to see if you can preserve a positive relationship with the landlord while having your needs met. Options to consider include negotiating with the landlord, pursuing mediation, taking action in small claims court, or persuading other tenants to work together with you in bringing concerns to the landlord’s attention.

    Negotiating with the Landlord

    As long as you have an amicable relationship with the landlord, you should consider approaching them directly to try to resolve the problem. If you act politely and acknowledge the landlord’s point of view, your request is more likely to succeed. You should emphasize the concrete, practical aspects of what you want to accomplish. Even if you feel that you have not entirely won or gotten everything that you wanted initially, getting most of what you want may be preferable to fighting your landlord in court over the rest. You should put any agreement with your landlord in writing so that you have proof of what each side agreed to do.


    If you do not have a good relationship with your landlord, or negotiating directly does not succeed, you can work with a neutral third party called a mediator. They cannot impose a decision on the parties, in contrast to arbitrators, but their input often helps the two sides reach an agreeable resolution. The city where you live may provide a community mediation program or even a mediation program dedicated to landlord-tenant disputes at minimal or no cost.

    The mediator probably will ask the landlord and you to sit down together and lay out all of the issues in the dispute. If needed, the mediator can go back and forth between the parties in separate rooms, transmitting offers and counteroffers. They also can suggest solutions to the problem (which are not binding) or help you probe any underlying problems beyond the immediate dispute. This can help shape an agreement that addresses all of the concerns on each side. In some situations, the mediator may recommend monthly meetings in the future to resolve any conflicts before they become too intense.

    Small Claims Court

    If you need to take an adversarial position to your landlord, you may find yourself in small claims court. These proceedings generally do not require the assistance of an attorney. Only a limited amount of money is at stake in small claims court, but it can be useful for certain types of landlord-tenant disputes. You may be able to use small claims court to get a landlord to conduct repairs, to protect your right to privacy, or to get your security deposit back, among other things. As long as you have evidence to support your version of events that is more convincing than your landlord’s evidence, you have a strong chance of winning in small claims court. You can obtain up to $5,000 or $10,000 through small claims court, depending on the state. If your losses are slightly more than the limit, you can bring a case in regular court, but you may want to think about whether it would be easier and less costly to sue for the small claims maximum and forgo the remainder.

    The procedures and rules are much simpler than in regular court. You need to make sure that you file your lawsuit with the court clerk, have the papers served on your landlord, tell the judge what happened, and present any witnesses and documentary evidence that you need.

    Collective Action by Tenants

    If tenants work together as a group, a landlord may feel more motivated to address a problem. Tenants can join forces to resolve a specific issue on a one-time basis, or they can organize a group that meets regularly and handles a wide range of issues. They can use the same strategies discussed above, and they also may be better equipped to bring a case in regular court if needed. Tenant organizations can sometimes resolve disputes between tenants as well, preventing them from becoming disputes that involve the landlord. An organization should be structured in a way that represents the full range of tenants and the problems that they face. These problems should affect most tenants rather than just one or a few.

    Welcome to the Landlord Tenant Disputes section of FindLaw’s Real Estate Center. Disputes between landlords and tenants can take many forms — from upkeep and repair issues to non-payment of rent and potential eviction. In addition to looking to the terms of any rental agreement in place, being informed of your rights as either a tenant or a landlord can help save money and avoid frustration. When navigating a dispute with your landlord or your tenant, care should be taken to ensure that both sides attempt to uphold their side of the agreement while protecting their interests to the fullest extent allowed by law.

    Eviction and Unlawful Detainer

    Eviction is the process of terminating a lease agreement, typically for a specific cause, thereby removing the tenant from the rental unit. Common disputes that lead to eviction include failure to pay rent on time, keeping pets against the rules of the rental agreement, and engaging in criminal activity on the rental property. Laws are in place to make sure any eviction follows due process, which protects both tenants and landlords.

    Evicting a tenant is not as simple as telling them to leave. There is a specific process in place to ensure the tenant has his or her say, and to give the tenant time to find a new place to live. The first step is to give the tenant formal notice of an eviction, explaining the fault (such as missed rent payments) that needs to be corrected. If the tenant fails to respond in a reasonable amount of time, the landlord may then file for a formal court eviction proceeding; this is typically referred to as a “forcible entry and detainer” or “unlawful detainer” action.

    Avoiding Disputes with Your Landlord

    The best way to solve landlord tenant disputes is to avoid them altogether. There may be disagreements or misunderstandings, but these are best handled outside of court most of the time. For instance, tenants should study their lease agreement carefully and also get a basic understanding of their rights and responsibilities as tenants. If a problem arises, it’s best to talk to the other party right away and be completely honest. Keeping hard copies of all notes and correspondence related to the problem also is a good idea.

    How to Resolve a Landlord Tenant Dispute Outside of Court

    Of course, not all disputes are easily resolved by simply talking with your landlord. If you can avoid going to court, that is usually the best and least expensive option. One option is to use a third-party mediator to help draft an agreement between the two parties, which is not binding but can help facilitate communication. You can find a low-cost mediation program for handling landlord tenant disputes through both private companies and bar associations.

    Handling a Landlord Tenant Dispute in Small Claims Court

    The last resort for resolving disputes after direct communication and mediation have failed is to file a claim with your local small claims court. While they cannot hear every type of case, most landlord tenant disputes involving a sum of money below a certain amount (usually a few thousand dollars) can be handled in small claims. For instance, matters commonly resolved in small claims court include disputes over unpaid rent or un-returned security deposits. While you generally don’t need legal representation for small claims court, many states (including California) don’t even allow parties to use attorneys.

    Click on a link below to learn more about landlord and tenant disputes. You can also learn more about state-specific laws on our landlord/tenant legal answers page.

    Learn About Landlord Tenant Disputes

    Eviction and Unlawful Detainer

    An overview of unlawful detainer law and the eviction process. This section provides information on valid reasons for eviction, the notice requirements involved, the required court filings, and the unlawful detainer process.

    Landlord Tenant Disputes FAQ

    A list of common questions about landlord-tenant disputes. Find answers to your questions about how to avoid landlord-tenant disputes, going to court over a dispute, and how to settle a dispute out of court.

    Does the Landlord Need a Reason to Terminate the Lease at the Expiration of the Term?

    A landlord typically may terminate a lease without reason at the expiration of the lease term. Learn about what happens at the end of the lease term, how to avoid making a retaliatory action, and more.

    Get Legal Help with a Tenants’ Rights Issue

    A guide to getting legal help with a landlord-tenant issue. This article explains how a landlord-tenant attorney can help you with your dispute, how to find the right tenant rights attorney for your case, and more.

    Eviction: What Renters Should Know

    An overview of the rules and procedures involved in the eviction process. Learn about tenant eviction notice for cause and without cause, lawsuits for eviction, tenant defenses against eviction, and more.

    Illegal Retaliatory Evictions

    Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants for merely asserting their legal rights under landlord-tenant law. This section provides a number of resources on retaliatory evictions for both tenants and landlords.

    How to resolve rent increase disputes

    Common Points of Contention

    Some of the most common joint ownership disputes that arise among property co-owners include the following:

    • One of the owners has sole possession of the property but refuses to pay rent or will not compensate the owner who is not in possession of the real property at that time.
    • One of the property owners will not pay his or her share of the expenses for the property, including expenses for upkeep and other maintenance costs.
    • The owners cannot agree on management issues relating to the property.
    • The owners of the property cannot agree about how to handle the property in the future. For example, the co-owners may not agree upon whether to continue to hold the property for investment, to sell the property, or to improve the property.

    If you are involved in any of the above-referenced disputes relating to real property, the knowledgeable attorneys at Brink Law Firm may assist you with your case.

    Preventing Joint Property Disputes

    One of the most effective ways of trying to alleviate joint property disputes beforehand is by incorporating potential resolutions to these disputes into a property agreement at the time the property is purchased. That way, in the event a dispute arises later, the contract will spell out how to resolve the dispute.

    In general, a written agreement or a contract between the co-owners controls how to resolve a real property dispute. If the parties formalize their agreement in writing at the time they buy it, that agreement will determine their rights and obligations to one another in the event a dispute arises later. An agreement may take the form of a limited liability company operating agreement, a partnership agreement, a tenancy in common agreement, a buy-sell agreement, or some other contract.

    No matter how it is formatted, having some kind of contract in place is a good idea because otherwise, property disputes between co-owners can cost a lot of time and money.

    No Agreement in Place Between Co-Owners?

    In some cases, the property co-owners do not enter into a formal written agreement at the time they buy the property. If so, Washington State law treats the relationship as a tenancy in common. Under a tenancy in common, each of the co-owners have an equal right to possess the property. In addition, they have equal rights and responsibilities regarding the property. In the event that one of the co-owners excludes another co-owner from the property, the excluded co-owner may recover the property’s rental value from the excluding co-owner.

    Similarly, if one of the co-owners refuses to pay the property expenses, the other owner may decide to pay the property expenses to preserve the investment. In the event the co-owner pays more than his or her required share of the operating costs and maintenance expenses, he or she may be entitled to assert a lien against the other co-owner’s interest in the property, following a partition and sale of the property.

    With regard to improvements on the property: If a co-owner pays to improve the property without the other co-owner’s consent, the improving co-owner is not usually entitled to reimbursement. However, in the event of a partition sale, the improving co-owner may recover any increase in the proceeds of the sale that resulted from the improvements he or she made to the property.

    Partition Actions

    If the co-owners are unable to resolve their property disputes with one another, they may petition a court to terminate their rights and obligations regarding the subject property. When the parties are co-owners, this determination is made by way of a partition action.

    In a nutshell, a partition action is a lawsuit in which one or more co-owner requests that the court divide the property. There are essentially two different methods of division. The first method is by physically dividing the property between the co-owners. The other, more common method is a partition via court-ordered sale. The sale typically occurs via private or public auction, and then the court splits the proceeds of the sale between the former co-owners.

    The costs associated with a partition action, including filing fees, survey fees, and title policies, are typically allocated by the court in accordance with the parties’ respective ownership interests in the property.

    Contact a Tacoma Real Estate Lawyer Today for a Legal Consultation

    The experienced real estate attorneys at the Brink Law Firm can explore the circumstances of your case and can lay out all of your legal options. To schedule a consultation or case evaluation with a Tacoma joint ownership dispute lawyer, please call us at 253.620.6666 or contact us online.