There are many reasons why a landlord-tenant relationship can turn sour. Typically, the result is the landlord suing the tenant for unpaid rent or some other breach of the lease agreement. However, often times the tables will turn and the landlord will find themselves being sued by a tenant for a landlord breach.
When a landlord finds themselves in this situation, it is important for the landlord to take certain steps to ensure that its interests are protected:
(1). CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY: First and foremost, it is important to contact a knowledgeable landlord-tenant attorney in your area to ensure that all pleading deadlines and initial hearing requirements are met so you do not find yourself in a default situation and an automatic loss in court. It may be tempting to believe that you can represent yourself in court, however, this may not be possible under state law. As most commercial landlords are set up as LLC’s or corporations, state laws often require that said entities appear by an attorney. Too often, default judgments will be taken against a landlord for lack of an attorney at the initial hearing, and this is something that can be easily avoided.
(2). GATHER ALL RELEVANT LEASE DOCUMENTS AND CORRESPONDENCE: More often than not, the strength of the landlord’s case will depend on the wording within the written agreements between the parties. It is important to gather all of this information as these documents can often provide defenses that are dispositive of the case. While the lease is often the most important document to have when determining the rights of the parties, it is also very important not to overlook any lease amendments and correspondence between the parties. These alternative documents may contain agreements, statements, and provision which provide the ultimate defense to your case.
(3). CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER: Depending on the type of suit being brought against the landlord, it may be possible that the lawsuit and the defense therefore could be covered by your commercial liability policy. It is important to contact your insurance provider early in the process so they are kept apprised of the situation, and to ensure that you are not waiving any rights under your policy due to the delay.
By Jonah Lock