eviction notice on doorI’m Disabled. Can My Landlord Evict Me?

On occasion we read in the paper or see a story on TV about a person being evicted. Inevitably the tenant is someone with disabilities who cannot afford the rent due to medical bills and low pay from Social Security disability benefits. This makes for a good public interest story, but after the news reporter goes home the question remains. Can a landlord evict a tenant who is disabled?

 

Depends

The short answer to the eviction question is, “It depends what the tenant is being evicted for.” Although laws vary by state, in general, a landlord can evict for non-payment of rent no matter the circumstance of the tenant. Some instances are more difficult than others, but without income the landlord cannot pay their bills either, so must keep their spaces occupied by paying tenants.

Nuisance

However, if the tenant is not behind on their rent, the landlord may still try to force eviction under a variety of nuisance clauses. This is where the situation gets much trickier legally. Every situation and every state, and in some instances municipality, is different. Nuisances are generally defined from your neighbor’s point of view. What may not be a problem to you may still be a problem to them and get you evicted. Some examples of nuisances include clutter and noise.

In most states the landlord must present you with a letter either in person or by certified mail asking you to solve the nuisance within so many days or you will face eviction. Ignoring the letter will likely result in the landlord filing a case in court and a judge will decide if the problem is bad enough to warrant an eviction.

Service Animals

Animals can be a sticky-point with landlords. Many building owners do not allow pets due to the expensive problems they can cause. However, if the pet is a service dog the landlord must, in almost every circumstance, accept the pet. Other animals can be up for debate as the federal government only recognizes dogs as service animals at this time. The landlord cannot charge additional fees for service animals. They can, however place stipulations on the animal as long as they are not “undue.” For instance, a requirement to clean up after the animal or keep them on a leash while outside the apartment or house is not undue hardship, but requiring that the animal be kept in a cage whenever it is in the house probably would be as it would prevent the animal from performing its duties. Even if the dog is a service animal, if it disturbs neighbors, it may still be cause for eviction. A good example of this is a dog that barks frequently and disturbs the peace of your neighbors.

Illegal Activity

Any illegal activity in your unit could result in eviction, even if the activity is being conducted by someone else in the house. A common situation is an elderly adult who may have a young person in the house dealing drugs. If the activity is being conducted on the property or may result in harm to other tenants there may be cause for eviction. In many states the law will allow for everyone in the house to be evicted no matter whose name is on the lease.

Disability

In general, a landlord cannot evict a person because they have a disability unless the disability is causing additional problems for the landlord or other tenants. For instance, if the person is unable to care for themselves and does not have help then the situation may cause health as well as environmental damage to the property. Some landlords may step in and try to get assistance for the tenant, but others for one reason or another will just simply evict. 

End of Lease

In almost any state and situation a landlord can ask a tenant to leave when the lease expires. Usually they must give at least thirty days notice, but this varies by state. The owner is not required to provide a reason for asking the tenant to leave and the tenant must move out or face court eviction. In some cases a judge may stop the eviction if a landlord does not present a valid reason for requesting vacancy, however this could be shaky legal grounds.

Protect Yourself

Sometimes things change in life and strong financial positions crumble. A dwelling you may have been able to afford a few months or years ago may turn out to be a luxury you cannot afford today. If this is the case, take the high road and move to something more affordable. You will find it could become very difficult to find even a bad apartment if you go through the eviction process and a judgment is placed on your record. Most landlords review judgment history of prospective tenants.

Rent Assistance

Look for assistance right away if you begin falling behind on your rent. First call your landlord and advise them of your situation. Some landlords are sympathetic and may provide a payment extension or payment plan while others don’t care. Do not expect sympathy. Look for agencies and organizations in your area that provide rent assistance like the Salvation Army, churches, United Way and public housing assistance grants. You may have to dig in and do research but this is far better than having to pack boxes and look for a new home. Don’t procrastinate; request assistance as soon as you can.

Bottom Line

Leaning on your disability as a reason to cause nuisance situations or become delinquent on rent payments is not going to help you if your case goes to court. The bottom line is that you or a representative signed a contract agreeing to specific terms and most judges will uphold a written contract unless you can prove the clause under which you are being evicted is illegal. If the contract’s terms are not met then eviction is quite probable. 

You will only have a few days to move if an eviction is ordered by the court. In some states it is as few as five days. If you are evicted it will be tough to locate another house or apartment, pack up and move within that time frame. When you receive a legal eviction it is often better to comply with the notice immediately than to go through the legal process which will ultimately cost you much more money and stress in the long run. Using your disability to obtain media coverage may work in your favor short term, but overall it is almost never a safety belt to fall back on to prevent being evicted.   

 

 

 

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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.


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