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The Outcome of My Lawsuit From an Unhappy Tenant

by Jason Hanson on April 15, 2012 · 10 comments


Several weeks ago, I wrote about how I was getting sued by one of my tenants for the first time ever. To give you a quick recap, I had a tenant sign a lease and then the day she was supposed to move into the property she claimed that it was “uninhabitable” and wanted her money back.

Obviously, I was not going to return her security deposit or first month’s rent because the tenant had walked through the property previously, and had signed a lease, in which she acknowledged there was nothing wrong with the property.

Well, shortly after this I found out that the tenant was suing me for $5,000. I also ended up suing her for a little over $3,000 for the lost rent on the property until I filled it again. The courts put both hearings on the same day, so last week I ended up going to court.

Now, I had never been in small claims court so I had no idea what to expect. It was actually quite informal. The judge called both me and the tenant to stand right in front of him, not at the tables like in the movies. He turned to her and asked to hear her story and I was instructed not to interrupt. She told him that the property was uninhabitable and that she wanted her money back and she wanted me to pay for the hotel that she had to stay in until she was able to find another place to live.

She also showed the judge several pictures of the property, in which she said showed that the property was not livable. She talked for about 10 minutes and then was finished. Once she was done, the judge turned to me and told me it was my turn to speak.

I told the judge that the tenant had previously walked through the property and had signed a lease after seeing the property. I explained that it wouldn’t make much sense to sign a lease on a property you saw if you thought it was uninhabitable. The funny thing is, I showed the judge almost the exact same pictures the woman was showing him.

One of the pictures were of the carpet which was a little worn, but she was saying the carpet was filthy and disgusting and I was saying that yes, it has some normal wear and tear but that’s all. After about five minutes I was done presenting my side to the judge. He then took a few minutes to look over the lease and the pictures.

He then turned to the tenant and said that although my property has some wear and tear that it wasn’t uninhabitable and that she signed a lease and she had breached the contract. He awarded me a judgment of over $3,000 against her, and the $5,000 she was trying to sue me for was thrown out.

Obviously, I was very happy with the outcome. However, I was ticked off that I had to waste my time for such a ridiculous thing and it’s a shame that people can sue each other so easily in this country. But then again, I know it’s all part of being a landlord and if I only run into this type of thing once every 10 years, I guess I can live with it.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Grayford April 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Glad to hear it worked out for you, Jason!


Jordan Bateman April 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I’m happy to hear it all worked out for you and things were settled properly. Thanks for sharing.


erica Roberts April 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Good post – thank you! In hindsight though – would you do the same actions again? Why not just return the money and focus on getting another tenant in the property? I know it’s a pain to lose that time on market but how much time/money did you spend in legal fees and going to court? Also, now you have a judgment, but will you be able to collect?

Congrats for winning the case!!


Tom April 16, 2012 at 6:03 am

That’s great to hear. Thx for explaining the process on small claims court as well.


Bilgefisher April 16, 2012 at 7:03 am

Thanks for the the rundown. May I ask how you will collect? Ive heard that it can be difficult at best.



Chad Pierce April 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

Glad to hear you won!! Thanks for sharing your story. When I feel that someone might be a bit shady, I actually video record the signing of the lease and do a video walk through with them before they sign and make comments to get their responses. Haven’t had to use them yet but I figure it will be worth it, the first time I need it.


Sharon Vornholt April 16, 2012 at 8:49 am

Tenants wouldn’t be so quick to pull that stunt if more landlords did what you did and called their bluff. Way to go!


Kevin Yeats April 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

Jason, Congratulations for prevailing in court.

What lessons have you learned and can share and what changes have you made in your processes (tenant screening, showing, lease-signing) that would lessen the likelihood of future suits?


Jason April 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

Congrats Jason…just curious…did the tenant write you a check then and there? Or how did you collect the $3000?


Christopher Allen May 20, 2012 at 10:34 am

What a frivolous case, I’m glad you won! Tho it is sad that this even made it into the courts.


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