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Questions on Tenant Disputes

In the United States, disputes between a property owner and a tenant are usually governed by state laws related to contracts and property. To evict a tenant, a landlord would have to follow guidelines laid down by the state, or sometimes city or county law. Certain cities also have a set of laws that lay down the maximum rent that can be charged by a landlord and determine how the property must be kept habitable by way of meeting minimum safety requirements and so on.

Listed below are a few questions on tenant dispute related issues.

I am involved in a tenant dispute and my tenant owes me $3500. Can I go to small claims court and sue him for it?

Yes, you could sue your tenant for this amount. He may counterclaim for the deposit but this should not affect the claim that you have made.

My fellow tenant and I are having a dispute. She bullies other tenants and myself with nasty notes and racial epithets and is now also trying to dispose of my personal property that sits in the common area, without my permission. What legal action can I take to curb this behavior?

You would first need to get in touch with your landlord and inform him/her about the situation. Your landlord is most likely obliged to provide a reasonably quiet rental property. If there happens to be another tenant who is creating a nuisance, the landlord should have the right to evict them if they fail to comply with the rules and regulations of the property. You could give the tenant a letter yourself but it would be better if the landlord did this himself/herself without getting you directly involved.  

My tenant signed a 1 year lease and moved out of the property within 4 months. The lease explicitly states that the landlord will retain the security deposit if the tenant moves out before 12 months unless the residence is sold prior to that. Do I need to legally notify the tenant of this condition?

What you should do is send the tenant a letter within 30 days of the vacancy stating that his/her breach of the lease would constitute a forfeiture of the security deposit as stated in the lease. By doing this your tenant will be provided a notice of your claim in case he/she decides to dispute the retention of the deposit.

My tenant keeps taking pictures of me, without my permission, every time I visit the property. She uses this as a form of intimidation and says that she needs the photos for her records. Is this considered illegal or a form of assault?

This action would not be considered an assault as long as a regular camera was used and there was no physical contact between you and the camera. It is legal for the tenant to document events inside her apartment by way of taking photos even though it may seem rude or impolite. Unfortunately, based on the facts of your case, you would probably not have legal recourse as her behavior would not be considered illegal.

My tenant in Wisconsin gave me verbal notice and left the property, leaving many of her things behind. I have tried many times to get her to pick them up with no luck. Am I allowed to get rid of these items?

According to the Wisconsin Statutes Section 704.05(5), the landlord has to provide written notice to the tenant asking him/her to claim the property within 30 days of the notice. The notice needs to also mention that the item(s) will be sold or liquidated, if not removed within that time. If the tenant chooses to take no action within that period of time, the landlord is allowed to sell the items. After the landlord deducts any costs incurred while selling or storing the items, the remaining money should be returned to the tenant.

Getting involved in a tenant dispute can be tiring and unpleasant. However, you must be aware of all the property rules and regulations that apply to the state that you are living in to fully understand your rights as a landlord or as a tenant.
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