Suing Your Tenant for Damages: Can You Recover Attorney's Fees?


When you decide to become a landlord, you have to take the good tenants with the bad ones. Good tenants pay their rent on time, give you full notice when they are going to move, and do not damage your property. Bad tenants leave in the middle of the night without notice, often neglect to pay months worth of rent, and leave your property in shambles. There are plenty of ways to reach out and sue bad tenants, but can you also sue for your attorney's fees?

What Can You Sue For?

As a landlord, you can sue a tenant for any proven violation of the lease including persistent nonpayment of rent. The process of suing for nonpayment of rent is often different than the process for suing for damages to your property. Suing for other violations of the lease such as subletting when it is not allowed might also require a different process.

You cannot sue for verbal agreements that you and the tenant agreed to outside of the lease. For example, if the tenant verbally agreed to remodel the porch on your property for a reduction in rent but the work was never done, most courts will not allow you to sue to recover any money you had to pay to finish the project.

Suing For Nonpayment Of Rent

It is important to keep in mind that you need a signed lease to be able to recover damages in court. In some instances, a court will allow you to recover some damages based on verbal agreements, but that is a difficult process. You can only sue for rent as outlined in the lease. If you had given the tenant verbal warning of a rent increase, then that increase might not stand up in court.

As a general rule, landlords cannot recover court costs when it comes to nonpayment of rent. This is why having a lease is helpful because it reduces your costs for recovering rent that was not paid. Be sure that you have an accurate record of rent payments for each tenant so you can show the court the rent that was not paid.

Suing For Damages Or Lease Violations

Suing for damages to your property or violation of lease clauses is something different from nonpayment of rent. In most courts, you can include your court and attorney costs in with your damages when you sue for these types of violations.

No matter what type of violation you are using to sue a tenant, you should never do so without a qualified attorney on your side. While you might not recover the costs of your attorney when suing for nonpayment of rent, you significantly increase your chances of getting all of your back rent when you utilize an attorney. If you are suing for damages to your property or other violations to your lease, then you will be able to recoup your investment in an attorney and improve your chances of winning your claim as well.

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