What Does a Landlord-Tenant Attorney Do?

by Marisa Upson | Published: Dec 21, 2023

In an ideal world, landlords and tenants would never have disagreements, at least not ones they couldn't resolve together. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

According to Princeton University's Eviction Lab, landlords filed almost 970,000 eviction cases in 2022.

While eviction is one instance when you may need an attorney, there are several other circumstances when a landlord or a tenant may require a landlord-tenant attorney. As the name implies, these attorneys specialize in disputes between renters and property owners.

Let's explore what these lawyers handle, when you might need one and the essential traits to look for.


What is the role of a landlord-tenant attorney?

While conflicts happen, not every problem warrants or requires a lawyer. You may be able to resolve many issues by talking them out, becoming familiar with the law and understanding your legal rights. However, when you're faced with serious problems and limited or disruptive communication, it may be time to hire a landlord-tenant lawyer to protect your rights.

These attorneys specialize in the legal issues that can arise between landlords and tenants. Some common examples of situations that may require their expertise include:

  • Evictions
  • Needed property repairs that go unresolved
  • Lease violations
  • Lease reviews and addendums
  • Injuries or loss related to lack of property upkeep


Is mediation an option?

Mediation is almost always preferable to going to court. It saves money, reduces stress and can provide the opportunity to learn valuable lessons in resolving disagreements. Also, unlike a trial, it's confidential and can preserve your relationship.

During mediation, both parties work with a mediator, a person trained to help people reach an agreement. For instance, in an eviction case, both parties may come to one or more of the following agreements :

  • The tenant moves out on a specific date, leaving the rental in good condition.
  • The landlord makes needed repairs to the home.
  • The tenant pays back rent over time.
  • The tenant pays additional rent and a security deposit for having an unauthorized pet.

An eviction can stay on the renter's record for up to seven years. For this reason and more, successfully mediating this conflict and keeping it out of court is highly beneficial. However, if you can't reach an agreement, the next step is going to court and having a judge or jury decide. If the dispute gets to this point, a landlord-tenant attorney is recommended.


When should tenants hire a landlord-tenant attorney?

There are several circumstances when a tenant may benefit from obtaining the services of these attorneys, including the following:

Rental discrimination

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), as well as state and local housing laws, landlords cannot discriminate against prospective or current tenants. These laws prohibit discrimination against race, sex, color, family status, religion, disability, national origin or sexual orientation.

If you believe your landlord has discriminated against you, you have several options. You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to Nolo, HUD and associated state and local agencies receive over 10,000 discrimination complaints every year. If there's reasonable cause, HUD lawyers may provide free representation.

Another option is to hire a landlord-tenant attorney. If the court rules in your favor, you may receive financial compensation, and the court may impose penalties against the landlord.

Safety and health issues

If a landlord fails to maintain their property, and you injure yourself or incur health issues, you can file a personal injury case. One example is the failure to get rid of mold that was not caused by a tenant's actions. Depending on the type of mold, it can lead to serious health issues and may represent underlying property issues, such as plumbing leaks.

Another example is tripping and injuring yourself due to a lack of maintenance on the property grounds.

If you decide to go to court, you'll want to find a landlord-tenant attorney specializing in personal injury cases. These lawyers will help determine if the injury or illness arose from a landlord's negligence.

Unlawful evictions

Working with a lawyer can improve your chances if your landlord has served you an eviction notice you intend to fight. If they've taken matters into their own hands by removing your belongings or threatening to take action against you, a lawyer is definitely warranted. Look for a landlord-tenant attorney with extensive experience in this area.

Ignoring needed repairs

By law, landlords must keep their rentals "habitable." Habitable means fit to live in and includes weather protection and good working plumbing, heating and electricity. Essentially, it must meet all building and housing code standards.

If your landlord is not making needed repairs, you have a few options. Some states allow you to withhold rent or make repairs and deduct the cost from the rent due. You can hire a lawyer to help you with this process, come to an agreement with your landlord or go to court if needed.

You can also ask for compensation if failure to maintain the property leads to personal property damage.


When should landlords hire a landlord-tenant attorney?

Landlords may turn to landlord-tenant attorneys for representation and support in the following cases:

Lease disputes and review

You may need a lawyer for many reasons that fall under lease agreements. These include breaching a lease, sublease disputes and drafting and reviewing leases. As lease agreements are binding contracts, their wording and contents have legal ramifications.

Speaking with a tenant who breaks a lease or violates the agreement may resolve the issue. While coming to an equitable agreement is ideal, it's not always possible. When a tenant is unwilling to resolve the breach of a lease or move out in a timely manner, an eviction hearing may be inevitable.


In an eviction process, landlords must fill out the right paperwork, notify the tenant in the correct manner and follow highly detailed rules. Despite this, some landlords represent themselves in an eviction case and win.

Working with a landlord-tenant attorney is particularly beneficial if it's your first eviction, if the tenant is filing for bankruptcy or if they have a lawyer and are fighting the eviction.

Collection action

If a tenant leaves without paying the full rent owed or damages your property, you can take collection action. An attorney can help make sure you're in full compliance with the law.

Under investigation for illegal discrimination

If you believe a tenant has unfairly accused you of discrimination, you may want to obtain the services of a lawyer. Under the FHA, civil penalties can amount to $21,660 for first-time offenders. Being involved in a discrimination lawsuit can also harm your reputation.


What do you look for in a landlord-tenant attorney?

Two of the most important considerations when selecting an attorney are their location and experience. As rental laws vary by region and state, it's vital that your attorney is familiar with local laws.

Some specialize in specific areas, so make sure they're well-versed in your area of concern. For instance, some focus on commercial properties while others specialize in residential. An attorney may also represent either tenants or landlords, but not both.

If money is an issue, keep in mind that you may be able to find a lawyer that offers a free or low-cost initial consultation. Also, in some cases, a letter to a landlord or tenant from a lawyer may be all that's needed. Additionally, whoever loses the lawsuit may be held responsible for the attorneys' fees on both sides.

Turning to an attorney for support

We'd all like to live in a world where we resolve our own issues. Unfortunately, until that time comes, property owners and renters turn to landlord-tenant attorneys to help them stand up for their rights. If hiring one, do your due diligence (lawyer speak) and ensure they're well-versed in local laws and regulations regarding leasing and renting.

Categories: Landlords, Renters

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