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Can a landlord that was not paying their mortgage sue you for past due rent?

Seattle, WA |

We moved out over a year ago, but still owed about 3000 in rent. Our landlord hadn't paid their mortgage in over 18 months, owing approximately $18k. We didn't feel comfortable sending them our money every month without security of knowing we'd be able to stay. We paid ontime every month before then for 4 years. So, we waited a few months without paying them and moved out. Our lease agreement was from 2005, 12 month lease, then after moved to month-to-month lease. The previous landlord just drove slowly past our new house a year later, we are wondering what is his legal standing?
thank you

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Your lease agreement, including month to month tenancy is completely seperate from your landlord's mortgage. Based on the facts you provided, you are obligated to pay the rent for the time you occupied the unit unless you had a valid reason for withholding the rent.
    Your landlord has the right to attempt to collect this debt. The landlord can sue you. Whether the landlord wins or not can depend on the Statute of Limitations. There is a 4 year limit. If it has been more than 4 years since you were past due on the rent and you bring this to the Court's attention, the case should be dismissed with prejudice.
    Even after the statute of limitations has expired on a debt, you are still legally responsible for paying the debt. However, the landlord no longer has the liberty of using the court to force you to pay.
    Keep in mind that certain actions can restart the debt statute of limitations. on a dormant account. This includes:
    -acknowledging that you owe the debt
    -making a payment
    -entering a payment plan
    -making an agreement to pay
    -making a charge on the account
    If the clock on the statute of limitations restarts, it starts back at zero. This gives the landlord more time to use the court to force you to pay the debt.
    Contact an attorney in your area to discuss your situation.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the state of Connecticut. Responses are based solely on Connecticut law unless stated otherwise.


  2. If you had a written rental agreement your landlord has six years to file suit against you for unpaid rent. If you did not have a written agreement, the statute of limitations is three years after the last payment.

    If you had any sort of rental agreement you would have been entitled to at least 90 day's notice post-auction before you could have been ordered to leave the property. I can't tell exactly how many months you did not pay rent, but the question for your landlord would have to be . . . how was the landlord harmed? Arguably YOU did not breach the agreement until your landlord breached, by failing to pay the underlying obligation which interfered with your quiet enjoyment of the place.

    So, can your old landlord sue you? Yes, arguably he could, but you could also have a sweet counterclaim. I don't think I'd advise you to sue him, but if he sued you, you might be able to get some traction with this argument.

    Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

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