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How probable is it for a landlord to sue or garnish wages for breaking a lease?

Kansas City, MO |

Units above me had plumbing issues causing water damage to my apartment 4 different times in the past 3 years . Plaster on ceilings/walls are cracked, blistered, peeling, ugly brown stains and mold, the carpet/padding was soaked. I reported water leak and damage. Maintenance fixed the leaks upstairs but not the damage in my apt. I had to put duct tape on the plaster ceiling in the bathroom because ceiling was collapsing. The blgd is infested with roaches, and the window a/c is not large enough for the sq feet to cool properly. I am disgusted with my living conditions and want to move someplace else. A friend is encouraging me to move, saying they won't sue because it will cost the landlord more money to hire an attorney and take me to court to get the $1,500 in rent I would owe.

I didn't see this on my lease before signing #21 Condition of Premises. "Tenant hereby acknowledges that he/she has inspected the Premises and agrees to accept the same in their present "AS IS" condition. Execution of this Lease shall be deemed conclusive evidence that the Premises are in satisfactory condition and repair, as of the date hereof. " Yes when I moved in July 2010 it was in satisfactory condition, but the flooding started 4 months after I moved in. I understand that the landlord has a duty to mitigate his damages, but I also have a right to live in a clean, safe, well maintained healthy home/apartment. I only kept renewing my lease because I did not have any money saved for deposits to move anywhere else. Now I have the money saved and I want out.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

It all depends on how aggressive your landlord it. It is rarely done in Texas.

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Posted

Thank you for your response. I have been taking photos after each flooding. I rally need to take the risk and move to a healthier living environment. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the landlord is not aggressive.

Posted

For $1500, the landlord can sue you in small claims court without an attorney. Your landlord does have a duty to mitigate his damages. That means the landlord has to try to re-rent, if possible. It sounds like you have a good defense if he sues. Take very good pictures or a video and explain everything that is wrong with the place. If the landlord sues you, you claim he "constructively breached" the lease since he did not make the apartment habitable for you to live there.

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Posted

Thank you for your response. I have been taking photos after each flooding. I rally need to take the risk and move to a healthier living environment. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the landlord is not aggressive.

Posted

Before a landlord can garnish your wages, he must get a judgment. With such a damages of approximately, $1,500.00, the landlord would likely sue in small claims (which allows claims up to $5,000.00. If he does so, he will have to serve you and you will be given a chance to tell your side of the story in the hopes of mitigating the alleged damages. You could bring up some of the information you provided here. In small claims, Judges have a lot of discretion to decide on the evidence provided. Assume he is awarded something in the judgment, he would then have to file a garnishment and pay to have it served upon your employer. Then your employer would have to process it and send him the appropriate portion of your wages - there are specific rules about how much can be garnished in different circumstances.

Moral of the story, he may be able to but has to jump through a few hoops first. It may benefit both of you to try to settle out of court.

Hope this helps.

*** If you like my answer, please mark it as the best answer.

Sincerely,
C. Curran Coulter II, J.D.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
THE COULTER LAW FIRM, LLC
8000 Maryland Ave., Suite 1060
St. Louis, Missouri 63105
www.stl-lawfirm.com
Office: (314) 721-1116
Fax: (314) 725-1026
curran@stl-lawfirm.com

Legal disclaimer: 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 Missouri and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Responses are based solely on Missouri law unless stated otherwise.

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Posted

Thank you for your response. I have asked management twice if I could move to another apartment in the building, I was told yes but I would have to pay all new deposits in addition to a transfer fee. First of all I did not have money saved for new deposits or I would have moved elsewhere, and why should I have to pay all those fees to transfer to another apartment when the water damage wasn't my fault?

Posted

Thank you for providing sufficient details to allow for an answer. Yes you are entitled to terminate the lease if you can prove the uninhabitable conditions and the landlords failure to pay for damage caused BUT you must have an attorney review the lease to be sure. The "as is" acceptance does not apply to future damage as you correctly concluded. However, an attorney should write the landlord a stiff letter in advance to discourage the landlord from filing suit anyway. If you are in an apartment complex, the cost of suing will not discourage the landlord since he/she/they no doubt have a regular attorney that has some regular flat rate.
Also discuss with the attorney how and why you should not pay rent for the last month you are there and the right form of notice to terminate the lease.

This comment does not create an attorney-client relationship. The law and its application by the courts is constantly evolving and changing. This discussion is not to be taken as a definitive guide, and should not be relied upon to determine all fact situations. Each set of facts must be examined separately with the current case and statutory law analyzed and applied accordingly.

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