Should I use an offset affirmative defense or a cross complaint?

Asked over 2 years ago - Laguna Beach, CA

I am being sued for back rent by a landlord (not an unlawful detainer, but to collect the money, I've already moved out), but they breached the lease agreement in multple instances by not providing a habitable property and forcing me to leave my appliances, even though the contract says I could keep them.

The amount of relief I'm seeking is less than they are suing for and I need to know if I can just use their breaches as an offset in my answer or if I need to submit a cross complaint. Thank you!

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Frank Wei-Hong Chen

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . You can actually do both. You can concurrently file a cross-complaint for breach of the same lease agreement and/or you can raise this as an affirmative defense. For example, your answer can raise affirmative defenses such as:

    "Defendant's obligations, if any, are extinguished by Plaintiff's breach of contract."


    "Defendant is entitled to a setoff from any recovery Plaintiff obtains for all sums heretofore owed by Defendant with respect to the allegations in the Complaint."

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is... more
  2. Paul Y. Lee

    Contributor Level 18


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . I agree with previous responses. I recommend you do both. However, if you are reluctant to file a separate cross-complaint, at least raise it as an affirmitive defense in your Answer.

    This response is for information purpose only and does not constitute a legal advice. This response does not... more
  3. Mark William Oakley

    Contributor Level 18


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You would be better off doing both. You may have other defenses to the unpaid rent claims (such as failure to timely comply with return of security deposit funds or provide a timely written accounting as to how those funds were applied to any damages/unpaid rent claimed), which would defeat the landlord's recovery, and then you'd be able to get a judgment in your favor on your claims. Discuss this matter with a local California attorney who handles residential landlord tenant matters.

Related Topics

Landlord-tenant law

Landlord-tenant law is governed mostly by state laws, and covers issues like security deposit limits and deadlines, evictions, and the right to withhold rent.

Breaking a lease agreement

Breaking a lease is considered a breach of contract, and you may have to pay a penalty to do so, unless the law prohibits penalties for your specific situation.

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