Previously we wrote about what Boston landlords need to know about the Fair Housing Act and the steps every Massachusetts landlord should take to ensure they are not blindsided with a civil rights violation lawsuit. But what happens if you did everything you thought you were supposed to do and you are hit with a civil rights lawsuit? Or maybe you have had a difficult tenant, and they are now accusing you of something that you did not do as an act of retaliation?
One of the first steps you should take should be to contact Sandonato Law at 617-481-2742 or by filling out a contact form. First of all, civil rights matters are incredibly complex and the Massachusetts court systems are not favorable when it comes to landlords, so it will be incredibly difficult to go at it alone.
Gather All Documentation
After learning that you are being sued for civil rights discrimination and contacting Sandonato Law, you should begin gathering all documentation regarding the lease and tenant in question. Examples of documentation are described below.
Do you have a paper or electronic copy of the advertisement for your rental from when you first listed it? Was the wording of the advertisement fair and accurate?
You will also need a copy of the lease that states the terms and conditions that your tenant agreed to by signing it.
You should also track down copies (either from your records or ask your bank) of bank statements showing when you deposited the security deposit and when you returned it to the tenant (if applicable). Your bank statements will also be handy to demonstrate if/when you received rent payments.
Next, do you have copies (either original emails or screenshots) of all correspondence with your tenant? This should include text messages if that is how you primarily corresponded with the tenant.
Journal or Log of Tenant Interactions
Finally, if you kept a log or “journal” of each and every interaction with the tenant, it will be helpful in documenting your defense. Perhaps your tenant notified you that a repair needed to be made and you hired a contractor to fix the issue, but the tenant tried to withhold rent, claiming the repair was never made. A copy of the paid invoice to the contractor will be evidence proving you addressed the issue.
If you decided to evict your tenant, did you follow all Massachusetts' laws regarding notification? Do you have copies of the quit notice? If you are evicting a tenant over nonpayment of rent, violation of the lease, or illegal activity that took place in your property, do you have solid documentation?
Contact Sandonato Law for Representation
Being accused, perhaps unfairly, of a civil rights violation can be extremely stressful. You thought or know you did everything through the proper channels, and now your tenant is attempting to ruin your good name and potentially destroy your rental business. You do not have to let an ill-willed person destroy what you have worked hard to earn.
If you are facing a civil rights matter, you need the professional and experienced team at Sandonato Law to represent you and protect your business and reputation. Call us today at 617-481-2742 or fill out a contact form to get started.