How to Resolve a Lease Dispute
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, a lease dispute can be stressful, disruptive and a source of unnecessary expense and hassle. Fortunately, for those faced with determining how to resolve a lease dispute, you don’t have to deal with it alone.
Maryland landlord-tenant law attorney Rebekah Lusk, who leads the Landlord/Tenant practice at Lusk Law, LLC, understands what you are going through and is available to help with issues involving a breach of lease.
Lusk Law also manages a wide variety of other landlord/tenant cases, including failure to pay rent, wrongful detainer, tenant holding over, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Rebekah is also a landlord, so she knows from firsthand experience how to find solutions for both commercial and residential legal disputes.
Call Lusk Law, LLC today at (443) 535-9715 to schedule an appointment to learn more about how we can help you resolve your lease dispute.
How Our Attorneys Can Help You Resolve a Residential Lease Dispute
Drafting a lease is just the beginning.
While an attorney can help resolve a residential lease dispute by examining leases and negotiating with both landlords and tenants to solve the issues involved and defending your position if it comes to litigation, it is best to prevent disputes from arising in the first place.
At Lusk Law, we help landlords with all matters related to their property and leases. Some of the measures we take to prevent and resolve disputes are:
- Creating custom leases with clauses that limit the number of disputes that can arise in your dealings with tenants — and protect you if you are sued.
- Reviewing contracts and leases to make sure they are in compliance with Maryland and federal law and that all contracts are drafted and signed correctly. We review the details of all documents and make sure the language clearly spells out what is expected from all parties.
- Helping landlords screen tenants to prevent problems by investigating their past records as renters and their financial ability to meet payments.
- Being available to discuss any issues as they arise and to come up with solutions that can avoid litigation.
- Representing your interests in landlord-tenant court, district court, and circuit court if necessary. We manage a wide variety of cases in addition to breach of lease, including failure to pay rent, wrongful detainer, tenant holding over, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act.
Need to Resolve a Commercial Lease Dispute? We Can Help.
Commercial leases are generally more complicated than residential leases. There are more issues involved, and they often involve more money and longer periods of rental. Commercial leases also need clauses specific to a property, the parties involved, and the unique situation. The consequences of a breached commercial lease usually involve much more money than if a residential lease falls apart.
An attorney can consider all factors to draft commercial lease agreements that benefit the tenant and landlord while preventing or limiting problems and disputes over time. However, if issues arise, an experienced business attorney at Lusk Law can help resolve commercial lease disputes.
Depending on the situation, your commercial lease should be either a gross or net lease.
- Gross leases include all of the property owner’s costs — such as property tax, maintenance and insurance — in the monthly rent payment.
- Net leases require the tenant to pay for all or some of those costs while the landlord pays the rest.
Many commercial leases include aspects of both gross and net leases. In any case, all obligations must be spelled out clearly to prevent misunderstandings and disputes.
At Lusk Law, LLC, our attorneys will help you determine which type of lease is best suited to your situation. Call us today at (443) 360-5615.
Problems that Lead to Lease Disputes
There should be fewer problems when both sides understand their rights and obligations.
Maryland law requires that a landlord with five or more dwelling units for rent must include in each lease a statement that the premises will be available in a reasonably safe, habitable condition or a statement concerning the condition of the premises.
The lease must also spell out the landlord’s and the tenant’s obligations as to heat, gas, electricity, water, and repair of the premises. Tenants may request in writing an advance copy of the lease before signing so they are aware of all provisions and rules.
To avoid lease disputes, they should be written clearly and should plainly outline the responsibilities of tenant and landlord, and all parties should understand what they are agreeing to.
Ideally, both parties will have legal counsel so they can have their questions answered and concerns addressed. Disputes are less likely when both parties understand their rights and responsibilities.
Anticipate Potential Problems to Resolve Lease Disputes Before They Happen
Preventing disputes is much easier and cheaper than trying to resolve them.
According to the Maryland Attorney General, here are some of the most common issues that lead to residential lease disputes:
- Security deposits. The security deposit, to protect the landlord from damage to the property, may not be more than two months’ rent. The landlord must put the security deposit in an escrow account and return the deposit plus interest, less any damages rightfully withheld, within 45 days after the tenancy ends. The landlord must send a list of damages and costs to repair them by first-class mail within 45 days or forfeit the right to the security deposit. Disputes often arise as to what is damage and what is “normal wear and tear.”
- Rent increases or other changes in terms. Disputes may arise when terms of the lease change. Landlords must notify tenants with leases with an automatic renewal clause of a rent increase or any other change with enough notice for the tenant to decide whether to renew.
- Breaking a lease. Landlords can hold tenants who break a lease responsible for the rent due through the remainder of the lease, but must make a reasonable effort to re-rent the property.
- Failure to make repairs. Landlords are required to repair serious or dangerous defects they are notified about within a reasonable time, or tenants can pay rent into an escrow account established at the local District Court.
Serious conditions include:
- Lack of heat, light, electricity, sewage disposal, or water
- Rodent infestation
- Lead-based paint hazards
- Structural defects that threaten physical safety
- Conditions that present a serious fire or health hazard.
A tenant can also report the landlord to local authorities for further action if problems are not addressed. Should any of these common issues arise related to your rental property, we can help resolve the lease disputes so both parties can move forward without litigation.
Resolving Lease Disputes Without Going to Court
Trials are featured in movies and on TV but rarely used in real life.
Very few conflicts, including those involving leases, are resolved at a trial. Though that’s an avenue the parties may take, the process is very expensive and consumes a lot of time and energy better spent elsewhere. It can also be very antagonistic and negative, so it won’t serve you well if, despite your disagreement, you want to maintain a long-term relationship with the other party.
Another problem with litigation is that the parties give up control of the outcome to a judge or jury. Both parties hope for a win and to get everything they seek, but they also risk the other party’s winning the case so they get nothing. Often the outcome is both good news and bad news, which is normally the outcome when the parties work out an agreement without going to trial.
Negotiation is a good option no matter the type of lease. Mediation and arbitration are more expensive, so they may be a better fit for a commercial lease dispute:
We negotiate legal issues, contracts, and leases for our clients regularly. It’s a key part of our practice and an important skill we develop. When we negotiate, just as when we’re in a courtroom, we strongly protect our client’s rights and interests.
But you can’t effectively negotiate without a give-and-take with the other party. Both sides need a win of some sort, so trying to bully the other party by stonewalling or threatening them won’t end the dispute. You’ll just end up in court.
We talk to our clients so we understand what’s important to them. We need to know what’s negotiable, where they’re flexible, and the issues where they won’t bend much.
We negotiate based on protecting our client’s interests and goals, not their position. You may think you must get something specific out of the negotiations. Why is that important? Will you be harmed if you get a little less than that, especially if you receive something favorable in another issue?
Often negotiations resolve some, but not all, of the disputed issues. If the parties still want to reach an agreement, the next step could be mediation. It involves hiring a neutral third party to help the parties end their disagreement. Mediators are usually attorneys or retired judges who do this part- or full-time.
A good mediator will get the parties to focus on their needs and the big picture of the dispute and their relationship. Parties must understand that to resolve their dispute both need a positive outcome in some respect. A mediator may come up with a creative solution that neither the parties nor their attorneys thought about.
Arbitration is essentially a private trial. Instead of using a judge and/or jury in a courtroom where anyone can walk in and listen, using documents as evidence which anyone could read, the hearing is held privately. An arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators acts as judge and jury. Like mediators, they’re attorneys or retired judges.
Arbitration hearings are generally less complex, time-consuming, and expensive than trials. They are run with their own set of rules, which are not as detailed as those used in court. You don’t have all the legal and constitutional protections a trial provides, but you still reach a resolution after telling your side of the story and arguing your case.
The parties may jointly decide to go to arbitration, and the outcome may or may not be binding. Taking your dispute to arbitration, not court, may be required by the terms of the lease. Both sides may split the cost of arbitration or the party losing the dispute may need to pay for it.
Contact Us to Prevent and Resolve Lease Disputes
At Lusk Law, LLC, we help our clients avoid mistakes that lead to disputes and leases being breached, and we work to resolve problems if they do arise. We provide sound legal advice that can save you money and build your reputation. We help clients across Maryland, so contact us today at (443) 535-9715 to discuss your issues. We are Advocates For Life’s Obstacles and Opportunities.
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