Possible Defenses to Summary Ejectment

In order to raise these defenses, you must go to court at the time set for the trial and testify.

You also must have your witnesses present,(if any) and any documents or receipts which support your case. If the landlord claims that you are behind in rent, you can defend against this, if it is not true, with records showing payment (for example, receipts or canceled checks). To stop the landlord from getting possession of the premises, you must prove you owe no rent. Non-payment of any rent owed is never a defense to summary ejectment.

Failure to give proper notice is a defense if your landlord fails to give the required notice before beginning a summary ejectment action (see "When the Landlord Can Use Summary Ejectment to Evict a Tenant" and "Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent".) These notices do not have to be in writing unless the lease requires it, so this defense may involve the landlord's word against yours.

You may claim that the landlord failed to do necessary repairs to keep the dwelling fit and habitable and, therefore, you should not owe as much rent as the landlord is claiming. This will require proof (for example, witnesses, such as the City Housing Inspector). Even if you are successful, this will usually result in a reduced judgment for back rent and will not prevent a judgment for possession.

A landlord may evict you for breach of a lease provision. For example, the landlord may claim you are making excessive noise and disturbing the neighbors. The landlord must prove to the Magistrate that this occurred. Unless he has heard the disturbance himself, he must have witnesses present who can testify about it. If you have witnesses, you should have them testify.

The law says that a landlord may not evict a tenant because the tenant has tried to make the landlord keep the premises repaired, for example, by complaining to the landlord, or calling the Housing Inspector. If your landlord tries to evict you for this reason, it is called a "retaliatory eviction." You must prove to the court that the landlord is evicting you for this reason. You can use this as a defense any time within 12 months after you have tried to get the landlord to do the repairs or called the City Building or Housing Inspector. You cannot use this defense if you are behind on the rent or you have violated the lease in some other way. This defense may not be used if the landlord cannot make the repairs while you are still living in the premises, or intends to live in the premises him/herself.