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National Capital Legal Services provides high quality representation in a wide range of civil matters in major metropolitan jurisdictions New York, Washington D.C., Commonwealth of Virginia and Maryland. At National Capital Legal Service, we will assist you with solving such matters as: Landlord Tenant matters (Discrimination, Eviction, Privacy, Repairs/Building Conditions, Security Deposit, Violations of Terms of Lease or Rental Agreement); Creditor’s Rights (collection of debts on behalf of creditors); Breach of Contract; Consumer Protection Matters (for example product liability, privacy rights, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, and other).

No matter what type of civil law matter you are dealing with, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney, who is familiar with all the steps that it takes to negotiate a positive outcome, or to pursue a civil litigation matter in court.
Landlord - Tenant Law
Landlord Tenant matters are primarily governed by state law, but county and municipal codes, as well as federal statutes, may affect your issue. It is also important to check both state and federal sources that incorporate recent changes to the law.

National Capital Legal Services will assist you with solving a variety of Landlord – Tenant matters that you may face, such as: Discrimination, Eviction, Privacy, Repairs/Building Conditions, Security Deposit, Violations of Terms of Lease or Rental Agreement.

Tenant’s Rental Rights
Renting someone else’s home does not give that person the right to violate tenant’s rental rights. While a landlord does have their own rights as well, some landlords go beyond their boundaries and violate tenant rental rights.
Tenant’s rental rights cover a variety of topics including:
Sudden utility changes in rent
Unfair evictions
A home should be someone’s safe haven and no one should feel scared, worried or violated in their home because of their landlord – even if that person technically owns the home. Many landlords take it upon themselves to enter a tenant’s home without a justifiable cause (such as a true emergency) or without notice. This is a violation of tenant rental rights and a violation of privacy. In other situations, certain landlords may begin harassing their tenant for no real reason, such as their gender, race, sexual orientation, or other quality that does not affect their ability of being a good tenant. A tenant should not have to put up with any mental abuse from their landlord.

When you are living in someone else’s home, it is usually their responsibility to fix certain utilities, unless stated otherwise in the lease. For example, being without a working air conditioning in the hot summer months or being without a working heating system when temperatures drop below freezing is another violation of tenant rental rights.

Another serious problem that tenants experience is raised rent or unfair eviction. If the tenant signed a one year lease at $1000 a month, the tenant is entitled to stay in their home for that amount of time and for that rate. If a landlord wishes to raise the rent or force their tenant to move, they must wait until the lease is up and give proper notice. A landlord cannot evict a tenant unless the tenant did something wrong or failed to pay rent.
Tenant’s Eviction Rights
Eviction is one of the most painful problems that may arise in Landlord-Tenant relationship. When a landlord indicates a notice of eviction, the tenant-landlord relationship is considered terminated. A landlord may give a notice of eviction for some different reasons. State laws vary but in general, the process for eviction is similar in many states and an eviction lawyer may be needed.

Some reasons a landlord may give for eviction include:

Noise and disturbing their neighbors
Damaging property
Violating building
Delinquent rent
No reason but end of a lease term with vacating
Tenant violated the rental agreement

The tenant has choices when not paying rent, one of these is called construction eviction. Basically, this means that the property needs repairs in order to be habitable and the tenant is not paying rent until better living conditions are provided. The court may decide to reduce the rent amount owed or force the landlord to make property repairs.

In many states, the landlord must serve the tenant a notice to quit before the landlord files a court action of eviction. A hearing will then take place on the complaint in a district court and a judgment will be made.Landlords must have a viable cause without discriminating when considering an eviction notice. Remember, a justified cause may still turn into a discriminating lawsuit. An advice of an experienced attorney will be necessary to help with the civil dispute if you are facing an eviction.

Landlord cannot just throw the tenant out. The landlord must begin an eviction action in court to have you removed from the premises. The landlord cannot decide the law on his or her own when you don’t pay your rent.

If the landlord locked you out, first, contact the police. In most states, a lockout is a crime and the police will order the landlord to let you back into the property.

Tenants' Rights
Every tenant, no matter where they live, has the right to a livable dwelling. The landlord has a duty to provide for the upkeep and maintenance of his or her property, and if this duty is not upheld, the tenant may have a right to legal recourse. In addition, if you’ve been denied housing or unfairly treated because of unlawful discrimination, we can aggressively argue your case.

If your application to rent an apartment is rejected, you have a right to know why. It is illegal for a landlord to refuse your rental application for discriminatory reasons. Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of:
National origin
Familial status (including not
allowing children, discrimination
against pregnant women)
Physical disability
Mental disability (including
alcoholism and past drug addiction) 
States and many cities have similar housing laws, and yours may prohibit other kinds of discrimination, including:
Marital status
Sexual orientation 
A landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because of a “no pets” policy if you have a trained helper animal, such as a seeing-eye dog, or a dog that helps you negotiate with a physical or mental disability. If the landlord does refuse, he or she has violated federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Landlord’s Rights
It is not only the tenant who can be experiencing problems with the landlord. In some cases, it is the landlord who experiences problems from the tenant. When a tenant fails to live up to his or her responsibilities, a landlord may take legal action against that person.Laws and procedures dating back centuries protect a landlord’s right to be paid in full for allowing tenants to reside on the property. Unpaid rent can be cause for eviction; however, some holdover tenants may require more severe action such as lockouts and seizure of personal property.

Tenants are responsible for:

Paying rent on time
Abiding by the landlord’s terms
Keeping the home in the condition it originally was in from the move-in date
Not causing a nuisance

While many tenants don’t like it, landlord’s legal rights include the right to enter the premises. Landlord’s legal rights state that a landlord may enter at any time if there is a real emergency. Or, if they wish to enter for no particular reason at all, this is the landlord’s right- but the landlord must give proper notice to the tenant.Depending on the state that the home is located in, this proper notice is usually anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. Some tenants are so against this that they go to extremes such as changing the locks, refusing to let the landlord inside, or by hiring a lawyer to fight the landlord, even though the landlord was within his or her legal rights to enter the premises.

If a tenant is late with rent and a certain amount of time has passed, landlord’s legal rights allow the landlord to legally evict that tenant. However, this still leaves problems for the landlord. Not only did the landlord miss out on a certain amount of rent, but it may take a while before the landlord can find someone else to live in the vacant home. This causes the landlord to lose money which he or she did not plan on losing due to the problematic tenant living there. Other times, a tenant may not leave without a fight and this is when a landlord – tenant attorney is essential.

Even if a tenant is paying their rent on time, there are a number of ways that landlord’s legal rights may be violated. While it is the tenant’s home for the time being, it is still their responsibility to realize it legally belongs to someone else and they need to respect their landlord’s property and their rules. A tenant may constantly violate noise regulations, causing the neighbors to complain.Another example of a landlord’s legal rights violation is the fact that some landlords may not allow pets in their home, yet their tenant decides to ignore this rule. Other times, a landlord may discover that a tenant has destroyed something or many things in their home! A landlord may be able to evict a tenant that does such things, but they are still left with damage inside of their home due to the tenant’s behavior and lack of respect. A help of an experienced professional is essential in situations like this!

Lease Agreement

A lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant that gives the tenant the right to possession of the landlord’s property under certain terms and conditions. The lease may be verbal, particularly if it is for a short period of time; however, the law requires a written lease if the tenancy is for a year or more. Whether required or not, a written lease is always best. If the lease is written, you should never sign it before you have read and understood its contents. Do not sign a lease that is blank or has any blank spaces. The lease, once signed, is the contract between the landlord and the tenant. Verbal promises should not be relied on. You should obtain a fully completed and signed copy of the written lease.
In circumstances where the law requires a written lease, it usually requires that certain provisions be included in the lease, in addition to the address of the property being rented. The lease should at least contain the following information:
name and address of the landlord
name and address of the tenant
length of the lease
the amount of the rent
names of the persons who may occupy the unit
the amount and nature of deposits and conditions for the return of deposits
the dates that rent is due
the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant for maintenance and utilities
conditions that will permit the landlord or tenant to terminate the lease before the end of the lease term
Sometimes federal law as well as state and local law may require additional provisions to appear in a lease. If you have questions about a lease, consult an attorney.
Maintenance of the Property
Unless required by the lease or by state or local law, the landlord is not responsible for maintaining the property, other than to insure that dangerous conditions do not exist on the property. Local law frequently requires that the property is habitable and that a unit meets certain minimal standards before it can be rented.
If something in the rental unit needs repaired, then the landlord is required to repair it, however the tenant must notify the landlord about the problem in writing.
If the tenant’s property is damaged by the landlord’s failure to make repairs required by the lease or law, the tenant may file a civil action for damages against the landlord. However, the landlord may not be liable for damage that is beyond his or her control. Tenants may purchase renter’s insurance to protect themselves and their property in this situation.

Payment of Rent
The tenant pays rent for the possession of the rented property. Leases usually require that the rent be due on a certain date. Sometimes, leases contain provisions for grace periods during which the landlord may elect to waive late charges. However, grace periods usually do not extend the time for payment of the rent. When the tenant fails to pay the rent, the landlord may take legal steps to collect the rent or to remove the tenant for nonpayment.

There are very few times when a tenant may withhold rent because the landlord has not performed an obligation of the lease. However, the tenant may be entitled to withhold rent where dangerous defects exist because the landlord has failed to perform an obligation under the lease.

Additionally, the landlord should receive written notice of the defect by certified mail and have a reasonable opportunity to repair a defect after receiving notice from the tenant. The landlord may be given notice of housing code violations from the county or city housing department which would entitle the tenant to withhold rent for conditions dangerous to the health, life or safety of an occupant.
Security Deposits
The law permits the landlord to collect a security deposit. This deposit usually may not exceed two times the monthly rent. In federally subsidized housing, the security deposit usually may not exceed $50. It protects the landlord from damage to the leased unit caused by the tenant or rent owed by the tenant.

The landlord is not required to use the security deposit for rent while the tenant still occupies the property, nor is the tenant responsible for damage to the property due to ordinary wear and tear.

When the tenant first moves into the rental unit, the tenant should make a list of damages that exist at that time in writing and send a copy to the landlord. When the tenant moves out, the landlord will inspect the property to determine whether any damage was incurred during the lease. The tenant may be present at the inspection if they advise the landlord by certified mail that he or she is going to move, the date of the move and the new address. The tenant’s notice must be mailed at least 15 days before the moving date. The landlord must notify the tenant by certified mail of the time and date that the rental unit is inspected. This date must be within 5 days before or after the moving date of the tenant.

Within 30 days after the tenant moves, the landlord must advise the tenant in writing about any damages that are being deducted from the security deposit. The landlord must return the security deposit, less damages, within 45 days. If a landlord fails to return a security deposit as required by law, the tenant may recover up to three times the amount of the security deposit wrongfully withheld, plus attorney fees, by filing an action in court.

This does not apply where a tenant has abandoned or was evicted from the premises. Special requirements must be met in such cases.
Termination of the Lease
Substantial Breach:The landlord may terminate a lease before its end if the tenant substantially breaches the lease. In order to do so, the landlord must send a notice to the tenant that states the tenant has breached the lease and indicates the landlord wants possession of the rental unit. If the tenant does not move out, the landlord may go to court and ask for eviction of the tenant. If the court determines that the breach by the tenant is substantial and warrants the tenant’s eviction, the court will issue an order evicting the tenant.

There are cases where the landlord’s actions allow the tenant to terminate the lease. Such a case is called a constructive eviction. A tenant should seek the advice of an attorney before attempting to terminate a lease because of the landlord’s actions, since the law in this area is complex.

Month-to-Month Tenancies:If a tenant is on a month-to-month lease, and is not federally subsidized, the tenancy may be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant after one month’s written notice (two months in Montgomery and Baltimore City). It is illegal for a landlord or tenant to terminate a lease for a retaliatory reason (for example the landlord terminates a lease because the tenant complains about the conditions of the leased property). However, it is not necessary for either the tenant or the landlord to give a reason for the notice under normal circumstances. Where the tenant is federally subsidized, the landlord may terminate the tenancy only if the landlord has a valid reason for terminating the tenancy.

Laws governing Landlord-Tenant relationship

Federal Law

Various federal, state and local laws and ordinances protect housing rights.

Federal statutes, like the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 USC 3602 et seq.), the Americans With Disabilities Act (42 USC 12101) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 701) affect the state Landlord Tenants Acts.

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate because of a person’s race, sex, national origin or religion. Some local laws forbid discrimination against unmarried persons, children, homosexuals, disabled persons or others.

Federal housing law provides such protections against discrimination as:

Advertising cannot contain any statement indicating a preference or limitation based on any of the protected classes listed above.
The landlord may not make any similar implication or statement.
A landlord cannot say that an apartment is not available when in fact it is available.
A landlord cannot use a different set of rules for assessing applicants belonging to a protected class.
A landlord cannot refuse to rent to persons in a protected class.
A landlord cannot provide different services or facilities to tenants in a protected class or require a larger deposit, or treat late rental payments differently.
A landlord cannot end a tenancy for a discriminatory reason.
A landlord cannot harass you.

It is important to remember that the federal housing statutes do not apply to all rental property. The main exceptions are owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units (e.g., a duplex), housing offered by religious groups or private organizations for their members, housing designated for senior citizens, and single-family housing being rented without discriminatory advertising or a real estate broker.

 State Law

Because landlord-tenant laws vary significantly depending on where you live, it’s important to check your state laws for specifics. Also, different localities have established landlord-tenant commissions to enforce these laws and may provide information about the local rules.


The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), Sections 55-248.2 through 55-248.40 of the Code of Virginia, establishes the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth. Only the courts can enforce those rights and responsibilities.

The VRLTA handbook, published by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, contains additional information and a copy of the law.


The Annotated Code of Maryland, Sections 8-101 to 8-604 govern the Real Property in general and Landlord and Tenant law in particular. Sections 4-401(4), (6) (i) (ii), (7) (i) (ii) establish an exclusive jurisdiction of District Court over landlord-tenant actions. Article 83B of Sections 2-801 to 2-907 provides for Elderly rental housing & rental allowance programs. Federal lower income housing assistance “sec. 8” and Designated housing for elderly and disabled families are covered by 42 U.S.C. § 1437 (f) and (e).

The landlord – tenant laws are enforced by Maryland Human Relations Commission. The commission may help to resolve disputes, conduct investigations, hold hearings, issue orders, award damages and civil penalties and seek the help of the court to enforce its orders.

Washington, D.C.

The Annotated Code of District of Columbia Sections 42-3201 to -3610 and Municipal regulations Title 14 Sections 300 to 311 regulate the landlord – tenant relationships that arise in Washington DC.

The District of Columbia Housing Code (DCHC) is enforced by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ Housing Regulation Administration (HRA).
Breach of Contract
Overview of a Breach of Contract Law

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties to do or not to do something. Three elements are needed for a contract to have been formed:

1) a meeting of the minds on the terms and conditions of the contract;

2) intention of the parties to be bound;

3) the contract was supported by consideration.

A contract is not necessarily a written agreement: it may be implied orit may be an oral contract.

A breach is simply a failure to fully perform a duty owed under a contract when the failure was without legal excuse. A breach occurs when:

one party to a contract makes it impossible for the other parties to the contract to perform;
a party to the contract does something against the intent of the contract; or
a party absolutely refuses to perform the contract. 

Not all breaches of contract are necessarily “contract killers” which would end up in a lawsuit. Two types of breach exist: what is called a material or total breach and what is called a simple or partial (immaterial) breach. A material breach is when the duty not performed is so important that it affects the central purpose of the contract. If a contract has been materially breached, then you are excused from performing your part of the bargain, you may end the contract, and you may seek damages.

If the breach is partial or immaterial, you may have the option to:

ignore or excuse the defect and continue on as if nothing occurred,
point out the problem to the responsible side and give it/she/him an opportunity to fix it,
refuse to pay anything more until it is fixed, or
correct the work yourself and deduct the cost from any payment.
Damages for Breach of Contract
The first thing to know about damages is that if the other party has breached, you have a duty to mitigate damages. Even if the other party has breached, you cannot delay in taking reasonable steps to avoid impending damages.

You will be entitled to an amount necessary to place you in the economic position you would have been in had the contract not been breached. In general, calculate damages by calculating the amount of money or value you would have received had the contract not been breached; add incidental damages; add consequential damages, if any; subtract any money you saved since you did not have to complete the contract. As you can see, often the damages for a breach are little or none.

Since consequential damages must be foreseeable at the time of the contract, it is generally a good idea to make the other party aware as soon as possible the extent and types of damages you will incur if he continues with the breach.

You cannot recover damages that are speculative or based on guesswork or conjecture. In many instances, this rule precludes the recovery of many elements of damage. This rule often limits recovery in lost profits sought by a new business since such profits are considered merely speculative. If the business is an ongoing business with a history of profits, damages may well include lost profits suffered through collateral contracts or from collateral sources if otherwise foreseeable and proved with certainty.

You may have the right to specific performance of the contract if the goods or services are “unique.” This would include heirlooms, priceless works of art, output and requirements contracts, situations where the goods cannot be “covered” or replaced.

Some contracts contain a liquidated damage provision specifying the amount of damages or types of damages if the contract is breached.

Under certain circumstances a breach of contract may also give rise to a tort cause of action and damages as well. For example, if the other party is to process your loan application and negligently fails to do so.

Where the matter is substantial, the advice of an attorney can help you.
Creditors and Debtors Rights
Creditor’s Rights is a specialized practice area focused on the collection of debts on behalf of creditors.

National Capital Legal Services offers assistance in legal collections, from small unsecured amounts to large, multi-million dollar accounts involving complex methods of collateralization.

We will provide you with high quality service including:

Filing lawsuits and using other legal collection techniques to collect consumer debts (i.e. debts owed by individuals).
Filing lawsuits and using other legal collection techniques to collect commercial debts (i.e. debts owed by businesses).
Representing a creditor’s interests in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Foreclosure of homes or commercial real estate if the purchaser defaults on payment.
Recovery of secured goods (e.g. automobiles) if the purchaser defaults on payment.
Consumer Protection
Consumer protection law or consumer law is considered an area of public law that regulates private legal relationships between individual consumers and the businesses that sell those goods and services.

A variety of laws at both the federal and state levels regulate consumer affairs. Among them are the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Federal consumer protection laws are mainly enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. At the state level, many states have a Department of Consumer Affairs devoted to regulating certain industries and protecting consumers who use goods and services from those industries.

Consumer protection laws deal with credit repair, debt repair, product safety, service contracts, bill collector regulation, pricing, utility turnoffs, consolidation, personal loans that may lead to bankruptcy and much more.

National Capital Legal Services represents clients in a wide range of consumer protection matters, including but not necessarily limited to product liability, privacy rights, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, and other consumer/business interactions.