How Much Can I Sue My Landlord for Emotional Distress?


Cassandra Nguy

Depending on the situation, a tenant can sue their landlord for emotional distress as long as they have evidence to back it up. A tenant can’t sue just because they had their feelings hurt. Nevertheless, your emotional distress may be caused by:

  • Unlawful clauses in a rental contract
  • Security deposit violations
  • Property damages
  • Violation of your privacy
  • Uninhabitable living conditions
  • Injury due to landlord’s neglect
  • Reimbursement
  • Unwarranted eviction
  • Discrimination

Tenants are protected by state and federal law when it comes to renting situations, but they can still be held liable for their actions.

If you are in need of help, contact LegalASAP to connect you with the right personal injury attorney. Most attorneys work under contingency fees meaning their plaintiff pays their attorney only when they win the case. Thus, you don’t pay a cent if the case is lost leaving no risk to you.

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Can I Sue My Landlord for Emotional Distress?

With a plausible reason, yes. Most tenants are struggling to get by due to the high-cost of housing. The average monthly rent in the US shot up to approximately $1,320 for a two-bedroom apartment in 2021. For tenants to afford rent while paying for other necessities, a renter would need to make almost $37 an hour.

Now that the pricing of homes and necessities have increased, it can be emotionally stressful for tenants to continue renting. Therefore, tenants should know their rights to prevent landlords from taking advantage of their contract.

Top Reasons to Sue Your Landlord for Emotional Distress

Top reasons for suing landlords caused by emotional distress are often cases involving:

  • Security deposits
  • Property damages
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Wrongful evictions

Security Deposits

Landlords often request security deposits from renters as a precaution that usually amounts to 1-2 months of rent. Landlords hold these deposits in case tenants cause any damages to the unit or breach their end of the contract.

However, tenants have the right to sue if landlords hold the security deposits for unjustified reasons. Tenants can also sue if the security deposit is an outrageous amount or if it’s unreasonably higher than other renters.

In California, landlords have 21 days to return the security deposit or provide an itemized receipt of deductions taken to repair the unit. Landlords must attach an invoice of itemized statements if deductions exceed $125.

Property Damages & Unsafe Living Conditions

In some cases, tenants can sue for damages caused by their landlords due to negligence. In California, the state’s Civil Code Sections 1941-1942 state that landlords are required to provide safe and habitable housing which includes:

  • Adequate and safe heat
  • Effective waterproofing with doors, windows, and roofs
  • Cleanliness in their renting property free of roaches, rats, vermin, and garbage
  • Stable plumbing and gas
  • Good running hot and cold water
  • Working electrical equipment
  • Maintained stairs and common areas

If your landlord is not making necessary repairs, you can sue in small claims court. If you’re planning to sue, you need a personal injury attorney who knows your state’s tenant laws.

Wrongful Eviction

It is wrong to evict tenants without probable reason. In California, the Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161 states landlords must follow the proper procedure if tenants have breached their leased agreement. However, tenants evicted without notice can sue landlords for violating their contract and renter’s rights.

How Do I Sue My Landlord for Emotional Distress?

It can be difficult suffering from the unnecessary burdens your landlord placed upon you. Submit a demand letter to your landlord if you feel your renter’s rights were violated. This document summarizes the problem to your landlord and highlights possible answers. Here’s an example demand letter for Colorado tenants.

Be sure to gather any evidence that proves your landlord has breached their end of the contract. If your landlord still doesn’t decide to reach out, then you find an attorney to legally protect yourself.

Proving Your Landlord’s Negligence

If you feel your landlord was negligent in their agreement, you need the right evidence so your case can be heard. Pictures, emails, and text messages can be viable proof showing your landlord has gone against their contract. Depending on the situation, they are liable for:

  • Incomplete or negligent repairs
  • Eviction without advanced notice
  • Failure to provide warning to tenants of dangerous conditions

Evidence to Use Against My Landlord for Emotional Distress

It is important to provide evidence to prove your case. This can be simple as proving that you are right and the landlord is wrong. Evidence regarding the damages can be:

  • Text messages, recorded calls, emails, videos
  • Pictures/images
  • Dates, receipts, statements, or any type of documents and contracts

Organizing your evidence is crucial when preparing to go to court. Thus, make sure to sort all the necessary evidence with at least three copies, one for you, the judge, and the landlord.

Examples of Emotional Distress Claims Against Landlords

Here are some examples of emotional distress claims against landlords:

  • In fear of one’s safety due to uninhabitable conditions. Not being able to sleep in fear their life is in jeopardy caused by your landlord’s negligence.
  • Having anxiety due to landlord stressful behavior and management.
  • Depression due to landlord violation of the contract.
  • Humiliation due to discriminatory verbal and physical behavior.

How is an Emotional Distress Settlement Calculated?

Emotional distress settlements are calculated according to the severity of your damages. For instance, if your landlord neglected certain repairs, injury caused by their negligent behavior would have a higher settlement. This would be due to non-economic losses like:

  • Permanent disfigurement
  • A long recovery process
  • Lost employment opportunity
  • Emotional pain caused from the incident

If you suffered physical injuries from your accident as well, save the evidence for this lawsuit. This includes evicting you without notice, disregarding repairs, raising the rent, and so on. Emotional distress is hard to quantify due to its subjectivity, but physical injuries are concrete losses that strengthen your claim.

Caps on Emotional Distress Claims

When it comes to emotional distress claims, some states have settlement caps on non-economic damages. Therefore, it’s better to research your state on how much you can get for emotional distress claims. Your settlement can reach two to five times the total costs of all medical treatment, lost wages, medications, etc.

Deadline to File a Claim Against My Landlord

Below are the list of deadlines to file a claim against your landlord under certain circumstances. Under the judicial branch in California, the deadline to file a claim against a landlord for:

  • Written contract or lease: 4 years from the date of the accident.
  • A verbal contract: 2 years from the date the contract was breached. 
  • Personal injury: 2 years from the date the injury happened. 
  • Property Damage: 3 years from the date the damage occurred.

Of course your deadline varies depending on your state, so check with an attorney to verify your case. File your claim as soon as possible so your evidence is fresh. You won’t have to worry about your case being thrown out of court for exceeding the deadline if you file early.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney to Protect You Against Your Landlord

Dealing with a landlord who ignores your rights and has caused you emotional distress can be exhausting. Which is why the best solution is to contact an attorney for your case. LegalASAP is connected with 500+ law firms with thousands of attorneys who are available and willing to help.

Fill out a free personal injury evaluation and be connected to an attorney as soon as possible. Or call 888-927-3080 available 24/7 and they can help you get in touch with an attorney.

Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at