What can we do about a small claims action against us and what are we entitled to countersue for regarding a rental?

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2011

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What can we do about a small claims action against us and what are we entitled to countersue for regarding a rental?

My husband and I rented from my aunt and uncle. During our time there we found out they were charging us for their barn electric (not taking it off of the electric bill when giving it to us). Additionally, the home was deemed untenantable by the building inspector (without our knowledge until right before we moved out). We plowed for them, hauled wood, installed hot water heater and plumbing, went 30 days without usable water, and the septic overflowed. Now they are suing us for the last 2 months rent (was offered to them and they told us to just leave and didn’t take it) and the electric bill still owed (their’s)

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you resided there, then you probably still owe them for the rent, even if they did not accept it at the time; on the other hand, if you had to leave and could not reside there--owing to health or safety issues, or the building inspector declaring declaring that the space could not be tenanted--then you would not owe the rent. You would owe electric for any time you were there and did not pay it if that had been the agreement between you and the landlord;  if you were not supposed to pay the electric, then not only should you not pay the last 2 months, but you could possibly sue them to collect what you were improperly charged during the entire time you resided there.

That's the law. As a practical matter, what you should do depends in large part on how much money is owed; for smaller amounts, it may be better to pay it or try to settle rather than litigate.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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