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Tenant evicted for filing personal injury claim

A landlord could evict a tenant who sued the landlord for a personal injury, according to the Alaska Supreme Court. The tenant was a handyman at a motel who rented a motel room at a reduced rate. He sued the motel after he slipped and broke his leg. The motel owners responded by throwing him out. According to the handyman, this was illegal retaliation against him that violated the state’s landlord-tenant law.

But the Supreme Court sided with the landlord. It said it was true that the state landlord-tenant law prohibits retaliation against a tenant who tries to enforce his rights under the law. However, in this case the handyman wasn’t trying to enforce his rights under the landlord-tenant law; he was filing a personal-injury lawsuit, which is a different matter.

If the handyman had complained that the conditions at the motel were unsafe and had withheld his rent until they were fixed, then the landlord couldn’t have retaliated against him. But where the handyman claimed the conditions were unsafe and sought damages for medical expenses and pain and suffering for a broken leg, the landlord could legally force him to leave. It’s important to note that while many states have landlord-tenant laws similar to Alaska’s, the details of the law in each state vary, and the law might be different in other states.

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