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Legal Research & Social Justice: Guideposts on the Path to Improve the World: Landlord-Tenant

This guide accompanied a talk presented September 3, 2019 as part of the UNM School of Law Social Justice Lunchbox Series.

A Familiar Story

"So much of my landlord/tenant law practice involves the same fact pattern:
landlord threatens to call ICE when tenants ask for repairs."

      -Amanda Gallegos, UNMSOL Alumna

Overview of Landlord-Tenant Law

The most common landlord-tenant cases are:

  • evictions (called writs of restitution),
  • suits by tenants to recover damage deposits, and
  • claims by landlords for past due rent or excessive damages caused by tenant after vacating the unit.

In eviction actions, the tenant will receive a summons and notice of hearing. Eviction actions are quick, the trial date will be 7-10 days from the date the papers are served.  The tenant should, but is not required to, tell his or her side of the story by filing a written answer to the complaint or petition.

The tenant must appear in court on the date and time set out in the notice of hearing. If the tenant fails to appear, the court will likely issue a judgment granting everything requested by the landlord.

Landlord-Tenant Resources

New Mexico Laws

  • Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act, NMSA § 47-8-1 through § 47-8-52.  Residential housing.  May apply to stays in a hotel or motel for a more extended time than a couple of days.
  • Mobile Home Park Act, NMSA § 47-10-1 through § 47-10-23.  Mobile home spaces must be leased.
  • New Mexico Human Rights Act, NMSA § 28-1-1 through § 28-1-14.  Protects many tenants from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or spousal affiliation.

Federal Laws

  • Fair Housing Act, 42 USC § 3601 et seq.  Protects many tenants who are discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status or disability.
  • Laws applicable to section 8 vouchers and public housing are found throughout the USC and CFR.

Immigrant Tenant Protection Acts

Magistrate & Metro Courts

Landlord-tenant disputes are most frequently resolved in the local Magistrate Court. In Albuquerque, it will be Metro Court.  

  • Magistrate Courts do not have a record (a taped or written history of the trial), so any appeal will be de novo.
  • In Metro Court, appeals are from the record but the Court will only make a formal record if one of the parties requests it before or at the start of the hearing.

Keeping Records

Anything that is not in writing can lead to serious misunderstandings between the tenant and the landlord.  Both parties should keep copies of the following:

  • the signed lease;
  • receipts, or some other form of proof of payments, for rent, deposits, and damages; and
  • significant communications, whenever possible.

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