In the United States a person may file a civil suit against a landlord up to two years after the last violation of a federal law or breach of conciliation agreement delivered by the Secretary of Housing And Urban Development has occurred. If a person has filed a complaint and a conciliation agreement is pending with a local agency or Housing And Urban Development, no suit may be filed for that particular complaint because it's considered resolved. In some states, an individual is only allowed to sue for actual damages that a landlord has caused. A person may only sue for punitive damages when the actions of a landlord are found to be of a malicious nature. In most cases, renters will sue for expenses, repairs and illegal rent hikes. For more information about filing a civil suit is a real estate case, contact a real estate lawyer in your area.