Why Every Landlord and Tenant Should Have an Attorney.
Let’s be honest: Most people don’t WANT an attorney. Most people only hire us when they NEED an attorney. Determining when they NEED an attorney is, for the most part, purely subjective. Until a lawsuit gets filed. Then it becomes objective. And necessary.
Today, as I sat in court during a FULL Landlord-Tenant docket, I watched as the Judge dismissed multiple lawsuits in which a Landlord was, while representing himself/herself, trying to get his property back from a tenant – and failed. I also observed judgments being granted against individual tenants who chose to represent themselves – and yet had at least 2 valid legal arguments to be made in their defense. In nearly every one of these cases, there was a common thread. The common thread was that the losing party failed to have an attorney representing them. The losing party also clearly did not have an attorney review any of the documents prior to court or prior to the lease relationship. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (follow me for a second): “Big Mistake…Big…Huge!”
I often hear from both landlords and tenants a million reasons why they did not hire an attorney before the lease relationship began:
“we were in agreement on everything”, “its not like this is a million dollar listing”, “we got along”, “we were friends”, “attorneys are too expensive”, etc.
Having an attorney review your documents, on behalf of a Landlord or Tenant, can often protect BOTH parties. Often the attorney can provide that objective (some might call it “cynic”) perspective to potential issues that neither party thought about. If you’re a Landlord, your attorney can point out areas that might prevent you from successfully getting your property back if your tenant defaults on their lease. If you’re a Tenant, your attorney can point out liability issues that were never mentioned when you and your landlord were loving on each other.
Either way, the up front costs are WAY more economical than hiring an attorney the night before trial to clean up a mess. And definitely WAY more economical than representing yourself, spending 4 hours sitting in court for your case to be called – only to have it dismissed or judgment rendered against you within 2 minutes.
Just don’t hate the lawyers.