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    Evictions 101: Do I need an Attorney to file for an Eviction?

    7/18/17 9:20 AM Brian Wojcik Eviction Notice, Evictions, landlord tenant law

    I am often asked if an attorney is necessary in filing an eviction. While not absolutely necessary (there are agents available to represent you in court), there are several compelling reasons to opt for an attorney. In my experience as a property manager, and having spent a significant amount of time in Rent Court, I saw many cases where an attorney would have made the difference for the landlord. The benefits of an attorney became crystal clear for me.

    First and foremost, attorneys are “Officers of the Court,” while agents are simply landlord representatives. Attorneys have to take an oath after they pass the bar exam, which is the reason why they do not need to swear in if a trial were to proceed. Judges are more inclined to give an attorney deference as compared to an agent. Implicit is trust and confidence, combined with trial experience, and knowledge of court law and procedures. If your tenant were to receive services from Legal Aid, you would be best served to have an attorney representing your case. An agent who may not likely know how to navigate legal arguments could cost you more time, money and heartache.

    Cost is likely the first concern when considering hiring and agent vs. an attorney. The only issue here is that if your case is lost or delayed due to simple error or an agent’s inability to fully argue on your behalf, you will lose considerably more money than you would have spent on an attorney.

    Below are a few real-life examples:

    • A case may be denied a continuance if disputed. Your hearing can get forced to trial by the judge at that moment. Attorneys have knowledge of trial procedure and rules unlike an agent. If not handled properly by an agent, the judge may rule in favor of the tenant. Once that happens, it’s over; the landlord has lost. That case cannot be re-opened.
    • Arguing provisions of a lease involves detailed understanding of landlord-tenant law. An attorney is skilled at making that argument in front of a judge in the event your lease may have some ambiguity. An example of this are utilities being charged as rent. An attorney is best suited to argue the nuance.
    • If an Agent is unable to satisfactorily able to argue the case, it could be continued costing you more time, money, and lost rent.
    • An attorney knows how to counter-argue the professional tenant, who is skilled at working the system to their advantage and making it more difficult for you to win the case.  Your situation could go from bad to worse; if your case isn’t handled properly or deftly - when it counts - it could be dragged out with a continuance or combined with Rent Escrow.
    • Attorneys understand tenant-landlord law and are able to navigate the nuance within the law in order to favor their argument. An example that often occurs at a Rent Court hearing is whether or not the property is licensed and whether or not the tenant is in the military. Attorneys as “officers of the court” carry an invisible presumption of truth badge which the court sees with confidence.
    • There have been times when an attorney offer their services on the spot to a tenant pro-bono when landlords are represented by an “agent.” One might imagine the reasons why. Those reasons are moot. The question to ask is: Do you want to be that landlord with an agent who has an experienced attorney representing your tenant?

    For these reasons, I knew that our offerings at Rent Court Manager had to include attorney representation. Fortunately, we’re been able to keep the costs comparable (or less). with greater service value. We are really proud to be able to make filing affordable for the private landlord or property manager filing tens or hundreds of cases. If you are a property manager, there is comfort in telling your clients that an attorney is being used, and that you have an affordable solution for them. If the case is met with some challenges, we can assist in explanations with authority and confidence.

     

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    Brian Wojcik

    Written by Brian Wojcik