ARE LANDLORD – TENANT ISSUES RESIDENTIAL OR COMMERCIAL IN NATURE?
We handle residential and commercial tenant issues, including the rental of a home or apartment. There are separate statutes that govern residential and commercial properties. They are really two different areas of law. Additionally, the scale of cases is much greater in commercial disputes, and we do have a couple of those types of cases going on now. They have been much longer, and more involved than residential cases.
What Are the Most Common Types of Real Estate Disputes that Your Firm Tends to Handle?
Most of our cases are property owners trying to evict tenants, and very often, it will be a communication breakdown with poor tenants. Those types of situations are strictly, where a proprietor will involve attorneys, because they have tried and failed to communicate with the tenants in a negotiation process. We have had some situations where roommates are unclear about the agreements. At this point, most people will hire an attorney, because there is nothing in writing and it is very complicated to figure out exactly what the situation should be. In those types of situations, we would analyze the legal and factual basis to try to sort it out, so we can help everyone involved. Sometimes, we have foreclosures and those can be a bit involved too.
Generally, property owner cases involve a tenant who simply does not pay the rent, or cannot afford to pay the rent. There are specific procedures that need to be implemented in order to terminate the tenancy, and in those cases, the landlord needs to act as quickly as possible. It does take several weeks to comply with all the procedures, and we can help make sure that it is accomplished as quickly as possible with as little expense to the property owner. On the tenant’s side, sometimes there are wrongful evictions where we will assist a tenant in fighting that eviction. For example, it might be in retaliation for the tenant reporting unsafe conditions of the property, and maybe issues that arise when landlords and tenants try to set up a work trade arrangement, and they do not agree on what has been accomplished, and how much money is owed. Those are just some examples.
Do You Represent Both Landlords and Tenants in Real Estate Disputes?
We do not represent both sides in the same case, but we do accept cases on behalf of both landlords and tenants. Many times these cases have problem tenants that cannot afford to pay, or have created other problems, and they are trying to stay in the dwelling as long as they can. That is the most common type of case we see, to help the landlord deal with those tenants and be able to limit their rental losses.
What Resolution Tools Can Be Used to Either Avoid or Resolve a Landlord-Tenant Issue?
The key is always open communication. Usually, the tenancy will start on a good note and it is important to keep those open lines of communication on going. Document everything in writing as much as possible to be very clear on what both sides mean. If there is open communication, many times, these problems can be avoided. It is also important to contact an attorney the moment a tenant stops paying rent. Many landlords let that sort of situation drag on for a while, and if an attorney is contacted right away, the dispute can be avoided, or we can help to make sure that proper steps are taken so that if the tenant continues not to pay rent, the landlord has not lost much time.
I recommend that as soon as the tenant fails to pay rent that the property owner issues the required five day notice of form. That sets in gear a series of deadlines. At any point if the tenant wants to catch up on rent and make things right, then the property owner can accept that, but at least by giving the initial notice, and contacting an attorney immediately, the landlord can move forward with the threat of eviction and an actual eviction if necessary.
When Is It a Good Idea for A Landlord or A Tenant to Seek the Services of An Attorney?
If a landlord has a tenant who is causing problems, such as not paying rent, if they want to get the tenant evicted, we can share the proper forms for doing so at no cost, or minimal cost. It is important not to let the situation sit. They should contact an attorney to be informed of one’s right of way, whether you are the landlord or the tenant. As soon as a problem develops, an attorney can help to either get the process in motion and prepare the paperwork, or give recommendations as to how the dispute can be resolved without having to go that route.
Therefore, most people should know their rights and have an understanding of the law as quickly as possible before trying to solve this issue on their own. Then they can decide if they want to work with the other party directly or have us intervene. At least we can advise them of their rights and what the law requires, and offer some recommendations. We write many advisory letters that explain to both parties what exactly the situation is. Sometimes, there will be an issue that is a breach of condition of the lease. In some situations, a dispute can be avoided by a very strong letter from an attorney, which can cut costs for the property owner, as opposed to going to court.
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