A tenant attorney is one who is well-versed in the legal issues concerning landlord and tenant rights. If you have a dispute or a disagreement with your landlord regarding the contract of your lease a Los Angeles tenant attorney can be a valuable resource for you when you need it the most. Remember, lawyers may cost you money but hiring one is necessary to protect your rights as a renter.
Most issues tenants face are minor and can be resolved easily with common sense and examining credible sources on landlord-tenant law, like a local tenants’ rights group. The more you know and understand your legal rights, the better.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Tenant Rights section provides us with a wide range of state and local resources, particularly links to fair housing groups, legal aid organizations, rent control boards, and tenant unions for each state. Even those who don’t qualify for legal aid services can still find relevant information on tenant rights on several legal aid websites. You can find websites with useful articles on tenant rights, breaking a lease to mold in rentals, and even small claims court (in case you are involved in a dispute on your security deposit).
Some tenant-landlord issues, however, are not easily resolved and can even make your stay a lot less enjoyable—or worse you may not even be able to stay at the rental apartment at all! In situations like these, getting the help of a Los Angeles tenant attorney might be the most effective, but costly, way to protect your rights.
If your Landlord is Evicting You
If your landlord suddenly serves you with a termination notice and you intend to fight it, you can get more chance of success when you get the help of a Los Angeles tenant attorney. Choose a lawyer that is knowledgeable on landlord-tenant law and has years of experience fighting against unlawful evictions. A good lawyer can come up with effective strategies and/or solutions you may not be aware of. For example, a lawyer could claim that your landlord’s decision to evict you was retaliatory, and therefore illegal, if there is evidence to support such a defense.
If your Landlord is Evicting You without Following Proper Court Procedures
According to the law, landlords must abide by eviction procedures ascribed by state and local law. If your landlord tries to kick you out by taking matters into their own hands—for example, cancelling your utilities, removing your possessions, or by locking you out—get yourself a Los Angeles tenant attorney ASAP! As a tenant, it is important to know that these types of “self-help” remedies are clearly illegal. No matter how strong a landlord’s case is for ending a tenant’s contract, they do not have the right to confiscate, or threaten any self-help actions against their tenants.
If your Landlord Discriminates Against You
If you believe or there is evidence suggesting that your landlord is discriminating against you, you may need the help of a Los Angeles tenant attorney to stop the illegal actions and help you recover from any harm you suffered. Your lawyer can sue the landlord in court.
Another thing that you can do is to file a fair housing complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or with a state or local agency affiliated with the HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP).
The HUD and FHAP-affiliated local agencies receive more than 10,000 discrimination complaints every year. If you file a report with the HUD and their investigation reveals that your landlord has indeed been discriminating you, you will get the benefit of having a lawyer from the HUD represent you in front of an administrative law judge for free. The judge can grant you compensation and attorney’s fees, slap your landlord with penalties, and order other relief.
Your Landlord Refuses to Make the Necessary Repairs
If your landlord refuses to carry out important obligations under your lease and the law, this could lead to major problems in the long run. For example, your landlord keeps delaying the repair of the heating system until winter is well underway, or if they ignore your request to fix a broken window until a burglary occurs.
In the cases mentioned above, it would be wise to implement one of your state’s tenant remedies on your own (such as “repair and deduct” or rent withholding), but you might need the help of a seasoned Los Angeles tenant attorney to guide you on how to do it right. A good lawyer can communicate with your landlord on your behalf, and explore the possibility of a settlement or, if necessary, filing a case against them.
If Your Landlord Doesn’t Fulfill Their Promises
In many cases, landlords make promises to encourage people to rent from them. For instance, if a prospective tenant is concerned about the neighborhood crime rate, the landlord might make promises like installing more security cameras, a more effective intercom system, or a gated parking lot. If the landlord refuses to honor such promise later on, you can have your lawyer write a warning to your landlord and remind them that they can be held liable for some criminal activities at their rentals. You can also threaten them with a lawsuit unless they follow through with their promise.
Hiring a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break the bank. Anyone can find a lawyer who will agree to meet them for an hour and work as their coach. It all depends on their needs, their budget, and confidence in their ability to handle the matter on their own. Even limited legal help can make a huge difference, and it might be all that a tenant needs to steer them towards a more favorable outcome.
Check for a clause on attorney’s fees in your rental agreement
Most landlords include an “attorneys’ fees” clause in their rental agreement in order to avoid frivolous lawsuits. If your lease or rental agreement has this particular clause, you may be granted reimbursement for your attorney’s fees and court costs if you win a lawsuit against your landlord.
An attorney’s fees clause in your lease will also make it easier for you to find a lawyer to represent you since the landlord pays the lawyer’s bill if you win. However, do take note that the clause only applies to disputes based on the rental agreement (such as security deposit issues, illegal evictions, and rents), and not on disputes that involve discrimination, personal injury, or other similar matters.
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