April 29, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver
“I run a property management company in a state that did away with its moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent. But while it was in effect, the ability to pay our own people was severely limited and I had to let almost everyone go.
“None of my current staff have ever presented an eviction case in court and this scares me. I would appreciate your suggestions that will help us. Do you know of good, on-line resources or videos to watch?”
Back to Normal = Huge Increase in Eviction Lawsuits
As the country slowly gets back to normal and tenants become obligated to pay rent, eviction lawsuits have skyrocketed across the country. But simply because a well-documented eviction lawsuit has been filed does not in of itself mean a successful outcome.
As you will see, today, winning your case has become much more difficult, as the property owner or representative will often need to address defenses to the eviction that tenants will raise – “defenses” that are often pure fabrications.
Rogue Tenant Lawyers Extort Property Owners
Across the country there is a cottage industry of rogue law firms that specialize in representing tenants who haven’t paid rent, are sued for eviction, then falsely claim landlord violations of health and safety codes, harassment, and on it goes, in an effort to stop the eviction and get a payday for the deadbeat tenant.
These lawyers are an embarrassment to the legal profession, and I’ve had the most interesting conversations with several who, like one from San Diego, admits their Bar membership is “A license to legally extort money from landlords and obtain months of rent-free occupancy.”
He added, “My ex-wife lectured me about right and wrong and that’s why she is my ex! I don’t care what you or anyone thinks. For me it’s all about winning, getting well paid for it and morality – helping deadbeat tenants steal – doesn’t matter.”
One “tenant” firm advertises three packages:
– Basic “We get you 1 to 2 ½ month delay in being evicted.”
– Standard “Provides a 4 month delay.”
– Premium gives you a 4 to 12 months delay!
I tried reaching them for comment and was unable.
So, when faced with an industry dedicated to ripping off property owners, when you finally get to court, being well prepared is critical.
State Court Resources, You Tube, Observe in Court, Judge Judy
Just about every state has a great deal of information online about its court system – including small claims, landlord/tenant, mediation and enforcement of judgments. There are dozens of excellent YouTube videos presented by lawyers, explaining how Small Claims Court functions. Additionally, you’ll find highly educational podcasts produced by attorneys that walk you through all the steps of eviction trials.
Just Google: YouTube Small Claims Instructional Videos. Or try, “Landlord/Tenant, What to do in Court.”
Also, just spend time in court, observing, and study how people testify – what they do that builds credibility or what hurts it.
Why Judge Judy is so valuable
The Judge Judy Show, now called “Judy Justice” is one of the greatest resources for anyone going to court. Her program is educational, entertaining, and more than that; it can help you win your case by learning what not to do!
By not doing the things that annoy a judge, your chances for success are increased. For example:
1 – Being unprepared – failing to bring documentary proof – the lease, contract, invoices, bank statements, canceled checks – can result in your case being dismissed.
“Sorry Your Honor I forgot it,” gets you no favors from any judge.
2 – Failing to listen – not paying attention to questions the judge asks. With a question that calls for a yes or no, when litigants refuse to answer, but instead, begin a lengthy explanation, this frustrates the judge and harms their credibility.
Judges are swamped these days and most have little tolerance for litigants like this who often wind up cooking their own goose!
3 – Have your evidence – photos, invoices, relevant documents – in order and numbered, prepared to hand to the bailiff or shown to the other side.
If the judge asks you to produce some element of proof, fumbling through a stack of papers makes you look like a chicken with its head cut off, and can create a negative impression.
4 – The courtroom is no place for eyes-rolled, hands raised, interrupting the judge or anyone testifying.
A great asset is patience, politeness, and giving good eye contact to the judge. By being as mature and adult-like as possible, you are more believable.
I know many lawyers who assign watching Judge Judy shows to their clients in preparation for testifying. Also, a number of judges have told me, “She reveals what we think and feel, want to but cannot say publicly – unless we want to risk being sanctioned by our state’s Judicial Council or voted off the bench.”
And that is what makes her show so valuable. She dares to talk about right and wrong, about ethics and morality. What makes her so different from most other judges is her transparency. While most generally remain poker-faced and their judgment is sent by mail, Judge Judy tells is like it is, right now.
If her show was required viewing by high school students about to graduate, fewer people would wind up in small claims court!
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.