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Do I need to have a lawyer if I'm being evicted?

If your landlord wants to evict you from your house or apartment, he or she must file a complaint against you in court, and prove that you have done something to violate your rental agreement.  There are many rules and procedures that landlords must follow in order to pursue an eviction against you, which vary from state to state.  In some states, evictions are filed in small claims court, which is a very user-friendly court for not only lawyers, but also for non-lawyer landlord and tenants.  For this reason, it is quite common for both landlords and tenants in these states to be involved in eviction proceedings in small claims court without lawyers.

In many states, however, evictions are filed in regular courts, which are governed by various rules and procedures under your state’s particular laws.  When appearing in such a court for an eviction or any other lawsuit, you are held to the same standard as a lawyer.  In other words, you are responsible for following all procedures, just as if you were a lawyer.  For example, if you don’t know how to properly admit a document into evidence during the eviction proceedings, then the judge might not allow you to present the document at all, no matter how important it may be to your case.

As previously stated, landlord have to follow certain rules for evicting you.  For instance, if a landlord doesn’t properly serve you with notice of the eviction proceedings, then the court shouldn’t evict you.  If you’re not a lawyer, you might not be aware of these rules, and your landlord may get away with wrongfully evicting you.  A judge can’t give you legal advice about how to handle an eviction, so you’re totally on your own if you don’t know what to do in court.

Plus, even in states where evictions occur in small claims courts that are designed for non-lawyers, they still have rules that you have to follow.  For instance, if your landlord is claiming that you broke your rental agreement by having a pet in your apartment, you need to show the court some proof that you didn’t have a pet in the apartment.  You might need a witness to testify that you didn’t have a pet, or pictures to show that there was no pet-related damage to the apartment.  A lawyer can help you prepare your case in order to avoid being wrongfully evicted, by using procedures and laws that might be unfamiliar to a non-lawyer.   

Perhaps most importantly, if you are being evicted, you and/or your family are losing your home.  You are not only facing trying to find another place to live, but also the costs of moving, disconnecting and reconnecting utilities, and a security deposit, among others.  Therefore, eviction proceedings can be really important, especially if you don’t think that you have violated your rental agreement, or if you think that your landlord is wrongfully evicting you.  The best way to be prepared for eviction proceedings is to consult experienced legal counsel especially when your home is at stake.

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This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified landlord tenant lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.

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