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.
Rules and procedures that landlords must follow to pursue an eviction against you vary from state to state. In some states, landlords file evictions in small claims court, which is a very user-friendly court not only for lawyers but also for non-lawyer landlords and tenants. For this reason, it’s common for both landlords and tenants in these states to participate 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 tenant laws. If you are appearing in court for 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 submit 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. In these types of cases, it might be best to hire an eviction lawyer to help.
Landlords are required to follow certain rules for evicting tenants. For instance, if your landlord doesn’t properly serve you the eviction notice, the court shouldn’t evict you. If you’re not a lawyer, you’re likely not aware of these rules, and your landlord may get away with wrongfully evicting you. A judge also 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.
Even in states where evictions occur in small claims courts that are designed for non-lawyers, there are still rules to follow that you might not be aware of if you are not an attorney.
For instance, if your landlord is claiming that you broke your rental agreement by having a pet in your apartment, you’ll need to show the court 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 landlord-tenant lawyer can help you prepare your case 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 your family members are at risk of losing your home and having an eviction on your record which can affect future housing options. You are not only facing the dilemma of finding another place to live, but you are likely facing extra costs for moving, disconnecting and reconnecting utilities and paying a security deposit, among others.
Making sure the eviction process is fair and legal can be really important, especially if you don’t think you have violated your rental agreement, or if you think that your landlord is wrongfully evicting you. The best way to prepare for eviction proceedings is to consult experienced legal counsel especially when your home is at stake.
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.