I had a kitchen fire and do not have renter's insurance. The landlord's insurance sent me a letter with a very large number for the damages. The kitchen is very small and the number seems extremely inflated, considering they used building-grade cabinets and countertops. I contacted them requesting an itemized bill and 3 days later they informed me that any further correspondence would come from their lawyer. I am forseeing the need for my own lawyer in order to dispute these charges and/or come to a settlement. What type of lawyer should I be contacting? Insurance, Real Estate, Tenant/Landlord? Is there any hope of getting the damage charges reduced?
First, an attorney with experience in civil litigation including landlord/tenant disputes should be helpful in this type of situation. You should bring them a copy of your lease and all other pertinent documentation including the letters back and forth about the bill so that they can understand the specifics better.
If the landlord sues you for damages, in Philadelphia it is common to ask for arbitration of a civil suit if the disupted amount is less than $50,000. However, landlord/tenant disputes of an unlimited amount are heard by the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and that is probably where this would be filed. Here's their website for more info about the court and its rules: http://courts.phila.gov/municipal/
As far as "hope", I can't specifically say for certain what will happen in your case, but it is typical in most civil disputes to have some sort of initial discussion about settling the matter. Oftentimes, this is in the best interest of both parties to the dispute because a settlement can avoid the costs and expense of litigation. Therefore, it is possible that you could settle with the landlord. In order to do that, I recommend that you consult an attorney soon so that they can handle the negotiations as well as be prepared for any complaint that might be filed against you.
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