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Is it better to hire an attorney or can I file an UD myself?

Alhambra, CA |

Tenant won't vacate after lease expiration with 60 days notice. Is it common for duplex property owners to represent themselves? How do I make sure to do it properly and avoid the piftalls?

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Attorney answers 3


If you really desire to have the tenant evicted, you better hire an eviction attorney. While it is theoretically and legally possible to represent yourself, there are so many strict procedural requirements that many self-represented landlord are unable to successfully prosecute an unlawful detainer lawsuit. Practically speaking, you economically have much more to lose in one or two months' unpaid rent in comparison to the cost for a lawyer to handle this for you.

Nevertheless, if you insist on making this a do-it-yourself project, see the guide at:

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


You can do it on your own, but it is often better to have an attorney guide you through the process, rather than risk making a mistake.


Mr. Chen gives you excellent advice, however when my clients ask me this question, I have to respond that the decision depends upon the fact situation and the landlord himself. Yes, this is a complex and nit picking area of the law, one area of the law that even the most generic, client-vacuum attorneys decline to handle. Still, not every eviction case is a knock down drag out brawl. This part of the law can be learned like any other. There are landlords out there who do handle their own evictions.

The cost for an attorney to handle the average eviction by default is under $1000, much of which is for court, sheriff, and process server fees that you would have to pay anyway. I do advise in propers (landlords or tenants who want to represent themselves) in eviction cases by advising over the phone or actually drafting the paperwork in their name. I try to break down my fee structure so that it is affordable, but that said, I am not at all convinced that this is a good idea...certainly not for everyone. It is not uncommon for such clients to be on the phone, consuming billable time so much that it would have been cheaper and a whole lot less stressful if they had simply paid an attorney to handle the whole thing from the beginning.

Only you can decide whether or not the money you save in fees is worth it. However keep in mind that if you bollix it up, you will either have to dismiss and re-file or, God forbid, lose at trial and suffer an award of attorneys fees and court costs against you. In either case, you lose that much more rent, and probably will wind up paying an attorney to clean up your mess after all. I may be unique, but I refuse to take any case already started by a landlord or even another attorney. These things are so fouled up, there is no way I can make my client happy, and I am getting too old and picky to coddle clients who come in the door already furious with attorneys and the court system. It is a tough decision, I know, but do keep in mind that many landlords do handle their own evictions.

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