I broke my apt lease to move into a house. I found a "lawyer" on Craigslist (I know bad choice :/) whom advised I was in the right and he would send them paperwork regarding it and to not contact the apts b/c he would take care of it. (Funny, now that I'm writing this it's feeling more like I got scammed). The apt sent 2 notices to my current residence for remaining pay and now they sent a pre-collections notice. I have several reasons for not paying the fees. I did pay 2 months FULL rent after I moved out $1505. They were not in good faith trying to rent apt at a good price (upwards of $1700). They had cleaning charges that they could not provide evidence of within the 21 day limit. The "lawyer" doesn't return phone calls.
Yes, it sounds like you were scammed. You normally can't just break a lease without the landlord's consent (reflected in a lease termination agreement).
Nevertheless, it sounds like you have some decent defenses if the landlord does decide to sue, such as your payment of 2 months' rent, and the landlord's failure to mitigate damages.
You don't indicate how much the collections is seeking, so it's hard to access whether to ignore the demands and take your chances, or to settle.
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. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense. With respect to the landlord, you might want to consider suing him/her in small claims court for: (1) remittance of your security deposit plus court costs and possibly a bad faith penalty in the form of up to twice the amount of the deposit under Cal. Civil Code 1950.5(l); and (2) a declaration of your rights under the lease based on the payments you made and the landlord's failure to mitigate. (For further information concerning this option, see: http://www.ocsmallclaims.com/).
With respect to the attorney, I'm assuming you double checked and independently confirmed that he is, in fact, a licensed CA attorney before you relied on his advice and there is some writing between the two of you in which he agreed to represent your interests. Assuming you did and he is, you might want to consider naming him as a co-defendant in the small claims action under a cause of action for professional negligence and filing a complaint against him with the California State Bar. (For further information concerning of the State Bar disciplinary system, see: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/LawyerRegulation.aspx). In the meantime, you could send him a letter complaining about his negligence representation and demanding that he report your claim to his malpractice insurer.
This response is general legal and business analysis and not legal advice; thus, other attorneys may analyze this issue differently, particularly if there are undisclosed facts. I am licensed to practice in CA, but I am not your attorney and this response does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. Please review Item 9 of avvo.com’s terms and conditions, which is incorporated by reference as it if was reprinted here in full.
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