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What are the do's and don'ts for representing yourself in an Unlawful detainer case?

Los Angeles, CA |

I will be representing myself in court. Can you object if the plaintiff is stating something that is not on the complaint? When she is done stating her complaint, can you ask questions? Is it wise to use the intretigory form if you want to get her to answer certain questions you have a result of the complaint? My landlord turned off water today. Can this be mentioned in court as a afirmitive defense as retalitory? (civil code section 789.3) Can we ask for statutory damages at this hearing? We will be objecting her fair rental value due to habitability issues - once we show evidence of percentage of living space, can we ask for monetery compensation. Thank for answering.

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Attorney answers 2


If you have an unlawful detainer case which involves retaliatory eviction and habitability issues, don't represent yourself at trial.

Do object if the plaintiff brings up something not alleged in the complaint.

Do ask your questions after plaintiff is done presenting her case.

Don't bring up Form Interrogatories at trial if you did not properly and timely serve them before trial.

Do present evidence of the plaintiff turning off the water and using self-help to evict you.

Don't ask for monetary compensation. You won't get awarded any damages at trial, but you can use your damages as an offset to what you would otherwise owe at trial.

Do consult with an attorney regarding your upcoming trial.

Do read in detail the Department of Consumer Affairs' guide on landlord-tenant law:


Representing yourself isn't smart, and no one on Avvo can tell you all the do's and don'ts of trial procedure.

Plaintiff doesn't state her complaint, her lawyer asks her a series of question to prove the elements. Then it's your turn to question her. I don't know what you mean by interrogatory form. It might be too late to amend your answer to include an affirmative defense of retaliatroy eviction, but you might still get that filed. What statutorey damages are you referring to? Your habitability question is also unclear.

Please see the "how to" legal guides linked below, written for non-lawyers. I also suggest going to the courthouse and watching how the few tenant's lawyers that are there do it. You'll only have a few minutes of the judge's time so use it wisely.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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