Our lease was up at our rental so we moved out. After move out we got a letter from landlord that we owe her a little over $2000. 2 of the charges (a total of $165) we had agreed to pay before we even got the letter and told her to send us a bill. The other charges listed we believe are way over priced and some I don't believe we owe. She said on the letter she will file with the court in 30 days if not paid. After we got the letter, We tried to negotiate with her and set up a payment plan, even tried paying the whole amount she asked for in payments just to go ahead and get this settled. She denied all 3 offers saying it's not good enough. If she does file and we do get a court date, what would we do to prepare? What kind of eveidence would we take? And also would the judge Force us to pay the whole thing right then, even if we don't have enough money to pay in full? I'd appreciate any other information you have on this also.
Unfortunately every case is different so no one can tell you what you need to do to adequately prepare to present your defense in Court. You need to be able to present whatever evidence you have to prove that you do not owe the money. The most important document is the rental agreement. You need to be able to convince the Judge that you are in full compliance with the terms of the agreement. The landlord will be there to present evidence of what her costs have been and why you are not in compliance with the agreement. You have a listing of what she claims you owe her, so you have to have enough evidence to contradict what she is saying. If she is saying she has incurred $500 worth of costs associated with painting the apartment, you need to have evidence that it would have only cost $200 at most to paint. Lesson learned: you should have taken pictures of the premises when you left to prove what she is now claiming is not true. Also, you should have had her come to the apartment and give you a written statement that everything was acceptable when you left. The good news is that the Judge will NOT require you to pay any amount right then and there. All the Judge can do is to rule on the issue of whether or not you actually owe the money or not. You should also speak with an Attorney to find out what the appeal process is for your small claims courts. In many jurisdictions you have the right to an appeal de novo which means you can treat the small claims action as a method of seeing what she has to present, then take the matter to another Court for a "do over" when you can get all your documentation together to contradict her evidence. By then you will have the information as to whom she used to provide the services, and you can haul them into Court to testify. Sooner or later the landlady and her "people" will get tired of you and will likely just leave you alone. Obviously, having an Attorney assist you would be your best choice, and it is likely that if you hired an Attorney they would be able to instill the fear of the Courtroom upon the landlady to scare her off before she even filed the small claims action. You should really consider "lawyering up" rather than cowering down to the abusive tactics of the landlady. Best of Luck to you!
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