How to hire a landlord-tenant lawyer
While landlord-tenant conflicts can be settled without an attorney, hiring a lawyer for landlord-tenant disputes may be necessary if you're unfamiliar with the laws, paperwork, or process required to settle a dispute.
Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, find out what to consider when hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer.
What a landlord-tenant lawyer can do
A landlord-tenant attorney can handle conflicts that may arise between landlords and renters. Before you hire an attorney, remember that most disputes between landlords and tenants end up in small claims court. Some states, such as California, don't allow you to have a lawyer in small claims court. The following are a few scenarios where you might consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer.
If you’re a tenant:
- You want your lease reviewed before signing.
- Your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to property.
- Your landlord is unlawfully withholding your security deposit.
- Your landlord is discriminating against you.
- Your landlord is evicting you without due cause.
- You've suffered an injury as a result of your landlord's negligence.
If you’re a landlord:
- You want to evict a tenant.
- A tenant is suing you.
How to find a landlord-tenant attorney
Because the law varies by state, and even by city, it's important to looks for lawyers in your specific jurisdiction. When comparing lawyers, look for recommendations from other attorneys and positive reviews from past clients.
Remember that most attorneys offer a free initial consultation to review the details of your case. This is an opportunity to ask them questions and determine if you would like to hire them.
Top 5 questions to ask a landlord-tenant lawyer
Before you hire a landlord-tenant attorney, you'll want to arrange an initial consultation to meet the attorney and briefly review your case. The following questions will help you determine if the attorney is a good fit for your case:
1. How many and what types of cases have you handled? If you're a landlord, you want to make sure you choose an attorney who has not worked exclusively with tenants. Ask the attorney about specific cases they've handled and their outcomes.
2. How long do you expect my current case to take, and what outcomes are possible? A landlord-tenant lawyer should be able to give you an estimate of how long the process should take. Also ask about potential outcomes, both positive and negative.
3. Could my case go to court? An attorney will be able to tell you if your issue will be handled in small claims court. Not all states allow attorneys in small claims court, so discuss the role your attorney would play in the event that your case does go to court.
4. How much will my case cost? Find out how much time the lawyer expects to spend on your case and how and what you will be billed for that time. Ask about hourly fees, expenses, and potential court costs.
5. What are my alternatives to a lawsuit? Litigation is expensive, so ask about alternatives, such as mediation or arbitration.
Costs of hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer
An attorney's fee will depend on the complexity of your case, where you live, and the attorney's billing practices.
Some landlord-tenant lawyers charge by the hour, typically $200 to $500. Other lawyers charge a flat fee for a specific service. For example, the attorney might charge a flat $500 to start an eviction proceeding.
Remember to review the details of your lease. Some lease agreements have a provision that the losing party is required to pay the other party’s court and attorney fees in the event of a lawsuit.