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Dealing with a wrongful eviction often requires a tenant to sue his landlord in court. If you feel that you have been wrongfully evicted, your first step may be checking the laws in your area to determine whether your landlord followed legal eviction procedures. If he did not, you may decide to take him to court to sue him for monetary compensation. In some jurisdictions, you may be able to sue for twice or even three times the damages your landlord caused.
The first step you may take to handle wrongful eviction is checking your jurisdiction’s landlord-tenant laws. In many jurisdictions, landlords are required to follow strict legal procedures in evicting tenants. For example, they are often required to provide a particular amount of notice before filing an eviction case with the court system. Once this been filed, landlords typically have to attend a court hearing and wait for a judge to rule in their favor. If these steps are required in your jurisdiction and your landlord failed to perform them, you may have a case for wrongful eviction.
Besides failing to provide the proper written notice and following the procedures required by law in your jurisdiction, there are other behaviors that may contribute to a wrongful eviction case. For example, if your landlord used intimidation tactics to evict you, this may be considered wrongful eviction. Intimidation tactics include actions or threats that made you fear for your safety. Likewise, your landlord may have broken the law if he cut off your utilities or locked you out of the rental property without a court order. Additionally, your landlord may have acted against landlord-tenant laws if he physically removed you or your property from the rental.
Once you’ve checked the laws and determined that your landlord failed to adhere to landlord-tenant laws, you may decide to sue him in court. Many court systems allow you to sue not only for an amount that covers the troubles your landlord has caused, but also for twice the amount of the damages. Some court systems will even allow you to sue for three times your damages. If you decide to sue, your landlord may have few defenses available to him. For example, most courts will not decide in his favor, even if you failed to pay your rent or breached the lease.
In most jurisdictions, you can pursue a wrongful eviction case without the help of a lawyer. In such a case, you will need to represent yourself in court. Since landlord-tenant laws can be complex, however, you may feel more confident about winning your case if you have an attorney’s help.
@Logicfest -- Making sure that people with limited financial means have access to the courts is an ongoing effort. Legal aid groups have done a lot to make sure people get access to the courts. If someone has a valid wrongful eviction case but can't afford a lawyer, placing a call to legal aid and trying to get representation that way is a very good option.
Yes, I know. "A free attorney? How good could that be?"
Actually, the legal aid attorneys I've met are dedicated to their jobs, believe in what they do and are effective lawyers. When it comes to matters such as wrongful eviction, you would be hard pressed to find better lawyers to handle that type of case. Legal aid attorneys routinely deal with those cases and are usually pretty darned good at them.
If you get an eviction notice, it is hard to fight that without an attorney. Sure, a tenant can represent himself or herself in court if the landlord actually files suit, but evictions are pretty routine and a sharp attorney representing a landlord will whip a tenant in court almost every time.
The problem, of course, is that people who are evicted because they can't pay their rent don't typically have the cash lying around to hire a lawyer. That means a lot of tenants who might have valid defenses to eviction usually can't get to court and have a judge listen to their claims.
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