A landlord attorney isn’t always required when you’re renting out an apartment or house. But here are the times you must get a landlord attorney to help you out:
Drafting the lease agreement with your tenant
When you’re a landlord, it’s understandable that you would like to save costs on a landlord attorney. You might even be tempted to just download a draft lease contract from the internet.
Here’s why it’s a bad idea. Draft lease contracts from the internet don’t take into account state laws, rules, and regulations. They are also not customized to your liking. Usually, these draft contracts are basic, and will only include names of landlord and tenant, rental term, rent amount and due date, security deposit terms, tenant responsibilities and landlord and tenant signatures. Draft lease contracts won’t include detailed provisions such as late fees, options to renew, responsibility for payment of utilities, condition of rental unit, tenant’s repair and maintenance responsibilities, landlord’s access to rental premises, requirement of landlord notification in case of tenant’s extended absences, restrictions on number of occupants, restrictions on use of property, rules concerning pets, assignments and sublets, limits on guest stays, non-disturbance of neighbors, hold-over clause, grounds for termination, termination notice requirements, attorney fees and court costs in lawsuit, and buy-out clause, to name a few.
A landlord attorney can draft your lease agreement containing customized lease provisions suited to your preferences. Usually, a landlord attorney will bill a one-time fee for this lease agreement and not an hourly rate. Once you have this lease agreement, you can use it as a template for future tenants.
Handling your eviction case
A landlord may evict a tenant when:
- the tenant fails to pay rent on time
- the tenant violates the lease agreement
- the tenant is engaging in illegal behavior inside the leased premises
- the lease has expired and has not been renewed
In New York, each of these different grounds will require different procedures to follow when making the eviction. For example, when your ground to evict is non-payment of rent, the landlord should send you two late notices before starting an eviction lawsuit: the 5-day notice and the 14-day notice. If the ground to evict is violation of lease agreement, the landlord should also send two notices (but different from the notices for non-payment of rent): 10-day notice to comply and 30-day notice to quit. Getting a landlord attorney to help and guide you through the process of your eviction will ensure that you don’t make mistakes the next time around. Making a mistake in the sending of notice can be ground for dismissal of your eviction lawsuit and will require you to begin the process of sending notices all over again. If you do not like to experience delay, getting a landlord attorney is your best option.
Handling eviction cases that require compliance with rent control or housing program rules
Evicting rent-controlled or rent-stabilized tenants in New York require a different procedure than regular eviction. There are also limitations to evictions in these cases. Before beginning the process of eviction, check whether you can evict your tenant. In New York, even if you need to use the apartment as your or your immediate family member’s primary residence, you generally cannot evict if the tenant, tenant’s spouse or tenant’s member of household is 62 years old or more, is disabled, or has been a tenant for 15 years or more, unless you provide an equivalent or superior alternative.
When evicting, you need to provide a 90-day notice prior to expiration of the lease. You then apply to DHCR for an order granting a certificate of eviction. Because of the different laws and procedures governing regular eviction vs. rent-controlled tenant eviction vs. rent-stabilized tenant eviction, it is advisable to hire landlord attorney in this case.
The tenant is contesting the eviction with a lawyer
When the tenant is contesting the eviction with a lawyer, it is most advisable to be represented by a lawyer as well. The lawyer may start raising legal arguments that are beyond your comprehension and may request the payment of the tenant’s attorney fees, which will entail additional cost on your part, if granted. In this case, it is better to be represented by a landlord attorney who can sue and defend your case.
The tenant is suing you for discrimination
An illegal discrimination suit initiated by a tenant against you should be taken seriously. A civil penalty imposed by a Housing and Urban Development Administrative Law Judge can reach $16,000 for first-time offenders plus actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief. Penalties can be higher when it reaches the courts. For this reason, it is better to be armed with the best legal defense you can raise in these types of suits. A good landlord attorney will be able to help you.
The tenant is suing you for personal injury or property damage
If your tenant is suing you for personal injury or property damage arising from your negligence in maintaining the premises as landlord, you need to get a lawyer right away.
Personal injury cases are high stakes. When a tenant complains that he suffered grave personal injury requiring medical attention due to your negligence as a landlord (i.e., leaking roof, broken door, unsecured windows, etc.), a jury can award a high amount of damages.
The tenant is filing for bankruptcy
When the tenant files for bankruptcy, a hierarchy of creditors is given priority for claims. Time periods to submit claims are strictly observed and claims without supporting documents may be denied. For this reason, having an attorney to represent you in your tenant’s bankruptcy case can increase your chances of getting paid your rent. However, you need to take into account the unpaid rent you are collecting vs. the cost of the attorney.
As a landlord, you don’t always need a landlord attorney beside you. For this reason, you don’t need to retain a landlord attorney on a regular basis. However, there are important instances where hiring a landlord attorney can benefit you in the long run. Should you need a landlord attorney, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at email@example.com.