Trouble-making tenants in recent headlines

Tenant-landlord cases don’t make the news as much as other headlines, but have been making waves recently. The first was the case of Michael Rotondo in upstate New York.

The case of Michael Rotondo

This past May, at age 30, Michael was formally evicted from his parent’s home. Michael’s parents had spent years trying to encourage him to find employment and independent housing, but Michael was never ready. In the case of the Rotondo’s, having their son finally move out took a formal eviction from court.

If the Rotondo’s lived in California, their son could have gotten a state-funded attorney and demanded a jury trial, buying himself several more months rent-free and racking up huge expenses for his parents.

The case of Carlos Lopez

Carlos Lopez is a hard-working landscaper who uses his rental income to pay his mortgage. Carlos, however, is not receiving any rent despite someone occupying his northern Los Angeles house. According to Mr. Lopez, the woman occupying his rental has not paid rent nor does she have permission to live in the house. He claims she appeared one day and has not left since. Carlos Lopez learned through his lawyer that this is the third case where the firm has worked with a landlord to have this same woman evicted.

How does this happen?

A law was overturned in 2005 with the good intention of reducing evictions. There have been some unintended consequences, however. This 2005 decision disallowed landlords from including a jury waiver in their lease. Today, tenants are not only free to bring a case to jury, but they’re provided a state-funded attorney via a state-funded nonprofit working to reduce evictions. The tenant, having no access to a state-funded attorney, would have to pay anywhere from $8,000-$20,000 to have their case heard. This obviously sets the stage for landlords to be disproportionally disadvantaged.

There are important lessons in these recent headlines: First, it might take going to court to evict a tenant and second, it’s crucial that you know your rights as a landlord to avoid a nightmare scenario like one of these.

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