Registered: 1273021211 Posts: 32
Reply with quote #1
CA small claims issue.
This is a new development from my thread below...about the couple who wanted to leave after three days of being in. My ex tenants are suing me for $10,000. Details following. In January I finalized their security deposit refund. They took the portable air conditioner and I took out for that (reasonable cost for a used one) and then took out $209 lease rent obligation because they left the lease. I actually compromised on that...I cut it in half to compromise...the lease obligation was $418. So in total I took out $409.00 out of their security deposit. After a week or so they cashed the check. I thought all was done. Yesterday I got served. They are now suing me for $10,000 small claims for the following, their words: "Harassment (endless text messages, demanding that we leave or are the problem), Breach of warranty of Habitability, Breach of Contract, Emotional Distress." I am shocked they left out Fraud as the lawyer was accusing me of this. I am stunned. Harassment? I went thru all the text messages last night, they were business related. I never "demanded" they leave...it was his choice. The apartment was beautiful, newly remodeled. He complained about issues I may not have seen but he refused a walk thru or the space to get them fixed, He broke the contract by giving me a three day notice, and emotional distress? He and his lawyer have provided me with nothing but emotional distress. Neither one of them ever coming to me in a rational, calm manner to work things out. The lawyer was awful. Just escalated things, not caring about the facts or the law. Just bullying. It is so disheartening because I was so nice to them. I let them move in a week early, without rent, to make the move easier. I ran home from a fun family day to do their papers so they could move in early. I allowed them to store bikes in the laundry room...no other tenant had that privilege! I did more remodeling than I had to just to make it nice. I chose to put in very nice two inch blinds, when I could have done the cheaper route. I even offered to "share" parking because it's hard to find parking when they come home late at night. I offered alternatives for the shed, no bending. The rent was at least a $100 less than market rate! I was going to allow a dog for them. On and on. I even wrote all of this, all the ways I acted in "good faith" for them. Having said that, how should I proceed? So slimy they filed Jan 31st but I didn't get served until 2.5 months later...with three weeks to go. Did they plan that so I didn't have time to get help or counter sue? I am going to try to get an extension. Should I counter sue? I feel they have harassed me (the lawyer), they broke the lease, the contract, and they caused me emotional distress. Do I need lawyer help for this? This is small claims California... Thoughts?
Registered: 1472494503 Posts: 325
Reply with quote #2
I would definitely get a lawyer. Talk to at least 3 and see which you are comfortable with. There are two ways to play this, 1 - Find a lawyer that YOU don't even like. If you can't stand him, he is probably going to fight so hard for you that you won't believe it and they will know they tried this stunt on the wrong landlord, or 2 - Find a calm, reasonable one. If you show up in court calm, with a reasonable, matter-of-fact approach and show the judge how all your texts were related to issues they brought up, only in response to their communication, and only because you couldn't get in touch with them over the phone or via email, it will make them look crazy and the judge should see right through their whole game. I probably wouldn't counter sue unless you have really good reason (in which case you should have already, so it sounds like that is not the case).
For an example to others, did you take your time and do a thorough background and credit check on these people, or did you fall into the very common trap of trying to be a good person and working with their sap story?
Registered: 1261355070 Posts: 6
Reply with quote #3
What state are you in? In CA the small claims maximum is 10k and lawyers are not permitted in smalls claims court. You can counter sue, but what damages are you claiming?
Have all your documentation in order and present your facts on the court date. Most courts will suggest that you mediate before going in front of the judge, if that fails then you go to trial and the judge will decide.
Registered: 1364033853 Posts: 33
Reply with quote #4
This matter won't fly in small claims court They have no case .Small claims is for monetary losses only . Appear in court .The judge will dismiss the case out of hand . They are flakes and probably want to extort a settlement
Registered: 1334473780 Posts: 33
Reply with quote #5
I feel your pain. I had an ex-tenant like that, made "claims" of harassment, habitability, elder abuse, etc. It was his way of trying to extort money out of people. I found out later that he tried this with several other people. It seems like your ex-tenant is trying the same sort of scheme.
In California (and I suppose elsewhere too), people can sue you for anything. It doesn't mean these "claims" are true. During court, both sides will have their turn to speak. Make sure that you have all your documentation with you and bring copies for the judge (copies are not returned). i.e. pictures, rental agreement, correspondence, etc. In small claims court, the maximum amount you can sue for is 10K and attorneys are not allowed. I have a feeling the reason why your ex-tenant is suing for the maximum is that they hope you'll settle the case and get some money. I don't know what California county you're in, but in the California county that I'm in, mediation is mandatory. If mediation doesn't work, then, it goes before a judge. If you need the extra time to prepare for court, I would recommend rescheduling the date. http://www.courts.ca.gov/1114.htm
Registered: 1426342002 Posts: 12
Reply with quote #6
It doesn't sound like they have a case, but you still have a problem (not an issue). Definitely hire a lawyer (that shouldn't even be a question) and have them file an answer. If they can't represent you in small claims court they will have the case moved to a higher court. As they say, he who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Also, in my opinion, text messaging between landlords and tenants is unprofessional, but that's just me.
Registered: 1496319414 Posts: 2
Reply with quote #7
Have you hired a lawyer? What's the scenario now? Lawyers represent clients accused in civil litigation, prepare legal documents and guide clients on lawful proceedings. For all legal needs, a lawyer is available to help. All you need to do is find the lawyer to meet your needs. Many
helpful resources sites are available where you may find the best lawyers who help you to collect evidences to make your case stronger. Obtaining legal advices is a pretty vital job and you must know what you are heading up to before you take any step.
Registered: 1273021211 Posts: 32
Reply with quote #8
Hi everyone! Sorry for the delay in answering. Because my lovely tenants served me two weeks before court I had to post pone it two months. I just had the trial last Friday.
I did well. I am so happy! They didn't win on any of their ridiculous counts. I also got a chance to tell the judge the disgusting way their lawyer threatened and intimidated me and the ways they bullied me. The judge DID give them some of the lease money back. He did because he said that my "accepting" the 30 day notice in effect, invalidates the lease. I have never heard of such a thing but I went with it. So I have to give them back money for that. I was surprised the judge did that because that wasn't on their list but I accept. The judge seemed fair minded. But he didn't win on all his other BS points! They ran out of the court so fast...haha probably embarrassed. It was shocking because he honestly didn't even know the meaning of the charges he laid on me. He was stupid yet so confident. So we both won and both lost. I lost because I have to give him back something but I WIN because I am vindicated on the stupid charges and he is out of my life! He won some money but he lost because he lost the last truly affordable 2 bedroom in the area and has to pay more rent and he spent on that lawyer and moving costs and didn't win his charges. Haha. About getting a lawyer. I have a brother in law I spoke to and he helped a bit. I was so busy and my intuition was saying I don't need to contact a lawyer...and it was true. I knew what to do. Plus you have no idea what the judge will focus on...so it's kind of a crap shoot as long as you have a defense for every charge. Thanks so much for all your help and comments.
Registered: 1424031597 Posts: 126
Reply with quote #9
CA Small Claims does not allow lawyers on the initial hearing and they do not award punitive damages or pain and suffering or any other non-monetary loss.
A losing defendant gets an automatic appeal hearing if they request it within 20 or 30 days (I do not remember which). No reason is required to grant the hearing. Either side may be represented by an attorney during the appeal hearing. If you felt strongly about your loss, I would tell you top request the appeal hearing. If small amount, probably not worth the time.