Jury Trials

6 Replies

All,

A disturbing trend here in the SF Bay Area. You file an eviction on someone, they demand a jury trial. It only costs them a $150 deposit to do so. If they convince the Court that they are low income, they get it for free.

To litigate a jury trial, your lawyer wants an initial retainer of $5000. But it might cost substantially more. You are not guaranteed to win. Unlike a judge - who has seen every tenant scam in existence hundreds of times - the case is decided by a jury, who may well think that landlords are widows-and-orphans-evicting scum.

If you litigate and win, your chances of getting the $5K ( or more! ) back from your deadbeat tenant are approximately squat. Especially since any careful landlord here will have a provision in the rental agreement that "each party pays their own legal fees & court costs". Why is that?

Tenants are being trained and assisted by an outfit called the "Eviction Defense Center" in Oakland. It's a private business, a legal office of aggressive pro-tenant lawyers. Even though they are a private business, they get money from the City of Oakland, the City of Berkeley, and HUD - to "prevent homelessness". They also get free advertising in the FAQ section of the City of Hayward website. If you don't have the "own legal fees" proviso in your rental agreement, the EDC will come in swinging for your tenant, and if they win, they will hit you, the landlord, with their legal fees, which can easily top $20K. If OTOH, you DO have that important provision, the tenant will probably come in Pro Per ( representing themselves ).

The prospect of a jury trial significantly alters the balance of power in pretrial negotiations. Tenants ask for and receive substantial concessions. By "substantial" I mean months of free rent. Four to six months is not unusual.

I just had one of these. Nonpayment of Rent. Tenant went to the EDC, demanded a jury trial. She wants to stay in my unit. She made a relatively decent offer, considering the alternative. $500 discount on the rents in arrears, I eat the $1300 eviction costs, she pays what she owes in payments along with the ongoing rent. A "stipulated agreement", which means that the judge signed it, converting it into a court order.

I might still get rid of her. The stipulated agreement is quite strict, and all she has to do is miss or be late on one payment. I make a phone call to her, another one to my lawyer, he schedules a lockout with the sheriff.

But that protection only lasts 5 months. After that, if she gets behind on the rent, I have to do the whole dance over again. If that happens, I'll have no choice but to litigate. Maybe I should start a new hobby - go to the courthouse and watch some eviction jury trials. Waste some afternoons. Get comfortable with it.

LOL, don't ya just love the Republic of Cali?

Best way to fight this is not to rent to low income that can qualify. Tighten up your pre-qualifications to ensure you select tenants that aren't scammers. :)

Wow. Is it possible to put a clause in future leases that would state that evictions are only to be settled in front of a judge or that tenant waives right to request a jury trial?

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and have no legal training. No legal advice given

Originally posted by @Fran Flanagan :
Wow. Is it possible to put a clause in future leases that would state that evictions are only to be settled in front of a judge or that tenant waives right to request a jury trial?

*** No it's not possible. The courts have decided that even if you put it in, it would not be enforceable.
-------------- snip ------------------------

Rental agreements may provide for waiver of the right to a jury trial or arbitration. But these provisions were declared to be unenforceable by the state Supreme Court in Grafton Partners v. Superior Court, 36 C4th 944 (2003).

----------------- endsnip -------------------
I found this last night at:

http://www.dailyjournal.com/cle.cfm?show=CLEDisplayArticle&qVersionID=352&eid=917146&evid=1&qtypeid=8

Originally posted by @Bill Gulley :
LOL, don't ya just love the Republic of Cali?

Best way to fight this is not to rent to low income that can qualify.

*** No guarantee. This lady proved that she had a job and was making four times the rent.

- Jerry

Originally posted by @Jerome Kaidor :
Originally posted by @Bill Gulley:
LOL, don't ya just love the Republic of Cali?
Best way to fight this is not to rent to low income that can qualify.
*** No guarantee. This lady proved that she had a job and was making four times the rent.

- Jerry

Qualifying money wise isn't all of it, that only applies to getting assistance.

Tenant underwriting includes reading between the lines in all areas of aspects you look at to establish a character profile of your tenant.

If I had conducted all of my business properly the tenant wouldn't have a valid claim, I wouldn't hire an attorney, I'd state the facts, show the books, any issue to evict should be evidenced by the facts, not much legal maneuvering to it. If the property was in a LLC and I couldn't represent the entity, you can still give testimony I'd think.

Her attorney can't pull a rabbit out of the hat saying she paid, if she didn't.

I'd really not be too concerned about it, I'd think the judge will give jury instructions, it's pretty cut and dry. Jury selection might be a problem, I'd also find another attorney, sometimes you can get assistance from an attorney who is already in court, catch one in the hallway before your case.

You can usually get it continued if you must have an attorney and don't have one, first issue would be jury selection. Is there a landlord association in your area, they may have assistance too. :)

Going back to "Eviction Defense Center" we as landlords should have something of that sort just to keep track of these tennants. Sure you can pull evictions and judgement records (i do belive), but what about the settled out of courts just to get the tennant out. I had two evictions where one just left before they were kicked out and the other that played the system and finally bailed in an agreement that i forgive the judgement against them on the money they owed and mainly not to have an eviction on their record.

It would be nice if we could legally post these people names, cities, and states on a site for us as another place to check when evaluating a prospective tennant.

A lot of the deadbeat tennant scammers are also qualifing through detailed screening.

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