Over a year ago, I wrote an article about what changes were going to take place because the Los Angeles Superior Court system had implemented 60 million dollars in cutbacks and laid off over a quarter of the court employees since 2008. I projected what I thought would happen with the court system and how unlawful detainers would be affected. For the most part, I was correct but many new issues have arisen in the past year.
Downtown L.A. is still the main heartbeat for legal aid organizations and you can expect many delays when they represent the tenant. Sometimes you can have up to three court appearances before your case gets resolved. What is the best way to combat all these delay tactics?
We have begun to call it the Wild, Wild West. Why? Because on a contested case, you never know what courtroom you will be sent to and you never know how the judge is going to decide your case. For every contested case in which I have similar fact scenarios, I can have different rulings from different judges. It really doesn’t matter what the law says to the contrary, judges have a lot of judicial discretion when deciding a case and many times they will bend over backwards to help the tenant.
The Court System
There are five courts in Los Angeles County that hear unlawful detainers – downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena and Lancaster. Downtown L.A. is the main hub court. When you file an unlawful detainer you will be in one of these five courts. However, if your case gets contested and the opposing side gives a trial estimate of more than 20 minutes, you will be assigned to Department One in downtown to get sent to a different courtroom to hear your trial. This is true for Long Beach, Santa Monica, L.A. and Pasadena. So when your case gets assigned to Department One you have no idea where you will end up. For example, when in Long Beach, I have been assigned to Santa Monica court. When in Santa Monica court, I have been assigned to Torrance, and when in downtown, I have been assigned to Van Nuys and even Pomona!
Legal Aid Delays
With the cutbacks you would think that it would have been the end to state funded legal aid organizations under the auspices of the Shriver project and BASTA – which are eviction defense organizations for tenants. However, that is not the case. We still have many cases in which an attorney representing the tenant will file an answer and send out lots of discovery and request a jury trial. We have seen an increase in these cases in Santa Monica, Lancaster and Long Beach. However, downtown L.A. is still the main heartbeat for legal aid organizations and you can expect many delays when they represent the tenant. Sometimes you can have up to three court appearances before your case gets resolved.
What Every Landlord Should Do
What is the best way to combat all these delay tactics?
- Make sure that you inspect your unit at least twice a year.
- Inspect your unit before you put a tenant in eviction to make sure that he has no complaints and that the unit is in good condition.
- Take plenty of pictures of the unit before the tenant moves in so you have something to show to the judge when the tenant complains that the property was uninhabitable.
- Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly.
- Above all keep good records of your tenant’s rental payments.
Another good tip is to make sure that your attorney fee provision is limited to $500 in your rental agreement. This can be a big detractor for the money-hungry defense attorneys who want to take the case to a jury trial. [Use AOA’s Rental Agreement and/or Lease, form 101 to protect yourself.]
Attorney Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a bachelor of arts. She then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law. Grayce has been an attorney for 25 years and specializes in Real Estate Law. She’s done landlord/tenant work throughout the state of California with an emphasis on Rent Control law. For more information, call (800) 686-8686, email email@example.com or visit www.fastevictionservice.com
At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.
How A Landlord Can Evict Tenants In California With Lawsuit: 7 Steps
Californian landlords have the right to evict tenants who do not abide by the terms of the lease agreement. If the violations are indeed valid, you can immediately begin the eviction procedure by first warning the tenant of what needs to be corrected - then evicting the tenant when they do not heed your warning. The following 7 Steps must be followed for a successful Unlawful Retainer lawsuit and regain possession of your rental property legally. Read More...
7 Reasons You Should Evict A Bad Tenant
Tenant landlord relationships can have bumps along the road. Your tenant may be causing too much trouble, but you may not be certain you have a legitimate reason to evict them. Different states have different tenant eviction laws, so make sure you abide by them. Know that California has some of the most extensive regulations regarding tenant's rights in the country. Read More...
Rules That Landlords Must Follow For Evicting Tenants
The eviction process is generally made to favor the tenant. It is the responsibility of the landlord to follow a very strict procedure and set of rules to get the tenant evicted. If you fail to follow the rules and state laws to the letter then there is a strong chance that you might lose your case against the tenant. Read More...