The primary function of residential lease attorneys is to help tenants understand their rights under a written lease agreement or tenant contract. The landlord generally utilizes legal counsel when he or she writes the lease. There are a number of major issues that a lease attorney can help with for tenants who feel they are being treated unfairly.
One issue is discrimination in a rental application process. A lease attorney can tell a client if they have a case under applicable discrimination law.
Landlord Access to Home or Unit
One big issue that tends to cause flare-ups between renters and landlords is the appropriate access for the landlord. A landlord who is too involved in a property can overstep his or her bounds regarding the privacy rights of renters. A lease attorney can advise on how to handle a landlord’s intrusion into a tenant’s home, or even what to do if a party re-keys the unit.
Contrary to what some may think, an eviction is not a one step process. It is also subject to many local and federal laws about how an eviction can take place. The lease attorney can help explain time frames and options for a client.
Withholding of Security Deposit/High Property Damage Assessment
The proper use of a security deposit is another issue that tends to very often overwhelm even a moderate landlord/tenant dispute. Part of this is a problem of interpretation. The security deposit is so commonly used as a retainer for physical damage that it has become customary for many landlords to withhold it.
The problem is that landlords often have a different idea of “regular wear” on a property than a tenant. Because this kind of issue is so subjective, a lease attorney will very often be presented with complex arguments about dollar amounts for property damage, including moderate or extreme wear on carpeting, walls, appliances, floors, etc. Finding the balance for a property damage dollar amount is one of the most important services a lease attorney can provide to a tenant, to save them from excessive withholding and claims from a landlord who has become used to high estimates.
Payment and Credit Issues
Just like the above areas of rental law, the subject of appropriate collections practices by a landlord is another very vague topic, where interpretation can cause all kinds of problems. Because there are few readily available legal vehicles for dealing with these situations, it can be hard for a landlord just to communicate the right responsibilities to a tenant. A lease attorney often gets involved in telling a client what he or she can expect as far as collections, credit effects and other consequences of failing to pay on time according to a specific lease agreement.
From a brief consideration of all of the above issues that come up often in a rental process, it’s easy to see how a lease attorney can be a huge asset to a renter household. Quite a few renters cannot afford to hire lease attorneys to protect them, but some may be able to utilize specific lease attorney services to assert their rights under a lease agreement.