When to Use an Apartment AttorneyAugust 11th, 2009 by Lisa Bernstein
Hiring an attorney is usually the last thing on your mind when renting an apartment. Location, amenities, rent and apartment layout are the topics you’ll think of first, when talking about apartment living. Unfortunately, as with all things in life, something concerning your tenancy could go awry and put your rights in jeopardy. That’s when you’ll need the advice of an attorney.
What Kind of Attorney Should Apartment Dwellers Use?
Certain lawyers specialize in real estate law, which includes apartment rental laws and landlord-tenant laws. When you have a problem involving your rights as a tenant, consider contacting a lawyer with experience in this area of the law. Before hiring a real estate lawyer, make sure that they have handled cases similar to your own.
When Do You Need an Apartment Attorney?
A variety of apartment-related situations may require an attorney. Some of the most common are:
- Housing Discrimination
- Security Deposit Return
In each of these cases, you may need to seek the advice of an experienced real estate attorney to understand and assert your rights. Sometimes the attorney can handle the matter through correspondence with your landlord; and other times they may have to appear in court to defend you.
For example, as soon as you receive an eviction notice, you should seek out a qualified lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant law. Failing to respond properly to an eviction notice may harm your chances of staying in the apartment, even if you have a valid case for why your landlord is wrong in evicting you.
With respect to housing discrimination, there are times when an attorney’s advice may be necessary. Understanding whether your civil rights have been violated is a complicated matter. If you think that you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination, speak to an attorney experienced in filing fair housing lawsuits, as soon as possible, to determine whether you’re entitled to compensation.
When the time comes for your landlord to return your security deposit, you might be charged for damage that you didn’t cause. If you did an apartment inspection at move-in time, you can use it as documentation to make a case in your defense. Even so, your landlord may try to claim that your behavior caused damage to the apartment, rather than normal wear and tear. If you believe that the landlord is wrong, you may be better off hiring an attorney to refute the charge.
Each situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, when it comes to security deposits, being charged for damaging the apartment affects you beyond the cost of the repair. This information is added to your rental history and can be used to deny you an apartment in the future. It may be well worth the cost of an attorney to protect your reputation and ensure that you pass a background check the next time you fill out a rental application. As a general rule, whenever your rights as a tenant are in question, and you are unsure how to proceed, consider consulting an attorney.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.