Seek eviction help as quickly as possible when you receive an eviction notice. You have a limited amount of time to respond, a number of days according your state’s laws, and waiting until the last minute could hurt your chances of a successful defense or reaching a resolution. There are 4 free and paid resources to get eviction help:
1 – Eviction Lawyer
Hiring an eviction lawyer is the most costly resource you have available, but they can save you from future hassles when you try to rent another apartment. An eviction on your rent record is a “no-no” in the apartment renting world. Landlords see it and will do what they legally can to avoid renting to you. The best way to avoid an eviction is to move out, or if you want to fight it, hire an eviction lawyer. They can do a much better job of negotiating with the landlord and their attorney than you can, and they can resolve it in such a way that your rental history doesn’t make you look “risky”.
2 – Free or Low-Cost Legal Services Organizations
If you can’t afford to hire an eviction lawyer, consider a free or low cost legal services organization in your state. There’s at least one in all 50 states, and you can find the one nearest to you in the yellow pages, or look for an organization in your state at www.ptla.org. These are non-profit organizations that handle a variety of legal cases on behalf of low or no-income persons. You have to call the organization to ask whether they handle landlord-tenant issues, and whether they can offer eviction help. If they take your case, you may have to pay a small fee, or none at all. It all depends on your income level and their policies.
3 – Pro Bono Programs
Eviction lawyers and law firms offer their services pro bono (free of charge) to the public periodically. It’s a way for them to serve the community, and it’s encouraged by their local and national bar associations. You may be able to receive eviction help by enrolling in a pro bono program. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Center for Pro Bono publishes a directory of pro bono programs by state at www.abanet.org. Like legal services organizations, pro bono attorneys and programs may or may not be able to assist with eviction, but it depends on the attorneys who are enrolled at the time. Call to get the most up to date information as to whether a lawyer can take your case.
4 – Self Help Legal Services
If you’re confident that you can handle your own case, cannot qualify for free legal services or if there are no pro bono attorneys that can help you, then you may have to help yourself. Start by familiarizing yourself with your state laws. Visit a law library in your area and ask the reference librarian for help to find the appropriate statutes for your area. You can also get eviction help by researching online at www.findlaw.com or www.nolo.com for steps to take in an eviction proceeding, and information on how to defend yourself. You can also research the laws in your state, and the legal process relating to an eviction proceeding.
Whatever form of eviction help you pursue will largely depend on your finances. However, it’s better to respond to a notice yourself, than to not respond at all and have your landlord win a judgment against you in addition to the go ahead from a judge to throw you out.