The eviction process is fraught with legal pitfalls. If a landlord evicts a tenant without adequate cause, or fails to follow the state's eviction procedure, he or she could face a lawsuit. That's why it's important for landlords to seek legal advice about how to evict a tenant the right way. While hiring an attorney may be prohibitively expensive for some, there are a number of affordable alternative ways to get the legal advice landlords need.
Free Online Resources
Before taking action, you should familiarize yourself with your state's eviction procedure, since eviction processes can differ greatly from state to state. You can usually find an outline of the procedure on the website of the state consumer affairs department, the state housing agency, or your local tenant association. The California Courts website, for example, provides a detailed, step-by-step overview of how to evict a tenant in California, including links to forms, how to serve the papers, what happens at trial, what to do after the suit, and more. It's important that you closely follow your state's procedure. Failure to comply with all requirements can result in penalties and expose you to civil liability.
Legal Aid and Free Consultations
If you've researched your state's eviction policies, but still have questions about how to evict a tenant, grounds for eviction, or other issues, you may want to consult with a legal professional. Finding the right lawyer, however, can be an expensive and time-consuming process. You can cut down on the expense by seeking out lawyers who offer free consultations. With a free consultation, your initial visit to an attorney will be free of charge. Of course, once you decide on a lawyer, you'll have to pay for any subsequent visits.
If you can't afford to hire a private attorney, you may be eligible to receive legal aid. Clinics and other legal aid services offer free or discounted legal help to those who can't otherwise afford to hire a legal professional. In order to qualify, you'll likely have to show proof that you're unable to pay for an attorney. Contact your state or local housing agency for legal aid services and clinics in your area specializing in landlord-tenant disputes and other housing issues.
Hiring an attorney can be quite expensive and will be out of reach for some landlords faced with a difficult legal issue such as eviction. However, if it is something a landlord thinks he or she can afford, they should consider it as one option. An experienced local attorney can save you time by understanding the applicable local laws and having real knowledge of the local system, even of the players, like the judges that might hear your case. While it may seem like a lot of money in the beginning, it could be a savings in the end.