Defense Trends in Unlawful Detainer Actions

Past DueLandlords are being put into difficult and expensive situations by a disturbing new trend in the defense of Unlawful Detainers. The State of California has enacted a law effective January 1, 2013 wherein the courts will provide notice to the tenants of the availability of “public interest” defense firms as well as their contact information in each and every case.

These public interest law firms are not the traditional law firm in that they their specific goal is to impede the landlord’s efforts in favor of the ‘downtrodden’ tenant. They employ marginal legal tactics in order to effectuate favorable settlements from landlords who cannot afford high litigation costs. This often results is the landlord not only forgiving sizable amounts of rent, but also paying large settlements or allowing tenants additional time to vacate at the landlord’s expense. Their typical tactics include extensive written discovery, long depositions and requesting jury trials.

The demand for jury trial is the most difficult tactic used. Often attorneys must appear three or more times to get a room for trial, due to the reductions at the courts, in general. The trials can cost $10,000 and more. There is the additional risk that a sympathetic jury will side with the ‘poor’ tenant as many of the jurors are themselves renters. All this once again tips the scales of justice in the renter’s favor and creates the environment wherein landlords pay additional costs and add great frustration to obtain justice in our legal system.