Author Topic: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry  (Read 3533 times)

xenon5

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Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« on: February 10, 2018, 03:54:02 PM »
I moved into my apartment in 9/16 and started experiencing water leaks from the roof in 12/16.  After dozens of leaking events and no repairs to the roof, I started withholding my rent in 10/17.  I gave them the proper notice according to the law in my state (New Jersey), and I went to court for an eviction hearing 2 weeks ago.  Since I had the cash in hand and a reason for withholding the rent, I was not evicted.  If I don't settle with them, there would be another court date in about 3 months where I present my evidence to the judge, who then decides what I owe in the end.

The rental company is willing to settle with my for the following offer
- 1 month's rent abatement
- $1000 moving costs
- Move to an identical apartment with an 18 month lease at my current rent level ($2100).  The market rate for the replacement apartment is supposedly $2300.  It's in the same building with the same floor plan and view.  My lease expires in 7/18.  Effectively, I'd be locking in my current rent amount for about 12 additional months.

However, I've also paid $1500 for an attorney up to this point.  Taking out the attorney fees, I'd be getting back less than 1 month's rent, and I'd be locked into my apartment for 18 months.  Their original offer before I hired a lawyer was just the abatement and moving costs, without providing any details regarding alternative apartments, so they haven't really budged.

My lawyer is advising me to take the deal for the following reasons (according to him):
a) The court will only consider events that transpired AFTER I began withholding the rent.  The leaking is totally random based on what mother nature cooks up for me.  If there are no severe enough leaks between now and the court date, I'd risk having little evidence during the period the court cares about.
b) If the court makes a judgement in my favor, I would only be able to recoup my legal fees proportionate to the abatement granted.  For example, if the court awards me with a 30% abatement of what I've withheld, then I could only seek 30% of my legal fees from the landlord.

This entire situation makes me incredibly angry.  Even though I'm technically in the right, the personal cost to fight is very high for little potential gain.  In addition to all the anxiety and frustration this has caused me, I'll end up having wasted a bunch of time in court.  And if I lose completely, it would also cost a bunch of money.  I'm also angry that I've paid so much for an attorney, and I don't feel like I'm getting anything back for it.

I'm leaning towards demanding the rental company cover my legal fees, and not taking the deal if they refuse. Even if going in front of the judge costs me, it would only take a few months of living with family or renting a cheap room to recoup the loss.  If I permanently downgraded my housing, it would also save me thousands over the offered lease period where I'd be spending $2100 per month on rent.  I just don't see the point in spending a dollar more in rent than what's necessary if the justice system is too broken to guarantee sufficient protections for renters.  The main benefit of staying is that I do enjoy living here (ignoring the leaks and legal headaches), and I could put the whole thing to rest now.

I've also been thinking about quitting my job for open-ended travel, while starting up my own business.  What I really want out of FIRE is autonomy.  I'm grateful for my high paying job, but it also feels like I'm "wasting" my time - like I'm waiting to live my life until after I hit my FIRE number.  If I could succeed as an entrepreneur, I believe I could get the autonomy I crave much sooner than if I stick with salaried work until FIRE.  I'm already at 40% of my minimum FIRE number.  If I stayed in hostels and other cheap accommodations while working on my ideas, I'd be able to cover my living expenses for a few years even if I made no money at all. 

However, I'm not 100% ready to commit to this, and I don't know what I need to be ready.  This conflict makes me feel like I have to make a decision now - either I'm locked into my current living/work situation for 18 months, or I move out in July and figure out what comes next.  At least if I move out, I haven't closed the door on anything but this particular apartment complex.  I could also save more aggressively before making the leap if my housing were cheaper.

I realize that these choices are mine to make in in the end, but I figured it would be helpful to write down my thoughts and get some second opinions!

NorCal

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2018, 04:24:50 PM »
I would say you should negotiate for the future lease term you actually want.  So ask for a 12 month lease, or full termination, or whatever you actually want.

Beyond that, just settle.

I've been involved in litigation in the past in the business world.  Fighting more tends to rack up legal fees for both sides, makes everyone angrier, and makes settlement even harder.  The amount of stress and heartache you'd put yourself through would not be worth the extra value you might win through litigation.

Telecaster

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2018, 08:27:06 PM »
I would say you should negotiate for the future lease term you actually want.  So ask for a 12 month lease, or full termination, or whatever you actually want.

Beyond that, just settle.

This.  If the OP takes the deal he (she?) gets a new, hopefully non-leaky apartment and a couple bucks in his pocket.  That's what they call a "home run" in the legal system. 

Put this thing to bed.  Drawing it out just means more headaches for you.  This is the kind of thing you want in the review mirror, not consuming your life's energy. 

rockeTree

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 12:29:44 PM »
Always remember your Dickens when you feel unfairly treated.

This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire, which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man’s acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give — who does not often give — the warning, “Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!”


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specialkayme

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 12:52:58 PM »
My lawyer is advising me to take the deal . . .

If you were my client, I'd advise you to take the deal as well.

This entire situation makes me incredibly angry.  Even though I'm technically in the right, the personal cost to fight is very high for little potential gain.  In addition to all the anxiety and frustration this has caused me, I'll end up having wasted a bunch of time in court.  And if I lose completely, it would also cost a bunch of money.

That's how law always works. You don't go to court to "make things right" you go to court to prevent "getting screwed." Its a sad reality, but reality none the less.

Their original offer before I hired a lawyer was just the abatement and moving costs, without providing any details regarding alternative apartments, so they haven't really budged.

. . .

I'm also angry that I've paid so much for an attorney, and I don't feel like I'm getting anything back for it.

. . .

I'm leaning towards demanding the rental company cover my legal fees, and not taking the deal if they refuse.

I'd tell your attorney just that. What have you gotten me? See what he says. You won't get anything out of it, but its fair to explain to him that you're frustrated.

I don't think theres anything wrong with asking them to cover your legal fees. They won't, but they might pay for part of it. If they do, take the deal and move on. If they don't, I'd take the deal and move on anyway.

Sibley

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2018, 01:20:39 PM »
Buddy, settle, and after the lease is up, move. Because you've soured relations with this landlord. Not saying you didn't have cause, but that's the end result.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2018, 01:58:33 PM »
I'm an attorney and I'm not giving legal advice, blah blah blah. But my opinion is that you should probably take the settlement for the reasons others have mentioned.

I did want to comment on some things.

This entire situation makes me incredibly angry.  Even though I'm technically in the right, the personal cost to fight is very high for little potential gain.

Disputes are frustrating, and as someone else said, the court system is not there to make things more comfortable. I mean, honestly think about it--your dispute is relatively minor in the big picture, and to take this thing all the way, you'd be taking up time from: the clerk of courts, judges, magistrates, court reporters, jury members, other lawyers, etc. 

I know you want your "day in court," but the legal system is the way it is in part because if all disputes like yours went all the way to trial, the entire county court system would either shut down or need four to five times the staff.

I'm leaning towards demanding the rental company cover my legal fees, and not taking the deal if they refuse. Even if going in front of the judge costs me, it would only take a few months of living with family or renting a cheap room to recoup the loss. 

This is the type of counter that may tank a settlement and then runs up everyone's fees even more. As I think someone else indicated, look for creative solutions that will be beneficial to you that won't crush the entire deal. Ask your lawyer about this.

FINate

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2018, 04:13:30 PM »
As others have already mentioned, I would settle, though would try to find an agreement that doesn't include a new lease with the current landlord. That well has been poisoned, time to move.

What I really came here to comment on...

I've also been thinking about quitting my job for open-ended travel, while starting up my own business.  What I really want out of FIRE is autonomy.  I'm grateful for my high paying job, but it also feels like I'm "wasting" my time - like I'm waiting to live my life until after I hit my FIRE number.  If I could succeed as an entrepreneur, I believe I could get the autonomy I crave much sooner than if I stick with salaried work until FIRE.  I'm already at 40% of my minimum FIRE number.  If I stayed in hostels and other cheap accommodations while working on my ideas, I'd be able to cover my living expenses for a few years even if I made no money at all. 

Huh? Does not compute. I say this as someone who grew up working in the family business and have a number of entrepreneurial relatives. Starting a business is about the last thing you want to do if autonomy is your goal. Sure, you don't have a "boss" so to speak, but you're beholden to the bank, landlord, state, IRS, and so on. A successful business demands constant attention: employees, accountants, clients, logistics, inventory, marketing, and on and on. It's not something you just kinda start on the side (unless you're talking about a side hustle...that's very different than starting a business, and not something you do to get to FIRE). A business pretty much guarantees less free time, less autonomy. I left the family business in favor of being a cog in the corporate world where my name's not on the business and I was able to go home every night or on vacations knowing I wasn't ultimately responsible for things. Net gain in autonomy.

If you want autonomy then FIRE, but this means you need to save/create enough wealth to hit FI. A select few entrepreneurs will strike it rich and will therefore become autonomous - this is due to their wealth rather than entrepreneurialism. For the vast, vast number of entrepreneurs their businesses end up demanding more time with less payout (relative to effort) than their corporate drone peers.

Sorry for the rant, but I've seen too many people start businesses for the wrong reasons. Mostly thinking that this would give them more free time or more freedom when the exact opposite is true. If you're going to start a business do it for the right reasons.
Do it if you enjoy building businesses, starting things from scratch, working with employees and/or customers, dealing with regulations and bureaucracy, and you love the demands and busyness required to keep things running.

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 09:29:50 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 09:32:03 AM by FIRE47 »

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 10:32:59 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Be prepared to write your attorney a $2,500 retainer if you take this advice.

mm1970

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 10:37:50 AM »
Don't know what to tell you, depends a lot on your locality.

My town has a lot of crappy landlords always trying to withhold deposits. Some are literal slumlords.  They figure the average person is too lazy to fight.

Our court system is pretty sympathetic to the renters.  Our biggest slumlord has been fined a million bucks for his run down rentals. 

I've had many friends whose landlords kept their deposits. Most recently, a family of 6 moved out after 14 years in a place.  Landlord refused to return the deposit citing need to paint and replace or clean carpets.  Which, after 14 years, is wear and tear.

He was betting on the family giving up, because what homeschooling mom of 4 wants to drag 4 kids to the courthouse to fill out paperwork?  But she did, and she got her full deposit back.

Laura33

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 10:54:23 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Very bad advice.  Worst-case is that you get to pay all the back rent, plus interest, plus late fees for every month. 

OTOH, the upside is probably minimal.  In most cases in the US, you are not entitled to your attorneys' fees, even if you win.  It sounds here like NJ law gives you the right to some attorneys' fees, depending on how much rent abatement the court grants.  So how are you going to show harm that justifies 100% rent abatement.  Did the roof leak destroy valuable property?  Did it create mold that the landlord refused to remediate that caused health problems? 

Without some big bad damage like that, it's basically an annoyance.  And I can't think of any landlord-tenant court that is going to give you 100% free rent for well over a year just because of an annoyance -- you still had heat/AC, hot water, indoor plumbing, locks on the doors, no vermin, etc. etc. etc.  IOW, you got some value out of that apartment; the question is going to be how much is that value "worth," and how much of the value was impaired by the recurring leak. 

They are also going to look at whether you and the landlord made reasonable efforts to mitigate your damages -- specifically, if they offered to cover your costs to move to another unit, at the same rent, then the court might not be very friendly toward damages that occurred after you turned that down.

In short, you can be legally completely right -- of course you shouldn't have to live with the nuisance of an unrepaired roof leak! -- and still not be entitled to much of anything.  So I agree with the earlier suggestions:  just negotiate some sort of deal that allows you to move out, and put this whole thing behind you.

Standard caveats, of course: not your lawyer, not providing legal advice, etc.  And I'm not a NJ lawyer, either, so some of my assumptions about what the court will/won't consider may not be accurate, either.

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2018, 11:05:38 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Very bad advice.  Worst-case is that you get to pay all the back rent, plus interest, plus late fees for every month. 

OTOH, the upside is probably minimal.  In most cases in the US, you are not entitled to your attorneys' fees, even if you win.  It sounds here like NJ law gives you the right to some attorneys' fees, depending on how much rent abatement the court grants.  So how are you going to show harm that justifies 100% rent abatement.  Did the roof leak destroy valuable property?  Did it create mold that the landlord refused to remediate that caused health problems? 

Without some big bad damage like that, it's basically an annoyance.  And I can't think of any landlord-tenant court that is going to give you 100% free rent for well over a year just because of an annoyance -- you still had heat/AC, hot water, indoor plumbing, locks on the doors, no vermin, etc. etc. etc.  IOW, you got some value out of that apartment; the question is going to be how much is that value "worth," and how much of the value was impaired by the recurring leak. 

They are also going to look at whether you and the landlord made reasonable efforts to mitigate your damages -- specifically, if they offered to cover your costs to move to another unit, at the same rent, then the court might not be very friendly toward damages that occurred after you turned that down.

In short, you can be legally completely right -- of course you shouldn't have to live with the nuisance of an unrepaired roof leak! -- and still not be entitled to much of anything.  So I agree with the earlier suggestions:  just negotiate some sort of deal that allows you to move out, and put this whole thing behind you.

Standard caveats, of course: not your lawyer, not providing legal advice, etc.  And I'm not a NJ lawyer, either, so some of my assumptions about what the court will/won't consider may not be accurate, either.

Not sure where you live but I have a relative who managed to live virtually rent free for well over a year due to an unattended pest infestation by doing the above - no I am not a lawyer but have been personally involved on the sidelines in a few proceedings admittedly in another locale. He also had a lawyer on his side who was worth the fees and did not tell him to "just settle". By the end they settled just to get him out and start collecting rent on the unit again. There are often numerous small violations that can be filed to delay the proceedings and ideally you should have a good lawyer who wants to work and help point them out, but in this case it seems like he is not adding any value only cost. In his case the lawyer pointed out how many individuals are sometimes allergic to the droppings left by some pests and it aggravated his breathing problems. This was among a half dozen other issues.

I'm certain the moisture is also bad at aggravating respiratory issues or also inviting pests who may take hold ontop of the leak?



« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 11:11:04 AM by FIRE47 »

EricL

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2018, 11:07:14 AM »
As for being an entrepreneur, the upsides are potentially great.  But the downside is the new boss.  Hell be micromanaging, unforgiving, relentless, and cold hearted.  Hell have ber-Orwellian surveillance abilities on everything you do, think, and say at home and at work.  Hell drive you to work insane hours with threats of shame and guilt no parent or priest can or dare wield.  Not to mention threats of bankruptcy and black marks on your reputation.  All this horror will be magnified if hes not competent.  Because hell be you. 

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2018, 11:33:37 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Be prepared to write your attorney a $2,500 retainer if you take this advice.

See my response to Millionaire above - if he wanted to "just settle" he wouldn't have hired a lawyer. He can get thrown around by the landlord just fine on his own.

If my relative would have done that he would have had to live in an infested apartment for over a year to only get 1 month free rent? That isn't worth anything if the unit is barely liveable.

At least he has access to a shower right if the whole roof is raining water?

Always willing to bend over I thought you guys were lawyers.

In my relatives case the lawyer noticed a bit of a cough while in his office - that and a trip to a doctor that the lawyer knew was a big part in convincing the landlord corporation to settle with more favourable terms.

It's all about the small details and listening to the client to see what opportunities might present themselves.

« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 11:39:11 AM by FIRE47 »

Telecaster

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2018, 11:46:07 AM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Terrible advice. 

The landlord has already offered to move him to a new, equivalent apartment.  There is 0.0% chance of recovering any future damages at this point if he remains in the apartment. 

The worst case is he winds up with a legal judgement against him for back rent and fees according to the lease agreement, PLUS the landlord's costs AND his own legal costs.  That's a giant risk for hopefully getting discounted rent.  And that's not even counting the stress and headache. 


BuildingmyFIRE

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 11:48:34 AM »
Settlement is not about winning. The old say goes that if everyone walks away a little bit unhappy, its a good compromise.

You won't "win" by continuing to litigate for the sake of proving you're right.  You just end up with more legal fees.  If the deal offered is not exactly what you want, see what further you can negotiate.   

Don't post on the internet what your lawyer advised you, ESPECIALLY with so many specific facts.  You're blowing your AC privilege.  What if the lawyer for the landlord also happened to be a mustachian!?  There are ways to ask a question without saying "My lawyer advised me X".  Good luck.


FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 12:06:35 PM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Terrible advice. 

The landlord has already offered to move him to a new, equivalent apartment.  There is 0.0% chance of recovering any future damages at this point if he remains in the apartment. 

The worst case is he winds up with a legal judgement against him for back rent and fees according to the lease agreement, PLUS the landlord's costs AND his own legal costs.  That's a giant risk for hopefully getting discounted rent.  And that's not even counting the stress and headache.

Yea as well as signing off with other unacceptable terms - if they offered to move him as well as murder his first born that would absolve them as well if he didn't agree to it?

They are trying to steal thousands of dollars from him while the apartment does not even provide basic shelter from the elements.

You can advise what you want - I've always seen much better terms offered if you are willing to play other angles. If you don't have anything to work with then perhaps you should just settle but a good lawyer with a sense for opportunity will always dig up something.

OP are you a minority of any kind, recent immigrant, are you differently-abled is the land lord aware of these facts or been in face to face contact with you? These are the kinds of things that were used to great effect to force the corps hand by the lawyer my relative used. I hesistate to post much more online at this point already trying to leave things out.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 12:08:54 PM by FIRE47 »

WootWoot

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 12:08:43 PM »
I don't have any advice, but I do want to offer my sympathy. Having recently been effed over by the so-called justice system in my town and county, in a situation involving landlords, I am sorry you're going through this.

I do hope you reach FIRE soon and you are able to do what you want!

specialkayme

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 01:31:46 PM »
@FIRE47 - I appreciate your contributions, and your attempt to help, but from a legal standpoint your advice is horrible, borderline fraud, and could get the OP in a world of pain.

I don't give medical advice. It might be best to leave the legal advice to attorneys.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2018, 01:58:43 PM »
See my response to Millionaire above - if he wanted to "just settle" he wouldn't have hired a lawyer. He can get thrown around by the landlord just fine on his own.

If my relative would have done that he would have had to live in an infested apartment for over a year to only get 1 month free rent? That isn't worth anything if the unit is barely liveable.

At least he has access to a shower right if the whole roof is raining water?

Always willing to bend over I thought you guys were lawyers.

In my relatives case the lawyer noticed a bit of a cough while in his office - that and a trip to a doctor that the lawyer knew was a big part in convincing the landlord corporation to settle with more favourable terms.

It's all about the small details and listening to the client to see what opportunities might present themselves.

Being a good lawyer does not involve taking every case to trial like a TV show.  It involves exercising your judgment as to the pros and cons, and always, always, always advising your client as to the worst case scenario.

Here, I don't know the facts, but the client would likely need to pay me $3,000-4,000 to take this all the way.  OP almost certainly would not recover most of those fees.  He may get charged with court costs.  As Laura33 noted, a court may find that he failed to mitigate his damages by not accepting this offer (settlement offers are not admissible to prove fault, but they are admissible to prove mitigation of loss).  If all that happened, the client would likely get a "judgment" against the judge that is likely worth about the same as the current settlement offer, but have $3,000-4,000 less in his bank account to show for it.

As I said earlier, there are lawyers out there who would fight and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but then they stick you with the bill later.  Seems like OP's lawyer is being pretty reasonable about all this and has negotiated a pretty good settlement.

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2018, 02:10:58 PM »
See my response to Millionaire above - if he wanted to "just settle" he wouldn't have hired a lawyer. He can get thrown around by the landlord just fine on his own.

If my relative would have done that he would have had to live in an infested apartment for over a year to only get 1 month free rent? That isn't worth anything if the unit is barely liveable.

At least he has access to a shower right if the whole roof is raining water?

Always willing to bend over I thought you guys were lawyers.

In my relatives case the lawyer noticed a bit of a cough while in his office - that and a trip to a doctor that the lawyer knew was a big part in convincing the landlord corporation to settle with more favourable terms.

It's all about the small details and listening to the client to see what opportunities might present themselves.

Being a good lawyer does not involve taking every case to trial like a TV show.  It involves exercising your judgment as to the pros and cons, and always, always, always advising your client as to the worst case scenario.

Here, I don't know the facts, but the client would likely need to pay me $3,000-4,000 to take this all the way.  OP almost certainly would not recover most of those fees.  He may get charged with court costs.  As Laura33 noted, a court may find that he failed to mitigate his damages by not accepting this offer (settlement offers are not admissible to prove fault, but they are admissible to prove mitigation of loss).  If all that happened, the client would likely get a "judgment" against the judge that is likely worth about the same as the current settlement offer, but have $3,000-4,000 less in his bank account to show for it.

As I said earlier, there are lawyers out there who would fight and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but then they stick you with the bill later.  Seems like OP's lawyer is being pretty reasonable about all this and has negotiated a pretty good settlement.

Like I said I'm not a lawyer and you guys will know far more than me - but I have seen a few cases get a lot more than 1 months rent and moving costs.
Did the lawyer probably have to take a little creative license? Maybe. But in my mind it's justified if I had to get rained on inside my apartment while paying for it. Male relative A got about 16-17 months rent (they ended up keeping his first and last and lawyer advised to let it go) in a very high COLA area because his lawyer was willing to do what it took, it wasn;t fraudulent as some posters are suggesting  - a doctor signed off on his claims regarding the droppings after examining him. OP may have asthma, COPD, emphashema etc being aggravated by the moisture. I actually don't know if they went to a full trial - I don;t really understand fully how it all works but it could be that just a few letters with some stuff from the doctor etc and after a few months of dealing with this lawyer they just decided it was better to have him gone and get someone new in.  I don't know what the lawyer charged but even if it was $3-4k he still made out quite well as well as having the satisfaction to go along with it.

I guess the main problem is there isn't enough rent to be recclaimed for any lawyer to really care in OP's case. In the case of my relative the amount at stake was in excess of $30k and he was retired with money to spare. He really didn't care he just didn't like the landlord.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 02:21:13 PM by FIRE47 »

Laura33

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2018, 03:01:59 PM »
Did the lawyer probably have to take a little creative license? Maybe. But in my mind it's justified if I had to get rained on inside my apartment while paying for it. Male relative A got about 16-17 months rent (they ended up keeping his first and last and lawyer advised to let it go) in a very high COLA area because his lawyer was willing to do what it took, it wasn;t fraudulent as some posters are suggesting  - a doctor signed off on his claims regarding the droppings after examining him. OP may have asthma, COPD, emphashema etc being aggravated by the moisture.

This is what we call "assuming facts not in evidence."  You are comparing this case to relative/friends who had demonstrated harm to their health that he could prove in court.  That kind of thing happens, and yes, it can be a big deal -- that's why lawyers advertise for people who have been exposed to mold, because they know there can be significant money in it. 

But all we know here is that the roof leaked, and the landlord didn't fix it.  OP didn't mention any damage to his property, or any "could this be mold?" health complaints -- just the roof leaked, repeatedly, and he asked the landlord multiple times to fix it, and the landlord did nothing.  Personally, that is totally crazy-making.  But in court, it's not even in the same ballpark as a mold contamination case.  And any lawyer who would push him to litigate without property damage or health issues is the kind who gives the profession a bad name.

So, yes, if there is no demonstrable harm to him or his stuff, I'm standing pat on my earlier (non-)advice.  OTOH, if there is significant harm that he hasn't mentioned, then I retract my earlier post and suggest he interview another lawyer.

Freedom2016

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2018, 03:37:36 PM »
I can relate to the extreme anger and frustration of being 100% "in the right" and wanting real justice to be served. I've been in a similar situation twice.

First time, a potential buyer of my car took it for a test drive, crashed it, then refused to pay for the damage. I was practically shaking with anger at the situation; the guy was a lawyer who played nice until I said I expected him to reimburse me for the damage. Then the claws came out. He was such a jerk. I sued him. Which took time, cost, and emotional energy, and it was crazy-making the way he tried to weasel out of responsibility in front of the judge.

I won the court case. Which was an AWESOME victory....until the guy didn't pay me according to the court order. So I had to go BACK to court (more time, cost, and emotional energy) to compel payment, and the jerk showed up with a bankruptcy order. He owed something like $200k to a 13-page list of creditors.

So I never collected a dime.

The second time I experienced this was with a landlord who withheld over $1000 of security deposit money for clear wear & tear items. We had not damaged a thing in his home, and we cleaned it to within an inch of its life. I knew I was clearly in the right, legally. He was also a lawyer.

This time, despite my rage, I realized that my previous car-damage-victory was ultimately hollow and a huge waste of my time and emotions. This situation was shaping up to play out similarly. And so I decided to save my own sanity by letting it go rather than suing him.

I am bitter that these jerks were ultimately able to take advantage of me, but in the end I value my sanity, time, and emotional well-being more than getting the legal/moral victory in court. And notice how in neither case was it really about the money for me.

Sorry for your situation. Hope you can make peace with it soon and move on.

PS - I have a lot of lawyers in my family and friend circle, so I'm not anti-attorney generally.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 03:41:18 PM by Freedom2016 »

therethere

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2018, 04:14:19 PM »
I'm a lifelong renter and have had plenty of problems with landlords. I can totally understand your frustration. I have had an unfixed leaky roof for 6+ months but it never crossed my mind to withhold rent.

But this post is missing one big thing..... What do you want? Is there anything you would consider fair? Had you received the current offer prior to signing a lawyer and getting all worked up would you have been satisfied?

It seems like the more anger you get in your head, the more you want out of them. You keep escalating the situation (court, lawyer) but you haven't mentioned any real damages to your stuff or your health. Unless there is a health issue or an infestation what are you trying to accomplish by dragging this out?

Telecaster

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2018, 04:30:50 PM »
I wouldn't settle - I would just pay the lawyer his due and continue fighting it on your own as he doesn't seem to be bringing any value to the table.

Seems like all you really have to do is drag your feet and continue withholding rent, I've seen this go on for years. File more paperwork and counter claims to delay eviction as long as possible. Worst case you'll just have to pay rent you would have owed anyways. In the mean time perhaps the roof leak will continue to get worse and will provide you the evidence you need, perhaps it will also destroy some unfortunately placed valuables you've been meaning to get rid of?

Terrible advice. 

The landlord has already offered to move him to a new, equivalent apartment.  There is 0.0% chance of recovering any future damages at this point if he remains in the apartment. 

The worst case is he winds up with a legal judgement against him for back rent and fees according to the lease agreement, PLUS the landlord's costs AND his own legal costs.  That's a giant risk for hopefully getting discounted rent.  And that's not even counting the stress and headache.

Yea as well as signing off with other unacceptable terms - if they offered to move him as well as murder his first born that would absolve them as well if he didn't agree to it?

They are trying to steal thousands of dollars from him while the apartment does not even provide basic shelter from the elements.

You can advise what you want - I've always seen much better terms offered if you are willing to play other angles. If you don't have anything to work with then perhaps you should just settle but a good lawyer with a sense for opportunity will always dig up something.

OP are you a minority of any kind, recent immigrant, are you differently-abled is the land lord aware of these facts or been in face to face contact with you? These are the kinds of things that were used to great effect to force the corps hand by the lawyer my relative used. I hesistate to post much more online at this point already trying to leave things out.

I'm not an attorney, but I've been through the legal system a time or two and my experience is that you can be 100% factually and morally correct and still lose.   If you do win, it can be pyrrhic.  On top of that, the whole experience is decidedly Not Fun. 

I suppose there might be some potential for more money there, but there is also a guarantee for an unpleasant experience (at least I find it unpleasant).   Different strokes, but even if I was pretty sure I was going to win, I wouldn't do it.  It is a soul-sucking, life-consuming process.   I don't want money badly enough to go there. 


FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2018, 04:37:19 PM »
Did the lawyer probably have to take a little creative license? Maybe. But in my mind it's justified if I had to get rained on inside my apartment while paying for it. Male relative A got about 16-17 months rent (they ended up keeping his first and last and lawyer advised to let it go) in a very high COLA area because his lawyer was willing to do what it took, it wasn;t fraudulent as some posters are suggesting  - a doctor signed off on his claims regarding the droppings after examining him. OP may have asthma, COPD, emphashema etc being aggravated by the moisture.

This is what we call "assuming facts not in evidence."  You are comparing this case to relative/friends who had demonstrated harm to their health that he could prove in court.  That kind of thing happens, and yes, it can be a big deal -- that's why lawyers advertise for people who have been exposed to mold, because they know there can be significant money in it. 

But all we know here is that the roof leaked, and the landlord didn't fix it.  OP didn't mention any damage to his property, or any "could this be mold?" health complaints -- just the roof leaked, repeatedly, and he asked the landlord multiple times to fix it, and the landlord did nothing.  Personally, that is totally crazy-making.  But in court, it's not even in the same ballpark as a mold contamination case.  And any lawyer who would push him to litigate without property damage or health issues is the kind who gives the profession a bad name.

So, yes, if there is no demonstrable harm to him or his stuff, I'm standing pat on my earlier (non-)advice.  OTOH, if there is significant harm that he hasn't mentioned, then I retract my earlier post and suggest he interview another lawyer.

I understand what you're saying - but relative A did not know that this was even an option as I said before the lawyer did a little thinking, a little digging, and noticed this himself as a solution - I was just using it as an example of a lawyer worth his fee. As I said it was the lawyer that heard him coughing in his office and asked if he had any conditions that could possibly be aggravated by the droppings in any way, he called up a doctor he deals with and they were all set. This was the main thing but he also came up with a few other things and stalled the whole process a few times with various other minor wranglings. If he wants it bad enough he can "win" this. Relative was satisfied in this battle as the whole time he was living for free in the unit - the lawyer said he had little to lose once it was found his condition had been aggravated by the pest droppings, in fact he probably could have dragged it on even longer and lived there for free a few more months but his health took a turn for the worst and he just wanted it over with. He passed not too long after but he was happy to have stuck it to the man one final time, it wasn't the same condition that killed him or I would have been going after them now if there was any plausible link - the lawyer did call his wife to propose such a thing when he died but the family doctor disagreed with his doctor that it had anything to do iwth it and his wife wasn't as keen with this sort of a thing.

The problem here is after reading it again OP only has 5 months rent withheld and they are already offering him one back plus moving costs so I doubt anyone is going to get too creative.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 04:46:16 PM by FIRE47 »

specialkayme

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2018, 04:56:24 PM »
he called up a doctor he deals with and they were all set.

. . . .

 but the family doctor disagreed with his doctor that it had anything to do iwth it and his wife wasn't as keen with this sort of a thing.

And you seriously don't see anything wrong here? That a lawyer heard a cough, is not a medically trained individual and simply heard a "cough" and called up a doctor he "deals" with and magically health damages arose? Damages that couldn't be corroborated? Seriously? Why would the lawyer have a doctor he "deals" with? If the damaged person had a family doctor, why wouldn't he go see the family doctor, and instead run off to the doctor the lawyer "deals" with? You don't see anything funny, fraudulent, or wrong with that?

To suggest someone else go through these loops in an attempt to find additional damages is nauseating.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2018, 04:59:05 PM »
I'd likely settle. Maybe I'd counter, if I felt truly frustrated.

I understand that it's frustrating. For reference, I do know where you're coming from. Long ago, when I was just a normal cat and not a CPA cat, our accountant really messed up our tax return. We ended up paying about $20,000 in penalties because of an oversight (complicated forms needed to be filed and they had minimum penalties for late filing). So we sued her. She did not have liability insurance (!!). We had proof that she said she was going to file the forms, but then never did (an email). But our attorney bills were mounting.

In the end she offered us a settlement of $10,000 - 50%. Our attorney bills were $2,500. We countered with $10,000 + our attorney fees. She agreed and we settled. It sucked to accept a partial settlement for something that was clearly and unequivocally her fault. But how much money and time were we truly willing to sink into that other $10,000?

Make sure your righteous anger isn't getting in the way of you making a good decision and moving on here.

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2018, 06:12:14 PM »
he called up a doctor he deals with and they were all set.

. . . .

 but the family doctor disagreed with his doctor that it had anything to do iwth it and his wife wasn't as keen with this sort of a thing.

And you seriously don't see anything wrong here? That a lawyer heard a cough, is not a medically trained individual and simply heard a "cough" and called up a doctor he "deals" with and magically health damages arose? Damages that couldn't be corroborated? Seriously? Why would the lawyer have a doctor he "deals" with? If the damaged person had a family doctor, why wouldn't he go see the family doctor, and instead run off to the doctor the lawyer "deals" with? You don't see anything funny, fraudulent, or wrong with that?

To suggest someone else go through these loops in an attempt to find additional damages is nauseating.

Not really no - he was morally right if the facts needed a gentle massaging so be it. How many times does it go the other way where  some poor tenant just gets run over?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 06:16:11 PM by FIRE47 »

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2018, 09:31:41 AM »
Not really no - he was morally right if the facts needed a gentle massaging so be it. How many times does it go the other way where  some poor tenant just gets run over?

Respectfully, you're the type of client I'd have no problem filing a notice to withdraw citing irreconcilable differences. I'd also probably let unpaid fees go so I didn't have to deal with you anymore.

EricL

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #31 on: February 13, 2018, 11:41:47 AM »
When the system seems rigged against the little guy, how can you fault him for using its own cheats against it?  I can respect a lawyer who takes the moral high ground. If only because Im more likely to meet Big Foot. 

specialkayme

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2018, 02:08:57 PM »
Respectfully, you're the type of client I'd have no problem filing a notice to withdraw citing irreconcilable differences.

+1

FIRE47

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2018, 05:26:22 PM »
Not really no - he was morally right if the facts needed a gentle massaging so be it. How many times does it go the other way where  some poor tenant just gets run over?

Respectfully, you're the type of client I'd have no problem filing a notice to withdraw citing irreconcilable differences. I'd also probably let unpaid fees go so I didn't have to deal with you anymore.

That's fine - I wouldn't want you guys as a lawyer anyways.

"The system is rigged against you and we give up"

You try living in rat feces as an old man with breathing problems and tell me you would want to pay full rent? Let me tell you something - this man served his country. I'm going to ask you something as well - have you ever opened your cupboards to find a dead rat in your dishware?







Bicycle_B

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Re: Legal Battle with Landlord - Feeling Stuck and Angry
« Reply #34 on: February 13, 2018, 10:05:13 PM »

The rental company is willing to settle with my for the following offer
- 1 month's rent abatement
- $1000 moving costs
- Move to an identical apartment with an 18 month lease at my current rent level ($2100).  The market rate for the replacement apartment is supposedly $2300.  It's in the same building with the same floor plan and view.  My lease expires in 7/18.  Effectively, I'd be locking in my current rent amount for about 12 additional months.

I've also been thinking about quitting my job for open-ended travel, while starting up my own business.  What I really want out of FIRE is autonomy.  I'm grateful for my high paying job, but it also feels like I'm "wasting" my time - like I'm waiting to live my life until after I hit my FIRE number.  If I could succeed as an entrepreneur, I believe I could get the autonomy I crave much sooner than if I stick with salaried work until FIRE.  I'm already at 40% of my minimum FIRE number.  If I stayed in hostels and other cheap accommodations while working on my ideas, I'd be able to cover my living expenses for a few years even if I made no money at all. 

However, I'm not 100% ready to commit to this, and I don't know what I need to be ready.  This conflict makes me feel like I have to make a decision now - either I'm locked into my current living/work situation for 18 months, or I move out in July and figure out what comes next.  At least if I move out, I haven't closed the door on anything but this particular apartment complex.  I could also save more aggressively before making the leap if my housing were cheaper.

I realize that these choices are mine to make in in the end, but I figured it would be helpful to write down my thoughts and get some second opinions!

You have practical choices but your goals are emotional.  You get more autonomy by moving in July, you want to travel, you have money in the bank.  If you're really going to do that, do it - drop the rent squabble, get concrete instead about your new plans.

If you're not going to drop your whole current life, accept the 18 month offer.  You'll have dry place to more carefully explore your options, autonomously.  Regardless of what you do, hassles and frustrations will be there because they are part of life.  Put the apartment squabble behind you.

I've been frustrated most in my life when the underlying issue was me not taking enough action.  Resolve the surface issue of the apartment with no further fuss, just get it over with.  Please don't take offense, but I think that once you take action on other, more important issues, you will feel better.