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Landlord and Tenant
Do I need a lawyer?

When dealing with issues concerning a landlord and tenant dispute, the first thing you need is wisdom not a lawyer. Whenever you are dealing with property you first have to make sure your agreement is in writing and signed by the landlord. The two most important aspects of are the lease agreement and the words of any controlling statute or law. Most states have enacted laws with very precise rules concerning the obligations of landlords and the rights of tenants. If there is not a written lease agreement it is fair to say that a tenant has very few if any rights. Generally, if there is not a written lease agreement, a landlord can ask the court to evict a tenant after 30 days notice. The landlord does not have to have a valid reason to evict the tenant. So even if the tenant has paid all rent in a timely fashion and kept the property in good order and in good repair the landlord can ask the court to evict the tenant and usually will be successful. On the other hand if the parties have a written agreement then rights of the landlord are determined by the written words of the agreement. For that matter the rights of the tenant are also governed by the written words or the agreement.

Most issues and disputes can be headed off by each party by a clear understanding of the words contained in the original agreement. As my wife would say “nip it in the bud”. Read the proposed agreement very carefully. Make sure you understand it and if you don’t ask the other party to explain what you do not understand. If you do not like what is proposed suggest alternative language and provisions. Never, Never, Never sign an agreement you have reservations about. Make sure the reservation is not trivial and are major concerns such as the amount rent, the reason for default, the term of the lease or obligations to repair. How do you exercise wisdom in these circumstances - what are the steps of a wise man. Here is a good list to start with -

1.     Knowledge - obtain the necessary knowledge. This means that you have to spend some time and diligence in learning as much as is possible about the relationship of landlord and tenant. Go to the library and in today’s world go to the Internet. Google makes the acquisition of knowledge so much less time consuming

2.     Understanding - know how to apply the knowledge. Knowledge standing by itself can sometimes be very dangerous - it leads to a false sense of security. Understanding involves comprehension and comprehension the ability to successfully apply knowledge of certain principles to different sets of facts.

3.     Experience - experience is a great teacher, just as failure is so you need to seek out those who have experience in reading a lease agreement, in applying a lease agreement.

4.     Counsel - a wise person seeks the council of others who have more experience and knowledge. As King Solomon says “there is safety in the multitude of counselors”. So where can you find council- yes even wise council -

a.      Older family members - Mother, Father, Aunt, Uncle

b.     Older colleagues at work like the boss or supervisor

c.      A teacher

d.     A pastor

e.      An elder at church

The key is that you should not seek counsel from just any one, it should be someone who has demonstrated that they have wisdom by their experiences.

Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt
November 28,2008


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