Do I Have a Case?
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Our office handles a variety of landlord-tenant matters. While landlord-tenant disputes often arise, not all bad landlord behavior gives rise to legal liability.
Broadly speaking, the types of cases below are among those in which we most often represent clients:
- In a rent-controlled and just cause for eviction city (e.g., San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Mountain View, Richmond, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, and Hayward), a landlord forced the tenants to leave a rent-controlled apartment without just cause (e.g., due to severe, unabated habitability issues) and/or with purported just cause but with fraudulent intent (e.g., fraudulent owner-move-in eviction).
- In any city, after multiple written notifications by the tenant of multiple, severe habitability issues, the landlord failed to make needed repairs, forcing the tenant to leave and find a new home, causing the tenants to incur financial loss.
- In any city, the landlord continued to collect rent, demand rent, issue a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit, or raise rent more than 35 days after a public official (e.g., in San Francisco, the Department of Building Inspection) notified the landlord in writing of the need to make certain repairs to the rental unit.
- In any city, the landlord threatened the tenants with physical violence and/or harmful action (e.g., reporting immigrant tenants to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement).
- The landlord engaged in harassing or otherwise illegal behavior, forcing a tenant over age 65 and/or with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities to lose their primary residence.
- The landlord harassed and/or discriminated against the tenant on the basis of the tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, genetic information, medical condition, citizenship, primary language, and/or immigration status.
- The landlord has filed an eviction (unlawful detainer) lawsuit against the tenant, and the tenant needs legal representation.
This list is representative, but not exhaustive. Even if you are not sure whether your case merits legal representation, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary case evaluation. Tenant Law Group offers two options for attorney consultations: (1) A half-hour telephone consultation and (2) a one-hour premium consultation.
The half-hour telephone consultation includes 30 minutes by phone with an attorney to discuss your legal matter; a review of any documents you provide before the consultation; answers to any tenant rights legal questions you ask during the consultation; a suggested legal strategy to address your landlord-tenant matter; and recommended action items. The one-hour premium consultation includes all services offered during the half-hour telephone consultation, plus your choice of phone, Skype, or in-person attorney meeting; 30 additional minutes, allowing for a more thorough analysis of your legal matter; following the consultation, written attorney work product, which includes factual background, legal analysis, and recommended action item sections; and brief ghostwritten correspondence from you to your landlord regarding your legal matter.
Contact us today at (415) 915-7445 for a complimentary case evaluation and more information on an attorney consultation.
Do I Have a Contingency Case?
One of the most common questions potential clients ask is whether they have a strong tenant law contingency case. In contingency cases, the client does not pay the attorney an hourly fee; instead, the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the settlement or judgment.
Here are some factors we consider when evaluating tenant law cases for contingency representation:
- Value of loss of use or rent differential damages. Victims of illegal evictions from a rent- and eviction-controlled unit can recover “loss of use” or “rent differential” damages. These damages are the value of the difference between the monthly market value rent and the actual monthly rent paid at the time of the illegal eviction multiplied by the number of months the tenants intended to remain at the rent-controlled unit. For example, assuming (a) a rent of $2,000.00 per month at the time of the illegal eviction, (b) a fair market monthly rent of $4,000.00 per month at the time of the illegal eviction, and (c) an anticipated term of 8 more years; loss of use damages would amount to $192,000.00 [($4,000.00 – $2,000.00) rent differential/month × 12 months/year × 8 years). As noted above, the rent ordinances of the following Bay Area cities include both rent control and just cause for eviction: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Mountain View, Richmond, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, and Hayward.
- Severity of habitability issues and/or interferences with quiet enjoyment during tenancy. All California tenants, regardless of the amount of monthly rent, are entitled to minimum living standards and quiet enjoyment of their rental unit. Where landlords knowingly fail to provide minimum living standards or quiet enjoyment, tenants can recover up to the full amount of rent paid starting from the time the tenants first notified the landlords of the issues.
- Egregiousness of landlord conduct. Generally, the more egregious the landlords’ actions or failures to act and the more sympathetic the tenants, the stronger the case. Egregious landlord conduct includes discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information; entry into rental units without notice; and physical threats.
- Failure to make repairs within 35 days of government agency notice. In California, a landlord is legally prohibited from demanding rent, collecting rent, issuing a notice of a rent increase, or issuing a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit if (1) the rental unit has one or more habitability issues; (2) a public official has instructed the landlord in writing to repair these issues; (3) the issues have not been repaired after 35 days, and the delay is without good cause; and (4) the issues were not caused by the tenant. Any tenant whose landlord has failed to make repairs more than 35 days after receiving a written notice from a government official may recover all subsequently paid rent.
- Recovery of attorney’s fees and costs. In most disputes or lawsuits, each party pays its own attorney’s fees and costs (i.e., case expenses). However, sometimes a law or contract will require the losing side to pay the winning side’s attorney’s fees and costs. Many rent ordinance violations allow the winning (prevailing) party or prevailing tenant to recover attorney’s fees and costs. Likewise, many leases include a prevailing party provision. If we can establish a clear violation of your rights, the prospect of paying attorney’s fees and costs provides the tenant with a strong advantage.
Since we consider a variety of factors in determining whether we can represent a tenant on a contingency fee basis, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary case evaluation.
Are We a Good Fit for You?
If you meet most of the following criteria, we are probably a good fit for you:
- You are a tenant or former tenant. We frequently work with urban professionals, recent immigrants, low-income households, families with children, single parents, and senior citizens.
- You have always or almost always paid your rent on time.
- You have been harmed by a landlord who acted maliciously or in bad faith.
- You are hardworking and try to maintain a positive outlook, even under tough circumstances.
- You have a life, family, and/or job that keeps you too busy to worry about the details of your case, and you are comfortable letting us handle the entire process for you.
- If your goal is to recover money damages, you intend to move out, are in the process of moving out, or have already moved out of the problematic rental unit.
- If your goal is to recover money damages, you understand it could take months or even a year or more to resolve your case, and you are fine waiting that long if it means a better outcome for you.
- You need a law firm you can trust to offer well-informed recommendations and advice (that you are prepared to follow) to move your case along as smoothly as possible.
If this sounds like you, contact us to see if we can help with your tenant rights case.
What Types of Cases Are Not a Good Fit for Tenant Law Group?
While we handle a variety of landlord-tenant disputes, we have found that some cases are not the best fit for full-scope legal representation, such as cases where a landlord behaved rudely but did not otherwise violate the tenant’s rights, cases involving minor repair issues or minimal interference with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment, and cases where the only issue arises out of a landlord’s withholding of a security deposit. While we have found that full-scope representation in these types of cases is not generally appropriate, an attorney consultation may provide you with the information and answers you need. Contact us at (415) 915-7445 to schedule a consultation with our tenant attorneys in San Francisco.