Habitability lawsuits are rising in popularity given the large volume of tenants that reside in Los Angeles. With more tenant advocacy laws passing, landlords are being sued for "uninhabitable conditions" often the result of the tenant's own poor housekeeping. Read my post here on some ways to prevent habitability lawsuits before they arise.
Handling a Lawsuit
Once you are served the lawsuit you will want to gather and organize the tenant and building records including:
Leases and addendums
HUD (Section 8) Agreements
Rent Control Registration Certificates
All notices served- 24 Hour, 3 Days, notices of change in terms, etc.
Maintenance Logs, including photos, videos and receipts
Inspection reports, including Housing, Section 8, Public Health
Correspondence with tenant, including letters, emails and texts
List of witnesses in your favor
At some point you may turn this over to the tenant's attorney but these documents will be the first thing a landlord defense attorney will ask for.
Next you will want to consult a landlord defense attorney. Landlords are cautioned to not turn over any documents requested by a tenant's attorney before consulting with an attorney.
What to Expect
California's landlord-tenant law is growing more favorable to residential tenants. Tenant advocacy attorneys usually take these cases on contingency, getting a percentage of an eventual settlement. Tenants's are not coming out of pocket in these cases.
You want a landlord defense attorney who can come up with a strategy in handling the case, posturing, setting the tone and finding any possible leverage. The silver lining- these typically settle. It stings a little, but you will overcome it and will learn a thing or two in the process.
Be aware some laws award attorneys' fees to prevailing tenants. Consult with an attorney to understand the risks and stringent requirements landlords are held to in landlord-tenant cases in California. I provide a free 15 minute consultation to assist you in figuring out your next defense steps.