Monday, December 1, 2014

On Lawyers

I want to talk to a lawyer. How do I go about finding one?

If you've read this far, you know that most of the time you're not going to need a lawyer. There are exceptions, though, and when I say that you should get to a lawyer immediately, I mean it. Some situations are serious, and then you do need more help than a blog can provide.

Here's where I get to explain that landlord-tenant law is a specialized area of legal practice, and that going to see your cousin's friend who specializes in divorce and family law is not a good idea. Tenants' organizations often have lists of lawyers who specialize in tenants' rights issues. Some tenants' lawyers advertise in the phone book. You're more likely to find a lawyer in communities with strong tenants' movements than in the Valley or communities without many tenants. You might try contacting a sympathetic local official (someone who doesn't spit when talking about the tenants in the neighborhood) or a city information line. Sometimes a Bar Association referral panel will be able to refer you to a good tenant lawyer.

I don't refer people to lawyers, simply because I'm not competent to judge the quality of their lawyering, and I wouldn't want to send any of my readers to some incompetent. What I can tell you, though, is that most of the lawyers in California who do landlord-tenant law are, in fact, landlord lawyers. So please be careful in selecting a lawyer.

It's unfortunate though that the areas with the largest number of foreclosures have very limited assistance for tenants. Foreclosures occur far more frequently in lower-income communities, and those communities are less likely to be protected by local rent control and "just cause" eviction laws. Local officials are often closely tied to the real estate interests, and are not disposed to support legislation that would be opposed by those interests unless there are sufficient middle income tenants to require passage of these laws.

[If you are a lawyer who does not regularly handle landlord-tenant cases, please read the entire blog. It is important that you understand the entire process and, particularly, the problems for tenants facing unlawful detainers.  I hear that my blog saves lawyers hours of research.]