Table of Contents
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Preface - Home Page
Foreword - by Ken Carlson, tenant attorney
PART I: Some basic guidelines
1. Break your lease
2. Get your security deposit returned
PART II: Prepare for small claims court
3. Learn your state’s landlord tenant law
4. Contact former and current tenants
5. Organize your evidence
6. Consult with an attorney
7. Write a rebuttal to landlord’s claims
8. Create a presentation folder
9. File a lawsuit; or defend against one
10. Testify, and win, in small claims court
11. Collect the judgment
PART III: Winning presentation folder
12. Follow our lead (eBook)
13. Front cover (eBook)
14. Small claims lawsuits (eBook)
15. Plaintiff’s clams (eBook)
16. Defendant’s rebuttal (eBook)
17. Move-in, move-out timeline (eBook)
18. Landlord tenant law violations (eBook)
19. Photographic evidence (eBook)
20. Exhibits (eBook)
21. Conclusion (eBook)
22. Court ordered judgment (eBook)
by Ken Carlson, tenant rights attorney
This book represents extreme examples of landlord/tenant conflicts: both in the landlord’s dishonest tactics and in the tenants’ efforts to recover and win in court. Tenants in such a situation often feel overpowered by the landlord and give up easily. This book shows that another approach is possible. The process doesn’t have to be painful. If you follow the principles that Larry and Marilyn outline in this book, your experience in court can be positive and result in your victory.
For the last 25 years I’ve been helping tenants overcome landlord/tenant problems (and more recently through my Web site, www.caltenantlaw.com). The most common problem tenants face is unfairly losing their security deposit. A tenant can leave the place clean and undamaged, only to have the landlord keep the entire deposit and claim (falsely) that the tenant trashed the place. Landlords often claim excessive damage charges beyond the deposit and demand that they be paid, solely to intimidate the tenant. This strategy often succeeds because tenants are too frightened to request their deposit back.
Dear Larry: Just wanted to say thanks. Your website/book helped us win in court. I spent several hours preparing our binder and felt very organized going into court. Looking around we saw everyone else come in with loose papers just like you had said. We felt very prepared, but unfortunately the judge hardly looked at our binder. He just looked at what the landlord lacked as proof and awarded us judgement. Although the binder wasn't the deciding factor, it sure did help us have the confidence to stand up to our landlord in court. ~ Sincerely, Tonia Baily
Larry helped me get my deposit back from my slumlord. I highly recommend his presentation folder and expertize. I would not have received a dime without his help! Heather Hoffman Kimel
If ordinary businessmen rather than landlords were stealing money in this manner, their actions would be considered felony grand theft! However, politics intervene in this situation: renters rarely vote, therefore legislators tend to create laws that favor property owners. To make matters worse, judges are often the political pawns of their party and tend to favor landlords regardless of the law.
Organization is the key to winning in small claims court. Too many tenants have valid cases, but don’t represent their case well because they are too nervous, unorganized, unprepared or allow the landlord to dominate the discussion. Small claims judges are often volunteers, and want quick and easy decisions. Thus, a tenant who rambles incoherently in court will likely lose; a tenant with an organized presentation in an exhibit binder will likely win. The presentation Larry and Marilyn put together was extraordinary, due in part to the landlord’s outrageous claims that necessitated a full-blown counterattack; yet most tenants will never have to make such an extensive presentation to win in small claims court. Nevertheless, the point is well taken: the judge was convinced solely by their well-organized evidence folder and not their testimony.
If you are considering suing your landlord to get your security deposit back, consider that right now you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact, in California (and probably other states), if you can show that your landlord withheld the deposit in “bad faith,” you will not only recover your deposit, but will likely be awarded extra money as a penalty to the landlord. Currently, in California, that extra money is double the deposit amount. This means that when your landlord refuses to return your deposit on false claims, his deceit and arrogance will work against him in court because when you prove to a judge that it’s “bad faith,” the landlord can lose more than just refunding the deposit. Finally, in California, the landlord has the burden of proving each claim, so go for the maximum and do your best you may win more than you think.
Knowledge is power. Tenants receive so much disinformation, rumors and half-truths from their landlords or others that they often refuse the small claims court system when it could be their best friend. Legal traction to get the results you want begins with knowing your rights and how to properly organize information (your evidence). In this age of Internet information, you can quickly learn what to do, and act effectively. Larry and Marilyn did this and won, and they show you how in this book. Follow their lead, and you too will have a solid opportunity to recover your security deposit, and then some.
Tenant Rights Attorney