A landlord tenant attorney is one who specializes in the legal issues surrounding landlord and tenant rights and is a valuable resource for you when you need it most.
Legal expertise can guide even the most prepared landlord through the challenges of managing your rental property. From drafting a lease agreement to processing an eviction, a good landlord tenant attorney will be worth the investment in time and fees.
Finding the right landlord tenant attorney can be tricky, so here are 9 tips you can use to select the right one for you.
9 Tips for Hiring a Landlord Tenant Attorney
#1. Use state and local resources
Turn to the state bar association for a list of practicing attorneys in your area. There are also plenty of directory websites that will list attorneys by practice area. State business or real estate magazines may also contain lists or even advertisements from landlord tenant attorneys that will help you begin your search.
#2. Try an online landlord tenant attorney service
There are many directories online for landlord attorneys where you can ask questions or hire a local lawyer. One such directory is RocketLawyer.com (affiliate link). They allow you to ask questions and then choose an option to get your question answered from a local attorney. If you click the link above and ask your question you’ll end up seeing a screen that looks like this:
Many landlords prefer the membership model because they get state-specific forms and unlimited answers to their legal questions. The fee is tax deductible as well.
#3. Ask for a referral from another lawyer
You may know another attorney who specializes in a different area of law, but who may have connections personally or professionally to a landlord tenant attorney. Remember, just like doctors have specializations in certain types of medicine, so do attorneys. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any attorney can do this type of work.
#4. Call each attorney on your short list for an appointment
Start the process by calling the attorneys on your list and take mental notes about how accessible they are and how quickly they call you back. You want the landlord tenant attorney you hire to be responsive to you when you need them, whether it’s an emergency or not.
#5. Ask lots of questions
When you get the chance to talk to the prospective hire, ask questions. For example, ask about how many years they’ve been doing landlord tenant law. It’s better to choose someone with at least a few years of experience than a brand new attorney. Specifically ask whether the attorney has experience in working with a property like yours, such as multi-unit housing, Section 8 housing or a single family home. The more questions you ask, the better you’ll get to know the attorney’s communication style, personality and depth of knowledge.
#6. Get details on fees and billing procedures
Attorneys can choose to charge and bill a number of different ways, so make sure you are clear on what using the attorney’s services will cost you. Make sure you are also clear on the payment process for any bills you incur.
#7. Hire the attorney to create your lease agreement
It’s a wise idea to use an attorney to write your lease agreement so that it covers all your rights and stays compliant with local, state and federal law. Rather than download a generic lease agreement from the internet, work with the attorney to draft an agreement that specifically reflects your property and your expectations from a tenant.
#8. Know when to consult with your attorney
Landlords should also consult with an attorney if they are ever being investigated for illegal discrimination, evicting a tenant, sued for injury, sued for damage to property, audited by the IRS, fighting slander or libel or anytime you are going to court (such as small claims court). While some landlords do navigate successfully through these legal issues, having a knowledgeable attorney by your side can prevent you from making mistakes that lead to more serious issues.
#9. Don’t be afraid to change if you aren’t satisfied
If your landlord tenant attorney is not doing the kind of job you expect, don’t hesitate to seek out another one that may be a better fit. Whether the attorney is too hard to get ahold of or your personalities just don’t mesh, don’t get stuck with someone who is not meeting your needs one way or another.
Have you used a landlord tenant attorney? What were your experiences like? Please share this article and let us know your stories in the comments section below.