A serious concern many landlords share is how to protect themselves from a frivolous lawsuit. How can landlords protect themselves if they end up a lawsuit from a sue happy tenant?
This topic was brought up to Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King in this webinar with Zillow.
Have a listen and read the transcription below to hear his thoughts. At the bottom, we will provide our thoughts as well.
Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information presented here were provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in the audio and during the webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.
Transcription on How Landlords Can Protect Themselves From Lawsuits
Interviewer: How can landlords protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits? So, if they’re sued, even if the tenants have no basis, as a landlord, you still have to defend and that would cost you money.
Josh: Yeah, defending lawsuits is, as I like to say, I mean, you know any idiot can file a lawsuit. And once a lawsuit’s been filed, you obviously have to deal with the time and expense of making it go away. Depending on the basis of the lawsuit, there may or may not be laws in your state that allow you to get rid of it sooner rather than later. But the biggest way you can prevent or deal with frivolous lawsuits is by communicating, communicating, communicating. Because, as you’ve seen through the survey data, most tenants don’t wanna file lawsuits. I think only 11% or 12% of them thought that they were a good solution for problems. And yes, there are those crazy, impossible-to-satisfy people out there, but what you’ll also find is that you can shave a lot of the edges off of that just by being available, and communicating, and talking to people, and knowing when problems are popping up early to keep that lawsuit from happening.
You can also, and I’ve actually…we get threatened with a lot of lawsuits at Avvo because we rate attorneys, whether they want to be rated or not. And one of the things that can often work is, if you get sued, that doesn’t mean you immediately need to go out and engage in, like, nuclear litigation with the person. Yes, you need to talk to a lawyer. You’re going to need to engage counsel fairly quickly but you can also have a conversation with the person. You can say, “Hey, what’s the problem here? Is there some way we can make this right without having to go through litigation?” And you may be able to stave it off very, very early just by, again, having that open communication with people.
One final thing I’ll leave you with on this, I don’t know if landlords have as big of a problem with this as lawyers do, but lawyers are notorious for not communicating enough with their clients. And it’s the number one complaint that clients have about lawyers is that they are non-responsive. And I’ve seen so many disputes and lawsuits of lawyers that have blown up over a failure to respond. And one of the things I always encourage lawyers to do is to create an easy frictionless mode of communication that’s like an early warning signal. So, for lawyers, you can create an email address and if this works for your workflow as a landlord or a property manager, I would encourage it as well. Just create, like, a email@example.com, whatever the name of your website is, email address and then put a special box for that in your email browser so that anytime something comes into that, you know that that’s something you wanna jump on and be responsive to right away. And it doesn’t have to be an email address. I mean, if you wanna, you know, it can be a phone number. You can communicate with every new tenant that you’ve got an open-door policy. Whatever you want it to be, but the key thing is just having that open line of communication so people don’t feel frustrated and not listened to and thus resort to filing a lawsuit or complaining to the authorities or withholding rent or going to the police.
Our thoughts at RentPrep :
Communication is always key! The majority of landlord & tenant issues can be avoided through better communication.
One of the most common issues tenants have is over security deposits. It’s not just communication but also documenting interactions, damages, warnings, etc.
If you have good communication and good documentation it makes you less likely to be on the losing end of a lawsuit or one even being threatened.
If you have unique concerns with your situation, you can search and consult with a landlord/tenant lawyer by clicking here.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.