Landlord suing you? Tennant not paying rent? Here are some tips for navigating the situation well.
1. Protect yourself while being a reasonable human-being living on planet earth.
The situation can be challenging or simple and is likely a mixture of the two. The key to making it as simple as possible is acting promptly and maintaining thorough records. Do everything in your power not to be a dick because its a better way to live and often proves favorable if a legal action develops. Judges have a lot of discretion to decide certain issues and can always consider “fairness,” which is sometimes called equity.
2. Consider the costs of various actions, inactions, and reactions.
Outcomes are never certain in the beginning and in the end, are certain. You need to balance the prospect of costs with the prospect of a favorable and unfavorable court determination.
The Court charges a fee to file the paperwork opening a case against a person or entity. Then to actually begin the case you must have, and often must pay, a person to physically deliver the paperwork to the person or agent of the entity. If you cannot find the person or cannot find out where that person resides, you must get permission from a judge to give that person notice that you are suing them by putting an add in the newspaper–costing $2k at minimum. While you have the calculator out, add in gas and parking to physically get to the courthouse on likely 2-5 separate occasions, then subtract your wages if taking off work. And, in some situations you have to pay for the other side’s attorney’s fee if you lose.
The list of costs keeps growing. Time must be considered. Consider the time aways from work, family, or anything else you’d rather be doing. Consider the time you are taking from the court, which is already over-busy at the expense of a few cases that truly require judicial determinations.
Inaction may cost you because you may be sleeping on rights that cannot be enforce after a certain time. If being sued, a judge will rule against you if you don’t show up.
Reactions also have costs and varies widely with the situation. You might impair or destroy a relationship you later wish you still had in good standing. You might get a bad reputation, which in addition to the possibility of traditional media attention, it could now get picked up by social media and go viral. People have lost friends, careers and opportunities from negative social media attention. A final judgment against you drains most the negotiating power you had before a final decision.
Unfortunately, you might be wrongfully sued, which is a form of senseless terrorism. And, unfortunately, you may have to sue, because, and they say, war is for peace.
3) Take a moment to understand court rules.
In addition to taking your hat off and silencing your phone in court, there are rules that govern how you interact with the judge and your adversary. Google “Hawaii” + [the court you are in, for example, Oahu district court] + [the thing you are trying to do, like “serving a complaint”]. Look for an official website with the court rules. Read and try to understand them. Sometimes their written poorly and you’ll need to read more than once. You can lose opportunities simply by not following the rules.
4) Summary judgment can be both bitch and lover.
The purpose of trial is to ascertain a set of facts, both sides present their version of the story. But, if both sides agree on the important facts (this is our contract, here is how shit hit the fan), then a judge can rule without a trial. This is summary judgment, meaning there is no need for trial to establish facts. Summary judgment can save you money and time, or it can beat you for not being organized and prepared.
There’s a lot more to know. Drop a comment if you have specific question. Otherwise, good luck and represent yourself well.