When Renters Sue: Jury Requests In Eviction Cases

As a landlord you do have rights. It is reasonable for you to want to rid yourself of nuisance, aggressive or nonpaying renters. However, as the California landlord-tenant laws change, this becomes especially challenging for nonlawyers to navigate.

A Disturbing Trend

As an attorney who focuses on evictions, I notice a disturbing trend in recently contested eviction cases — a trend where tenant defense lawyers are now automatically requesting jury trials when filing answers for their tenant clients.

Since the cost of the jury fee deposit (which needs to be paid five days before the eviction trial date) is only a paltry $150, the tenant's attorney is betting that you, the landlord, would rather settle to his advantage than pay your own attorney the cost of litigating a three- to six-day jury trial, which would be cost-prohibitive.

How To Win

However, there is one way to fight this trend:

  • Take the tenant attorney's financial incentive out of going through with a jury trial.
  • You can do this by changing the terms of your written rental agreement.

If you take a look at your written rental agreement under the paragraph for Attorney Fees, the paragraph usually states, "In any action or proceeding arising out of this agreement, the prevailing party between the Landlord and Tenant shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs." This basically means that if the tenant prevails at trial for any reason, you, the landlord, would be responsible to pay for the tenant's attorney fees, which could amount to several thousand dollars. This is not the kind of leverage you want against you while attempting to settle your eviction matter at trial.

Reworking Your Rental Agreements

If your rental agreement does not have an attorney fee limitation you can still protect yourself.

  • Serve your month-to-month tenants immediately with a "Change of Terms of Tenancy" form limiting the attorney fees to a maximum amount of $600.
  • This will essentially force the tenant's attorney to go through with a jury trial with a maximum attorney fee award of only $600.

As an attorney with two decades of experience in landlord/tenant issues and law, I highly recommend this practice for all landlords.

Get Answers Now

If you have questions about how to best protect your California property and your rights as a landlord, contact the Pasadena Law Offices of Jeffrey Alvirez. I offer a free consultation so that you can better understand what you need and how I can help. Call the office at 626-657-0449 or fill out this online contact form and I will be in touch with you promptly.