Tenants, Don’t Hire a <em>Landlord</em> Lawyer!
Let’s say you need a lawyer to represent you in a dispute with your landlord. Maybe you have a referral from a friend or you’re calling around to find an attorney. When you call, the first question you should ask your prospective lawyer is: Do you represent landlords against tenants? If the answer is yes, that should be the last thing you ask. Why? Because you’re speaking to a landlord lawyer.
There are many lawyers out there who represent both tenants and landlords. You need a tenant lawyer! Think about it. That aggressive bulldog you hired to defend your rights could just as easily be representing your landlord. Imagine how he would be treating you if you hadn’t hired him first. Would you hire a lawyer to represent you who says this? “Even if the master tenant has some form of statutory right to move in a replacement roommate or family member, you should not approve such persons to be roommates or subtenants. If the master tenant has a contractual right to request approval, you should still deny it.” Would you hire a lawyer who advocates this?
The last time I checked, both of these attorneys and/or their firms represent landlords and tenants. “So what?” you say. “Why the hell do I care if my attorney represents landlords as long as she gets the job done?” My answer: “If you don’t give a rat’s ass about other tenants or your future tenant rights, you shouldn’t care that your lawyer represents landlords.”
Here are a few reasons why you should care:
Tenant lawyers are committed to expanding tenants rights.
I know many San Francisco tenant lawyers. Many of them make substantial donations to the San Francisco Tenants Union, Tenants Together, the Housing Rights Committee, Just Cause and other Bay Area tenants rights organizations. They are volunteer counselors at those organizations. But most of all, they believe in tenants rights and commit their resources to defending tenants and rent control every day.
Tenant lawyers share their experiences and discuss tenant law with one another.
I am a member of a group of tenant lawyers in San Francisco. We promise to one another that we will only represent tenants in residential cases. We will not represent master tenants seeking to evict their subtenants. We have a listserv in which we discuss the latest law and best practices to fight for our clients. We will not allow attorneys who represent both landlords and tenants to join this group. Why? Because we don’t want our strategies to be available to landlords. Any lawyer will tell you that one of the most important parts of her job is to be able to anticipate the other side’s strategy. It’s a misnomer to think that an attorney has to represent both sides to be able to effectively represent her client. As tenant lawyers we have seen every trick in the book. We have a network to discuss landlord strategies and methods to counter them.
Tenant lawyers are more empathetic. Many of them are tenants themselves.
The simple point of this is: Why would you hire landlord lawyer who is, at best, ambivalent about your rights? Why would you spend your money on a landlord lawyer who probably won’t recycle it back into the tenant community? If you’re a tenant and you need a lawyer, join the Tenants Union, get their list and hire a tenant lawyer!