Should I hire an attorney in my Virginia landlord/tenant dispute?

Williamsburg Newport News Landlord/Tenant Attorneys

Hiring an attorney is an important decision. Whether or not it is worth the money to do so depends on the circumstances. The following information provided by our Williamsburg Newport News Landlord/Tenant Attorneys can help you make the right decision.

Three Questions

There are three essential questions any tenant or landlord should ask when determining whether or not to hire an attorney: (1) Am I being sued? (2) Do I want to be proactive? and (3) How much money could I lose? Answering these questions will help you understand whether or not it is worth the money to hire an attorney.

Am I being sued?

Landlords and tenants can both bring suit against one another for various reasons throughout or after the tenancy. Much of the time, these issues can be resolved outside of Court through clear communication between the parties. However, when the parties cannot agree, one party can sue the other. More often than not, these cases are in the Virginia General District Court and have possible damages less than $25,000.00. While the General District Court is not as complex as the Circuit Court, there are certain rules one must know in order to navigate the procedure correctly.   Further, a suit in General District Court involves a trial in front of a local judge. The trial follows the normal rules of procedure and evidence. Attempting to try your own case can be very difficult, especially if the other side has an attorney. Hiring an attorney in this situation can help you make sure you follow all of the rules of procedure correctly in order to minimize any mistake that may cost you.

Do I want to be proactive?

Tenants and landlords alike have disputes that are well suited to be handled by an attorney outside the courtroom. Landlords may utilize an attorney to begin the eviction process or write demand letters to tenants to cease certain activities in violation of the lease. These letters and notices can be very effective in preventing further breach of the agreement. Likewise, tenants often receive notices of eviction or breach that are unwarranted. Tenants can utilize the services of an attorney to analyze the lease agreement and draft simple letters to negotiate the issues outside of Court. Being proactive can save a lot of time and money in the long run, and the services of an attorney prior to litigation are generally much more affordable than after litigation ensues.

How much money could I lose?

If you are a tenant, it is important to balance the value of your claims with the cost of an attorney. A good attorney will charge between $225-$275 per hour, but may be able to make alternative representation agreements. For example, an attorney may take a case on a flat fee, depending on how much is at stake. If you are being sued for a significant amount of money, hiring an attorney may be the key to striking a deal with the other party or defending you at trial. If you are trying to be proactive, an attorney may ask for a smaller amount up front for two or three hours of the attorney’s time to draft a letter to the landlord on your behalf. If your deposit is being wrongfully withheld and you have a solid case, an attorney may take your case on a contingency fee and ask for attorney’s fees if filing suit is necessary. In the end, hiring an attorney is like an insurance policy: It takes away much of the worry and stress surrounding disputes and puts it in the hands of a lawyer.

Whether your are a landlord or a tenant, our Williamsburg Newport News Landlord/Tenant Attorneys at Collins & Hyman are ready to help you protect your rights.  Call today for a consultation. 757-645-0827.

Gregory S. Bean is one of our Williamsburg Newport News Landlord/Tenant Attorneys at Collins & Hyman PLC.