Particularly within the bay area, evictions are a contentious business. They're also often the subject of complaints about lawyers, which is perhaps not surprising given the fee structure that a lot of firms use. It's common to see a low quote, a sucker rate of sorts, and it's common for clients not to realize that that rate doesn't include things like amended filings or court appearances. Both are fairly common in evictions, and both can give rise to fee disputes.
In a standard eviction, called an unlawful detainer in court, a land owner gives a tenant a 30-day (or 3-day or 60-day) notice to a tenant, the time limit expires, and the landlord files a petition in court. Commonly evictions are begun for non-payment of rent, but can also be brought when a landlord wishes to remodel a building, or is selling the property.
What this summary misses, unfortunately, is that these simple beginning steps are where most problems happen. Landlords are, typically, not lawyers, and frankly, many eviction firms don't do a great job of reading through notices and making sure they meet requirements. A faulty notice can get a case dismissed, and messing up the service requirements can cause a case to get tossed the first time it gets to court.
Similarly, most courts in metropolitan areas will require a settlement meeting or mediation as part of the eviction process. This is a separate step often not covered or addressed in the low-ball eviction deals many firms promote, despite the fact that a lot of cases can be resolved during negotiations with a little help. Most cases don't need to go to a full hearing, but most firms charge an extra appearance fee, and so have no particular motivation to help cases resolve early.
Verbeck Law has a simple approach to most evictions, when we're bringing a petition for a landlord. Most tenants don't want an eviction on their record, and most landlords have despaired of getting their money back and just want the tenant out so they can rent to someone else. The best deal to offer is a stipulated judgment, under which the tenant can avoid an eviction if they're out by a set date, and if not, the landlord can return to court ex parte (which is usually a written filing, not a real court date) and get their writ of possession then. The stip judgment, as these agreements are called, can often include a judgment for past due rent, though again, collecting these monies is often difficult.
Of course, some cases need to go to hearing, and some cases are even more simply resolved when the defendant doesn't show up for court. In either case, Verbeck Law is ready to go with our stream-lined process. But, our set quote includes things like court appearances, and our strategy takes for granted that we'll be able to resolve the majority of cases with a minimum amount of time. In this way we make sure that our interests are the same as ours clients: You want your property vacant as soon as possible, we want your case over as soon as possible so that we can start on another. Most firms will keep charging you for every new appearance, and so they profit from dragging a case out. Our flat fees are final, no matter how long the case lasts, and so we'd rather have it over sooner. We find most of our clients agree.
We also take pride in educating our clients about the normal course evictions will take. We recommend contacting us as soon as possible, so we can take a look at the notices you use and advise you on the best option, but even if you've already used your own forms we can tell you what to expect next. We also pride ourselves on availability, and our goal is not to be one of the law firms that seems to take your money and then disappear.
Anyway, if you're a landlord and you have an eviction in process, or a perennially troubling client you're planning on evicting soon, please contact us and tell us what's going on with your case. We'll give you a quote, and if it works for you, we'll get your case over and done with as quickly as possible.