Anatomy of a landlord lawsuit against a tenant Part II
My lawsuit against former tenants is proceeding forward despite a few setbacks. If anyone has dealt with a municipal small claims court, you know some of the difficulties to except. My lawsuit pack was returned to me because lack of proper fees. Apparently the township court raised their filing fees during the summer but never updated their website. I was forced to get two more money orders for $2.00 each and refile my landlord lawsuit against the former tenants. Much later I received my receipt and copy of the lawsuit with the summons having been served. The court date is set for early morning mid December of 2012. With this court, that is about right with regard to the gap between filing and court date. That is, it usually is a six week gap though this one is a little longer.
What many tenants and landlords don't realize for this township and our local courts is the first court date is not an actual trial. On this given day, both plaintiff and defendant shows up to court to either work out something to avoid a trial or disagree and be given a trial date. Often you will find attorneys and representatives for banks, auto dealers, hospitals, cell phone carriers and other sundry people who are owed money in the court room. You will also find the occasional landlord carrying out a lawsuit against a tenant. The judge will call out both plaintiff and defendant and give them time to decide what they want to do. If an agreement is met, both parties are moved to another room to work out some deal. Presumably this deal will include some sort of legally recorded instrument that the defendant must follow. I don't know exactly because I've never gotten to this point. I do know if neither party agrees, the judge then sets and actual trial date. Then there are the default judgments.
If the defendant does not show (or the plaintiff), the judge issues a default and binding verdict. If this happens you are rewarded the judgment, given a stamped copy, and are to mail a copy to the same address where the summons was sent. The landlord/plaintiff is to wait a certain amount of time to allow the tenant/defendant time before pursuing efforts to collect. This is how all but one of my landlord lawsuits against former tenants went. The first lawsuit I filed, the tenant showed, tried to argue his plea his case, but agreed to a different amount owed. The judge found that tenant at fault and I was awarded the judgment. In one of my current lawsuits against a former tenant, something unusual has happened. Someone of some relationship to the former tenant contacted me in writing asking if I can send the former tenant a copy of the signed lease. This person also asked if this lease will detail all of the work the former tenant did in the home prior to moving in but never compensated for. This person asked for a copy of the lease be sent immediately so it could be forwarded to the former tenant's attorney! After I stopped laughing, I tried to decide my next course of action regarding this bizarre request. At first I was going to write that due to certain privacy laws I would not send a copy of the contract to anyone except those who signed it. I planned to mention I do send copies of the lease to those who have executed it but only if requested in writing accompanied by a copy of the tenant's driver license and a money order for $5.00. That seems pretty reasonable to me.
However, I decided I will not respond in any way. This was a fishing expedition and feeble scare tactic. If the former tenant needs a copy and has retained an attorney, then the attorney needs to send the request (and I still may demand the $5.00 for my shipping, handling, and time expenses.) If the tenant does indeed have an attorney, costing hundreds of dollars an hour, then perhaps she can afford to pay me what is owed as well as satisfy her unpaid utility bills which I estimate to be well over $1,000!