The need for tenant attorneys has been felt by many throughout the country even before the pandemic. But the pandemic made this need greater, more realized, and more urgent. As we (slowly) come out of the pandemic, many tenants continue to question their rights even as federal, state, and local protections related directly to pandemic relief sunset and expire. And, their need for help is for good reason. Landlords have pressured tenants, harassed them, and engaged in retaliation for tenants exercising their rights. Now more than ever, some tenants are more emboldened to fight back. As the need for tenant attorneys continues to grow, here are some factors/qualities to consider when hiring a tenant attorney for your case.
ONE: A Lawyer Who Demonstrates Empathy
This is probably an obvious one—but it is among the most if not the most important. Tenants experiencing housing insecurity are in a vulnerable position. A lot is at stake, and in the direst of circumstances, a tenant who reaches out for help may be dealing with impending homelessness. Of course, many attorneys market themselves as being empathetic. Attorneys demonstrate being an empath by listening, understanding, and conveying thoughtful and emotionally honest responses.
TWO: A Lawyer Who Sets Realistic Expectations
You want the best outcome possible. So does your attorney. But, it won’t do you any good if you are not told the truth. The best attorney will give you the good, the bad, and the ugly, but they will argue your case as if there were no bad and no ugly. In private, your attorney shouldn’t promise the world—you won’t get it. They should be honest with you. They expect you to be honest with them and the same should be true of them. That way you can manage your expectations, goals, and life decisions accordingly and thoughtfully.
THREE: A Trained Tenant Lawyer With Broad Experience
Some people spend their entire lives at one job. Some attorneys spend their entire careers practicing one area of law. Although more experience is always better, singular experience can mean that the attorney may have some blind spots. With that said, a generic real estate attorney or personal injury lawyer will not do the best job for you. Period. So, you need an attorney with specific tenant rights experience. But varied experience is not limited to a person’s legal and/or professional career—it also extends to life experiences. Housing is more than just a legal issue—it is mired in difficult and intractable social issues and touches upon and highlights economic disparities, cultural differences, and unique age-related hurdles. The best tenant attorney understands how housing insecurity can intimately impact physical health, tangible wealth, and emotional wellbeing.
FOUR: A Passionate Cause Lawyer
The term cause lawyer comes to mind. This describes public interest attorneys and attorneys who are in the practice of law for the specific reason to inspire positive social change. Housing laws are often perceived as a restraint on private property ownership rights because they may create benefits to tenants, or obligations (in other words, restrictions) on the part of the landowner. Look no further than special interest groups that advocate on behalf of landlords who for decades have argued that local rent ordinances and rent control laws are socialist restraints on property rights. In this way, tenant rights and tenant rights litigation are one of the few avenues left in American society to seek positive changes to an unbridled system of greed and excess. Practicing from this vantage point allows more creative arguments, and propels a sense of passion and purpose that will unleash the full power and fury of your attorney and the law!
FIVE: A Case-Specific and Goal-Oriented Lawyer
Not all people are the same. And, not all cases are the same. As The Law Firm for Tenants Rights explains, the best attorney will look at your goals, the facts of your case and your specific tenant rights issues, and match those to create a specific case strategy to match your unique needs. An attorney who is pushing for you to move out when you tell them you want to stay housed is probably not the best match. At the same time, you want someone to walk through all the potential outcome and avenues so that you can choose what fits your needs, and they can create and cultivate a strategy based on those needs.