Residential: Lease Negotiation and Litigation

Many large, sophisticated landlords employ lengthy and adhesive (one-sided, take-it-or-leave-it) leases in renting their apartments. It would surprise most people that many of these leases contain not just one, but multiple provisions which are void — and therefore unenforceable — under California law. For example, lease provisions that authorize the landlord to conduct routine or annual inspections are void. Liquidated damages for early termination of lease are almost always unenforceable. Most binding arbitration provisions are void. And so-called “pet deposits” are illegal to the extent they are added on to an already maximum security deposit.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your lease agreements before signing.

On the litigation side, the most common landlord lawsuit is unlawful detainer, otherwise known as an eviction lawsuit. This is a “summary proceeding” which means instead of lasting for years, the lawsuit lasts only weeks from beginning to end. Even so, because the landlord is seeking the drastic remedy of forfeiture of the lease, the tenant has a panoply of rights, including pre-trial discovery, trial by jury, and application of the rule of the strictest compliance by the landlord to eviction procedures, as well as — most importantly — defenses such as retaliatory eviction, discrimination, and more.

Because the laws and procedures governing unlawful detainer lawsuits are very complex, it is critical that tenants hire an experienced attorney in order to ensure the best chances of a successful outcome. GED has nearly twenty years of experience defending residential tenants in eviction lawsuits. Indeed, partner Marc Eisenhart created the curriculum for, and taught, Anatomy of an Unlawful Detainer Action at his alma mater, Santa Clara School of Law.

In addition to defending claims, our firm has represented many residential tenants in affirmative lawsuits against their landlords for such claims as retaliatory eviction, discrimination, interference with utilities, fraud, and more. Our firm won the largest residential retaliatory eviction verdict in Santa Clara County, awarding, after prevailing party fees and costs, nearly a half million dollars to two neighboring plaintiffs who were wrongfully evicted.

GED is proud to have represented more than a thousand residential tenants in a certified class action that resulted in an average payout to each apartment unit of about $2,500.

Learn more about our landlord/tenant practice, including representative cases in this area. Contact GED to discuss how we may be of service in your residential lease negotiation and litigation matter.