If you own or manage just a few rental properties in Fort Lauderdale, FL, you probably don’t keep a landlord representation attorney on retainer or on staff. As a small operation, you shouldn’t necessarily need to frequently consult a landlord representation attorney. However, it is important for the future of your business that you are able to recognize the situations where the law will affect you, as a landlord, and may require assistance from a professional.
Landlords are just like any kind of business owner; they started a business with the goal of making a profit, while hopefully managing to avoid any liability. In the following surprisingly common situations, hiring or at least speaking with a landlord representation attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL to help you achieve your goals and protect your business is a wise move.
Generally speaking, eviction lawsuits take much less time than regular civil lawsuits. In exchange for that expedited treatment of your case, you are required to follow highly specific rules when evicting a tenant, from notifying the tenant of the lawsuit within a certain timeframe to filing all the correct papers and forms on time. Since a person or a family having a place to live is at stake in these cases, some judges set the bar extremely high when considering ruling in the landlord’s favor. In many Florida courtrooms, winning an eviction lawsuit is not easy, no matter how straightforward the facts may seem. In many cases, it would be in your best interest to hire or consult with a Fort Lauderdale landlord representation attorney.
Accusations Of Illegal Discrimination
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a tenant to accuse a landlord of illegal discrimination for a myriad of reasons, whether warranted or unwarranted. Even landlords who are sure to always comply with fair housing laws can receive these types of accusations from potential tenants they reject or tenants whom they evict for a legitimate reason. If you find yourself being sued for discrimination in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and HUD or another fair housing agency agrees to investigate the claims against you, you should most definitely consult with a landlord representation attorney, even if it seems like the case is easy to disprove.
Discrimination cases are heard by HUD administrative law judges. These judges can award civil penalties of $16,000 per violation for a first-time offender. This award is on top of any actual damages and attorneys’ fees sought. If you find yourself the subject of a discrimination lawsuit or even just an investigation, it can be picked up by the local press and damage your business’ reputation. A landlord representation attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL can help you resolve the discrimination dispute against you and end the investigation or lawsuit as quickly as possible, potentially saving you from bad press and reputation damage.
Personal Injury Claims
If a tenant or a guest on your property sues you, claiming that he or she got injured or became ill because of your negligence, you will absolutely need to hire a Fort Lauderdale landlord representation attorney to defend you. Personal injury cases can be incredibly high stakes, and a landlord representation attorney with personal injury experience knows their way around these cases much better than you, as a landlord, do. Often, it can feel quite wrong to confront a tenant who has suffered a serious loss related to illness or injury, even if you truly believe it is not you who should be held responsible.
A landlord representation attorney will remain emotionally detached from the case at hand and is experienced in negotiating in these types of scenarios. In most personal injury cases, if you maintain liability insurance on your property, your insurance company will provide you with a lawyer to defend you against personal injury claims involving your insured property.
Property Damage Claims
Tenants or their guests may decide to sue you if they are under the impression that your failure to properly maintain your rental property has caused damage to their personal property. For example, if you have failed to maintain the roof of the building and a leak occurs during a typical seasonal rainstorm, soaking and destroying the majority of the tenant’s furniture, that tenant may very well look to you for compensation for the lost property.
In situations like this, your liability insurance policy would become effective. When the claim for damages is particularly high, it may be a good idea to refer the matter to your insurance company in order to take advantage of its obligation to provide you with a landlord representation attorney. When the claim is low, especially if it’s brought in Fort Lauderdale small claims court, you can consider attempting to handle the matter yourself, but you could still benefit from at least getting the opinion of an attorney in a one-time consultation.
IRS Or State Audit
If you become aware that the IRS or your state tax agency plans to audit your tax return, you don’t necessarily have to automatically hire a lawyer. A tax audit in which only one or two thousand dollars of taxes is at issue probably will not be enough at stake to justify the expense of an attorney. However, if there is a larger amount of money being examined, you very well may want to consider hiring an attorney, another type of tax professional, or even both to advise and represent you in the matter.
If you are under the impression that you may have made a serious error on your taxes, like failing to report certain portions of your income or taking deductions that you were not entitled to, and the government hasn’t discovered it yet, you should absolutely hire an attorney to represent your interests, before the tax auditors are able to uncover the mistakes. A skilled, experienced attorney can help you avoid a situation that could cause serious damage to the reputation of you and your business.