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LawTalk
LawTalk, Attorney and Counselor at Law
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 27978
Experience:  30 years legal experience. I remain current in Family Law through regular continuing education.
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Hi Doug, You helped answer some questions for me about issues

Customer Question

Hi Doug, You helped answer some questions for me about issues with my landlord and a levy on the rent. (July 11).

Now, a letter was sent notifying me that a motion will be filed for an order to enter judgement against me for the past rent due (no surprise, you mentioned this as a possible outcome). The conditions have been so bad that I am moving out. If the lawyers successfully file this motion, what does that mean for me exactly? Please let me know if you need more detail before responding
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good morning Dave,

Thanks for asking for me.

I am a bit confused. I think what they mean is that they will seek a court order allowing them to collect the rent from you---that is not the same as a judgment against you, and if you don't voluntarily pay, they still must file a separate suit against you before they can get a judgment against you. In order for the court to issue a judgment against you, you must first be sued---a Motion won't do that by itself.

If the court, after you are sued, then issues the Judgment against you for the past rent, it will act as any other judgment and the party receiving the judgment may then seek to collect the money owed from you personally, through a wage garnishment or a levy on your bank account.

When faced with the lawsuit, you will want to defend against it the same as you would have the landlord sued you for the rent. You will need to file a responsive pleading/Answer to the suit and urge that the property is uninhabitable and that the full rent should not be found to be owed based on the inhabitability.

Obviously, you should have an attorney assist you if you are sued. And if there is a judgment issued, you might consider filing bankruptcy if you cannot afford to pay the judgment.

You may reply back to me again, using the Reply to Expert link, if you have additional questions.

I wish you the best in your future,

Doug





Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Doug, Thanks for the quick reply. I may be confusing some of this. The letter is full of legal jargon and I'm not sure what it all means. I copied direct quotes from the letter to hopefully clarify this a bit:


 


Letter titled: Motion of plaintiff for judgement against [me]


 


"This firm represents plaintiff, [client's name], in the captioned case. Kindly accept this letter in lieu of a more formal brief in support of [the client's] motion for an Order entering judgement in favor of [the client] against [me] for monies ordered to be paid but were not paid."


 


"The Court should enter judgement against [me] for all rents past due and should compel all future rent payments be paid to the [law firm] trust account."


 


"...the total rent due is [rent amount], and [the client] respectfully XXXXX XXXXX entry of judgement in its favor and against [me] for the total rent due."


 


"In conclusion, [the client's] motion should be granted and an Order should be entered for judgement in favor of [the client] and against [me] for the total rent due."




I'm not exactly sure what that all means, the type of legal action they are looking to take, and what i need to consider to protect/defend myself. I already have a new lease and will be fully moved out by the time the lawyers bring this before the court.


 


Also, if you have not guessed yet, the letters written by the lawyer are very one-sided. There is a transcript in the set of paperwork from a deposition that i appeared at (which is around the last time i contacted you), and that contains my side of the story. But again, their letters to the court are devoid of that.

Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Are you already a named defendant in a lawsuit filed by someone for the rent you owe? I didn't think that you are.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I am not a named defendant. The landlord is the defendant.


 


The plaintiff's lawyers are only targeting the tenants in my building because there is a levy on the rent.


 


In the heading of the letter it does clearly refer to the case in question: "[plaintiff] vs. [my landlord]; docket number; judgement numbers." We are then listed right underneath that: "Motion of plaintiff for judgement against [me]"

Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for clarifying that Dave.

This is a tremendously complicated situation, because the Plaintiff convinced the court to grant a levy on the rent, and that allows the plaintiff to demand that the rent owed be paid to the plaintiff. However, you have withheld rent based on uninhabitable conditions and that has not been heard by the court.But a court lacks the ability to issue a judgment against a person who is not a party to the lawsuit. That is what due process is all about. Unless you were served with process---suing you and bringing you into the case---then you cannot be a party to the action.

The court can give the Plaintiff the right to sue you for the rent. I have never heard of a court granting an actual judgment against a tenant without a hearing.

In the strongest possible way I can, I urge you to get a landlord-tenant attorney immediately and have them file a special appearance in the case and object to the issuance of a judgment against you based on the fact that you are not a party to the lawsuit.

It is either that, or hope the judge has the sense to know that a judgment can't be issued against you.

Doug
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thanks Doug, understood. So it would be in my interest to have my side heard before this thing goes before a court.


 


If a judgement is issued against me without a hearing, would I be able to contest it, or is it then too late? And, from the sounds of it, does the judgement sound as if it is a set and done deal where I am now legally required to pay the amount requested?

Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
No, I am saying that I think it is illegal for the court too issue a money judgment against you and you want the court to know that.

Yes, you could seek to set the judgment aside on constitutional grounds---but why would you want to wait for that potential mess.

There is no judgment yet. The levy allows the plaintiff to collect from you---but that is not a judgment. A levy only forces you to pay the rent that you actually owe---and you have a legitimate argument that you don't owe all they are asking for. And you have a legal right to have that argument heard---and not in a case that you are not even a party to.

Doug
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Would it be worth me taking the landlord to court (knowing he won't show up) so that my side of the story is on record in landlord-tenant court?


 


It likely would not be connected to the original case since it is not a landlord-tenant or real estate dispute, but at least i would be on record.

Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good afternoon Dave,

We have gone quite a ways beyond your original question.. You originally asked what it would mean if the lawyers were successful with their motion. As you may not be aware, the Rules of JustAnswer specify that each customer ask onequestion in each question thread. For new questions like this one, about a lawsuit you might file against your landlord, I am required to ask that you place these new questions in a new thread, as is required by JustAnswer. I do sincerely XXXXX XXXXX any inconvenience this might cause you.

You may ask for me personally by referring to me by name (Doug) in your new question and I will be able to assist you. As the questions that you are posing are new, I am required to ask you to please open up a new question thread for them. Thank you for your understanding.

Doug

Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Good evening Dave,

I wanted to thank you for using JustAnswer, and to inquire whether my answer to you was helpful to your understanding of the law, as regards your question.

Is there anything else that I can assist you with, please feel free to ask. If you do not require further legal information at this time, please feel free to bookmark my profile so you can request me when you do have another question. Here is a link to my profile: http://www.justanswer.com/law/expert-lawtalk/

Thank you very much and take care.

Doug

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LawTalk
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