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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 110442
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I leased a house in Benton County Washington. I had to break

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I leased a house in Benton County Washington. I had to break my lease as of April 2013. After much negotiation landlord let me out of the lease if I paid rent through May 2013. I have an email from her saying as much. I did everything I could to rent the house out again, but because of the poor maintenance on the house, a pipe broke and flooded the downstairs and she took her own sweet time getting it repaired. Hard to rent a house like that.

I received my deposit back, minus a $650 fee for breaking my lease. Also, she rented out the house midway through April and did not refund the prorated amount of my rent.

I thought I could file in small claims court, but she has moved to Hawaii (with no forwarding address...or at least she says she doesn't get the letters I send). I have moved to Oregon so it's difficult for me to go pick up small claims forms from Benton County Courthouse. And their phone system is set up so I cannot reach a real person to ask questions.

There are also a lot of (perhaps extraneous) details to this situation. She's a piece of work.

Getting my money back isn't my priority (but it would be nice). It's the principle of the thing that she's getting away with this. Is it possible to hire a lawyer on contingency basis for small claims court? Or any other ideas?
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

I am afraid that your damages of $650 and whatever the prorated share of the rent would be would not cover any attorney's fees and attorneys generally do not take small claims cases for this reason even when attorneys are allowed in small claims court. Also, as she is now in HI, the only small claims court with personal jurisdiction over her is the court in HI where she is located as small claims is a court of limited jurisdiction and they have no "long arm" jurisdiction.

Thus, you would have to sue her in HI. The other thing you can do to get some satisfaction is if the house is in that bad of shape is call the local health and building code enforcement office and have them go out and inspect and cite her for all of the violations, which will likely cost her more than the money she took from you here.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
So...if I were doggedly determined enough to see this thru and file in small claims court in Hawaii, would I need to show up in court? (Sounds like a vacation to me). I don't see how I could do it via mail, but I've never dealt with this before.

Great idea about building enforcement! I'll get on it. Thank you for the idea. Anything I can do to make things uncomfortable for her is a positive. If there's anything else I can do please let me know. Thanks!
Thank you for your response.

Yes, you would have to actually show up in court to pursue the case in HI. It cannot be done by mail, but the clerk of the court may let you just file the suit by fax, it is up to the clerk.

Reporting the property to regulatory authorities is the best thing and really with her in HI that is about all you can do other than go to HI and sue her, just to make your point on top of reporting her to the authorities.
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