How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Thomas McJD Your Own Question

Thomas McJD
Thomas McJD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6515
Experience:  Legal Expert
19305272
Type Your Legal Question Here...
Thomas McJD is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I am british Citizen currently living in US on a work visa.

Customer Question

I am british Citizen currently living in US on a work visa. I have property back in England which was being rented out .. the tenant stopped paying his rent three months before the contract was up and took the keys with him and I need to take legal action to get him to pay the rent due and expenses incurred to replace the keys. Thing is the tenant is a US citizen - i have a copy of his driver's license and address in the US. Im wondering what is the best route to take legal action - i tried contacting small claims court in the UK but they said they cannot take action against someone living outside of the UK?? Can i go through the US legal system? and how would i go about doing that. Since i am myself based here that would probably be easier for me but since the issue happened in the UK do i have to go through their legal system?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Thomas McJD replied 1 year ago.

TMcJD :

Hi, I will be happy to assist you, and it is my goal to make you a very satisfied customer! This may take a few minutes, so thanks for your patience.

TMcJD :

I'm surprised that the UK court said they couldn't do anything because the tenant was now outside the UK. Jurisdiction, in that case, is not based on where the tenant is now but the fact that the tenant lived there at the time of the contract and activity for which you now have a claim and are seeking to sue him. Thus, I don't know why you couldn't sue him in the UK. In any event, I'm not a UK attorney, so I'll tell you about US law.

TMcJD :

You should be able to sue him in the court of the county in which he is a resident in his home state. That court would have jurisdiction over him. You could not sue him in a court of the state where you are a resident, assuming it is a different state, because that court would not generally have jurisdiction over the tenant without him having established some sort of contact with the state.

TMcJD :

You would, as noted, sue him in his home state. It gets a bit tricky there, because the substantive law that would apply is the contract law and other applicable laws of the UK -- since that is where the contract was made, damages incurred, etc. But a US court can apply those controlling laws and enforce an action against the tenant.

TMcJD :

US procedural laws apply to the action, and you may be able to bring a small claims case against the tenant depending on the amount of damages you seek.

Customer:

would it be better therefore to go through the UK courts? or just as effective to go through the US courts?

Customer:

The amount of damages im looking at is around £3100 ( so roughly $4600)

TMcJD :

The problem with going through UK courts is that although you might be able to get a judgment against the tenant, forcing him to pay would be another matter. You would then have the burden of getting a foreign country's judgment domesticated in the US state where this person is a resident. Thus, proceeding in that court in the first instance is probably a much better remedy.

TMcJD :

You will need to check the small claims court limits in the state where you will need to sue this person (wherever he is a resident). I'm not sure if that is CA or not. You can look up the small claims limits on google.com or some other search engine.

Customer:

How do i go about doing that?? and how high are fees going to be?? I am seriously lacking in funds at the moment - (primarily as a result of having no rental income for the last three months !)

TMcJD :

How do you go about what?

Customer:

go about court proceedings over here..

TMcJD :

What state is this person in?

Customer:

yes I am based in CA .. he is based in WA

Customer:

is that washington??

TMcJD :

Yes, Washington. As noted above, a CA court will not have jurisdiction, so you would have to proceed in WA court. Unless you're willing to drive to WA for at least one hearing, you should retain an attorney in WA to assist you with filing and prosecuting the small claims action against this person.

TMcJD :

In fact, having an attorney would be best regardless since you are not in WA. Although small claims cases are relatively straight forward, it's very difficult to take legal action from outside the state.

Customer:

what kind of cost is involved.. would he pay those costs if he were found at fault?

TMcJD :

But for your information, here is a link to WA small claims procedures:

TMcJD :

http://www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/resources/?fa=newsinfo_jury.scc&altMenu=smal

TMcJD :

Filing fees, costs, etc. are generally under $100, but then count fees paid to any attorney, the value of your time, etc.

TMcJD :

www.martindale.com is a very good website for locating attorneys in specific areas. You could find a WA attorney there that could assist you.

TMcJD :

Here is a link to forms for small claims matters:

TMcJD :

http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.contribute&formid=33

TMcJD :

Between those two links, you'll be able to find the information you need for a WA small claims action. However, I would again advise retaining an attorney for assistance since you are not in WA.

Customer:

do you think the case is pretty straight forward - i mean the likelyhood of me winning if i were to start proceedings?

TMcJD :

An attorney would generally not charge more than $1,000 for this type of action, but you would have to ask around and get estimates from attorneys.

TMcJD :

If you had a contract and he didn't pay under the contract and had no excuse under the contract, then it is a straight forward case.

Customer:

Yep i have contracts and a backlog of emails between him and my estate agent stating that he would be liable for the rent until the end of the contract when he asked to leave 4months before it was due to end

TMcJD :

Sounds, then, like you have a fairly straight forward case.

Customer:

So those attorney fees - if i were to win the case would the tenant pay those as a result?

TMcJD :

Some small claims procedures allow for attorney fees. Your contract might also provide for attorney fees. But it must be in the contract of specifically provided for by WA law. Otherwise you cannot get attorney fees because of what is known as the "American Rule" -- each party pays his own fees and costs.

TMcJD :

That's something that would be discussed in the information presented at the links I provided.

Customer:

So if i just look over those links and contact some attorneys to get estimates and i guess they'll be able to advise me more specifically - thanks for those..

Customer:

Am i able to discuss this further with you at a later date or once this discussion finishes now is that it? I havnt used this website before

TMcJD :

I was looking over more information for you. In WA, attorneys are not generally allowed to participate in small claims cases. This is unusual, so that might be the first thing you ask when speaking with an attorney. Because they are not generally allowed to participate, you most likely would not be able to recoup attorney fees. In a regular civil case, though, you may, depending on whether there is a specific WA statute allowing you to recoup attorney fees (or if the contract allows it). These are such specific inquiries that you would need to discuss those issues with a WA attorney

TMcJD :

You can always request me at a later date and I would be happy to assist you.

TMcJD :

However, since I have answered your question today, it is typical that at this time you rate my service. I would be grateful if you could provide a positive rating -- I cannot receive credit for my work without a positive rating.

TMcJD :

Thanks.

Customer:

"In WA, attorneys are not generally allowed to participate in small claims cases." - so how do small claim cases happen if attorneys can not participate?

TMcJD :

Sorry, I thought I mentioned that above. Generally, a person just sues in small claims and handles it him or herself. They do it "pro se" - without an attorney. But being out of state would make that very difficult for you to do.

Customer:

ahh I see, cool i'll look into those links and contact you if i hit any other questions.. Thanks for your time!!

TMcJD :

And, even though small claims procedures are designed to be easy and used without an attorney, most states allow you to hire an attorney if you want. That's why it's unusual that WA has a prohibition of attorney involvement in small claims matters.

TMcJD :

You're welcome. Again, I would be grateful if you would please leave me a positive rating for answering your question. Thanks.

Thomas McJD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6515
Experience: Legal Expert
Thomas McJD and 19 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Not only did he answer my Michigan divorce question but was also able to help me out with it, too. I have since won my legal case on this matter and thank you so much for it. Lee Michigan
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    19941
    Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    8189
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/jespoag/2008-12-17_222355_jessepic.jpg JPEsq's Avatar

    JPEsq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    2132
    Experience as general attorney, in house counsel, SSDI, Family Law attorney, and law professor
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/gsenmartin/2008-04-22_214950_me1.jpg Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.'s Avatar

    Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    110
    7+ years of experience handling various legal matters.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PA/PaulmoJD/2013-10-10_195858_JAImage.64x64.jpg Law Educator, Esq.'s Avatar

    Law Educator, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    31621
    JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    15975
    Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
 
 
 
Chat Now With A Lawyer
Thomas McJD
Thomas McJD
1743 Satisfied Customers
Legal Expert