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Irwin Law
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Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  Lawyer- Broker 30+years - foreclosure, short sale, liens, title attorney.
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I have struggled with trying to find an attorney to help with

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I have struggled with trying to find an attorney to help with a very bizarre self-help eviction. I am a single mom with two kids and we were all made homeless by this lock out and eviction. The landlord also kept everything we had. We were thrown out into the streets with just the shirts on our backs, literally. The landlord ignored all the laws regarding the proper eviction process. She claims she donated everything we had to charity, although I tried to pick it up three times and each time was denied access. I am just getting back on my feet financially and can't afford big lawyer bills. (I bet everyone stopped reading right there.) My claim is far too big for small claims and I am told that few people can successfully make it thru the court of common pleas on their own. As a last ditch resort, I am asking if there is ANY lawyer out there willing to just guide me thru what I have to do to file and proceed in small claims? And please don't tell me to call LegalAid. I have, and other sources as well, and they are all overbooked by at least six months. With this case being so black and white (she can't even pretend that she tried to do anything by the law! It is cut and dry that she is immensely in the wrong.) will it still be hard for an individual to take this thru the court of common pleas? I don't want to do it myself by any stretch of the imagination. But since no one will take the case without a large retainer, I have no choice. Will anyone of there help me??? I am old and tired and totally confused. I have never read so much and understood so little as I have in learning about the court processes. What does the Judge think when someone comes into the court without a lawyer? Will a judge try to help the person at all or will the judge just toss them out?

I am truly sorry to hear about the shabby treatment you received from your landlady. If you limit your claim to $12,000 you can file it yourself in Magisterial (Small Claims) court. This website looks like it might be very helpful. http://www.smallclaimadvisor.com/page_1.php?pid=3#1 The even seem to have a feature to help evaluate your claim. It should be fairly easy to present the case yourself. You can prove what she did by your verbal testimony. You can also testify as to your financial loss as a result. Witnesses, if you have any, will also help. This is a summary of Landlord Tenant law that you ought to be familiar with:

http://www.thelpa.com/lpa/landlord-tenant-law/pennsylvania-landlord-tenant-law.html SEE SECTION V. You appear to be clearly in the right. Good luck.

I hope this information is helpful and that you will enter a positive rating. I thank you for submitting your question to Pearl-Just Answer. We appreciate your business. If you need clarification or additional information, please send me a Reply and I will be happy to explain further. Please consult a local attorney to verify the accuracy of this information according to your state's laws.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
SORRY! IN MY QUESTION ABOVE I ASKED ABOUT GOING THRU SMALL CLAIMS WHEN I REALLY MEANT THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS. MY CASE IS FAR TOO LARGE FOR SMALL CLAIMS. MY APOLOGIES!

Before you decide on the Common Pleas route you should go to the court and ask the clerk to show you a few files where damage claims have been filed. Look at complaints, answers and motions to get an idea of the formal pleadings that are needed. Then watch a few court and jury trials. If you think you can learn to do what those lawyers are doing, then you might have an outside chance of winning a common pleas case on your own. If your case is strong, you should be able to get help from an attorney who will work on a contingency fee basis. If you can't find one, it usually means that there's something wrong with your case. It might be that your opponent is financially weak and collection of a judgment would be a major problem. Lawyers don't want to win a case and then not be able to collect a judgment. There are websites and articles galore on line that profess to help pro se litigants. Some are free and some not. All I can do at this point is wish you the best of luck in getting compensated for the bad treatment you received. BTW, don't let too much time go by or you could run into a statute of limitations problem. You didn't say when the eviction occurred.

I hope this information is helpful and that you will enter a positive rating. I thank you for submitting your question to Pearl-Just Answer. We appreciate your business. If you need clarification or additional information, please send me a Reply and I will be happy to explain further. Please consult a local attorney to verify the accuracy of this information according to your state's laws.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Attorneys don't want to take the case due to slim chance of recovering $$$. But with that out of the picture for now, how can the landlord have any defense when she didn't take even ONE legal step in the eviction or in the disposal of our property? It is so evident she is in the wrong. And I do plan on spending the next couple of weeks in court watching cases. I don't think I am so smart that I can pretend to be a lawyer. It's just that I can't afford one and my only alternative is to do it myself. Can a person obtain a sizeable judgment for punitive damages in small claims?

Generally, Small Claims courts cannot award punitive damages. Are you in Philadelphia? They have special Municipal Courts for Landlord-Tenant cases. The dollar jurisdictional limit is still $12k But there is an interesting note about " unlimited dollar amount for Landlord and Tenant Cases' See: http://courts.phila.gov/municipal/civil/ I don't know what unlimited dollar amount means in that context, or if punitives are allowed. You will have to call the court on Tues to see if they can tell you exactly what their limits are and whether punitive damages are recoverable there. http://courts.phila.gov/municipal/

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