Evictions – Stipulated Judgments

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By PETER ROSENTHAL, President
V.I.P. Trust Deed Company

At the outset, let me make this CRYSTAL CLEAR: I am not an attorney. Though the following is definitely legal advice it is more correctly “communication advice”. In any event, before utilizing this advice you will probably be discussing this with your eviction attorney. As an apartment owner who as “been there-done that”, I feel qualified to give this advice.

During an eviction, a large percentage of tenants and too large a percentage of landlords fall into the “I’ll fix you” mode. This can be said for both commercial and residential properties. Obviously communication is most important BEFORE an unlawful detainer is filed. Usually MY last ditch effort in “working with” a tenant is to divide the rent into weekly payments and INSIST that the tenant pay one quarter of a month’s rent every Friday (you pick the day) PLUS some portion of the balance owed. If the tenant RELIGIOUSLY follows that schedule it ends up being a win/win situation WITHOUT a lawsuit.

Once the unlawful detainer is filed, both sides USUALLY plant their feet and the next time the parties speak to each other is the court date. Most good eviction attorneys will “make a deal” with the tenant resulting in a STIPULATED judgment which both parties sign and the judge approves. In effect, the landlord “wins” the lawsuit by making certain concessions to the tenant. This all happens WAY AFTER the lawsuit has been filed and the process server has spent days or weeks trying to serve the tenant. Imagine how much better it would be for a stipulated judgement IMMEDIATELY after filing the unlawful detainer. The pitch might go something like this. “Mr. Deadbeat – I’m sorry that I have had to actually start the eviction process. I feel it would be much easier for BOTH of us if we could work this out in a way that saves you money and doesn’t end up in a large judgment against you (including attorney’s fees). Unfortunately a judgment will follow you for ten years and is renewable for ten years. I really want to make this easier, if possible.”

Assuming the tenant is reasonably cooperative – try this:
Make an appointment with the tenant to try to work something out within the tenant’s budget. At that time have the process server available to serve the tenant. At that point, go over the lawsuit with the tenant and “make a deal”. The worst that can happen is that you have made a tenant appointment – to be served. If nothing else, you have shaved many days or weeks off the eviction process. Ask your attorney in advance for suggestions in negotiating a stipulated judgment. I would try to negotiate a portion, 10% to 70% of the amount already owed, plus a promise to be out by a certain date. If that date is longer than 7 to 14 days, further negotiate extra money due at some date in the future. Obviously NO MONEY will be accepted and no agreements made. The attorney will draft the stipulated judgment that will include lockout dates and receipt for monies. This agreement will then be submitted to court for the judge’s approval.

Are you now saying “that might work with your tenants, but not mine”? Are your tenants ignorant, macho, sullen, etc.? If so, try to have an independent third party contact that tenant so there is no abnormal animosity or hard feelings. Once again, this is merely a suggestion that, if handled properly, will save you loads of time and therefore money during the eviction process.

Peter Rosenthal
VIP Trust Deed Company