Eviction actions can be very expensive. An eviction lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in handling eviction matters, such as an eviction action. Depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the issues involved in your case, an eviction lawyer can cost you anywhere from $500 to $10,000 or more.
However, the exact cost of an eviction will vary based on a number of factors. These factors will be discussed in greater detail throughout the remainder of the article below.
What Factors Cause Eviction Costs to Vary?
Each individual eviction action will differ from the next. This is because every case will have facts that are unique to the parties’ circumstances and every jurisdiction has its own eviction laws. Thus, there are many factors that can cause the cost of an eviction to vary from one eviction action to another.
For example, some tenants would prefer not to challenge the eviction, so they will not file a lawsuit against the landlord in court. In this case, the cost of the eviction will be very minor compared to what a landlord and tenant may have to pay if the eviction issue goes to trial. Also, some tenants may move out willingly, while others may cause serious damage to the property before law enforcement shows up to remove them.
In general, however, the cost to evict someone can range anywhere from nothing to more than $5,000. This will also be contingent on where a person resides. For instance, an eviction in New York City will likely cost much more than to evict someone in Boise, Idaho. This partially has to do with the price of rent and statutory legal fees.
Some other factors that can impact the amount that an eviction may cost include the following:
- Whether the tenant raises a defense against the eviction action (e.g., discrimination, retaliation, etc.);
- If the landlord attempted to perform the eviction themselves rather than asking the court and law enforcement to intervene;
- When the issues in an eviction case are complex and thus require lots of documents to be filed and various court costs to be paid;
- If the tenant demands a jury trial. Again, this will involve more legal work to be done, which in turn, means more legal expenses like jury fees;
- When a case requires the parties to hire legal experts or other types of specialists to testify;
- If the case is a time sensitive matter, then the costs of attorneys’ fees will rise dramatically due to the spike in their billable hours;
- The cost to serve an eviction, which will be based on the rules enacted in the jurisdiction where the eviction is occurring; and
- Finally, if the tenant decides to appeal the trial court’s decision.
What Goes into Determining a Lawyer’s Fees?
Eviction attorney fees are the amount that a client will need to pay an attorney to handle their eviction matter. The exact amount will depend on many factors, such as what type of fee structure the attorney uses, how complex the legal issues in a case are, and the experience level or reputation of the attorney being hired. Thus, it is important to know in advance the answers to all of these questions before formally hiring an attorney to work on a case.
Generally speaking, many eviction attorneys tend to charge either a flat fee or by the hour. For example, eviction attorneys who bill their client using a flat fee arrangement can cost anywhere between $500 to over $10,000 to handle an eviction matter. Those who charge by the hour will depend on the complexity of the case and many other determining factors.
In addition, while it is possible to find a free or low cost eviction attorney, it is usually very difficult to do so. A tenant should spend some time searching for free eviction help in their area. There are typically lots of online resources on evictions and some communities may have outreach programs, non-profit organizations, or local government agencies who can provide guidance or legal assistance for eviction matters.
Why Would Lawyers Charge an Hourly Fee?
An hourly fee simply refers to a type of fee structure that attorneys use to bill their clients. When a lawyer informs their client that they will charge an hourly fee, it means that the client will have to pay the lawyer a certain amount of money for each hour that they work on their case.
For example, if a lawyer charges an hourly fee of $75 per hour, then the client will need to pay $75 x the number of hours that they worked on their matter. Thus, while the initial cost may not seem like a lot, it can eventually add up when the lawyer tallies all of the hours that they worked.
The exact amount that a lawyer charges a client per hour can vary based on location, their level of experience, and by reputation. An hourly amount can also change based on the complexity of the issues involved in a certain case.
Additionally, lawyers who bill by the hour may require their clients to pay a retainer fee up front to take care of some initial costs and to retain their services. Once the retainer funds are expended, the lawyer will start charging an hourly fee.
There are many reasons as to why a lawyer may decide to charge by the hour. For instance, some large and midsize law firms may have policies that prohibit the use of a flat fee structure. One possible reason why a law firm would prohibit such a structure is because it is a better business decision. In other words, charging by the hour results in higher profits.
On the other hand, smaller law firms and solo practitioners might normally charge flat fees, but may switch to an hourly fee when they anticipate that a case will extend over a long period of time. This is another decision that is dictated by business practices and revenue.
For instance, a solo practitioner or small law firm may reason that since their time will be spent focusing on a singular case, they will lose the chance to profit off of multiple cases. Thus, the need to make up the difference somehow and hourly fees are how they might decide to do it.
Which Fee Structure Is Preferable?
Every fee structure comes with its own set of pros and cons. Thus, it really depends on a party’s financial situation and the complexity of their case. For instance, being charged a flat fee to have a lawyer work on a straight-forward matter or an uncontested eviction action can result in a more costly case than had they billed their client at an hourly rate.
On the other hand, in a complex or contested eviction action, the total amount of hours that a lawyer works on the case can result in a rate that is much higher than what the client would have paid with a flat fee.
Again, the answer to which fee structure is preferable will always depend on the circumstances. Even the experience or reputation of the lawyer can affect the response to this question. Therefore, it is very important that prospective clients ask many questions about fee arrangements during the consultation meeting with their lawyer.
Are There Other Costs to an Eviction?
In general, the process for evicting a tenant can be extremely expensive. Aside from attorneys’ fees, there are many other costs to consider. For instance, a party may need to pay for one or more of the following items in an eviction action:
- Various court costs, such as mandatory filing fees;
- Damages to the property (e.g., cost of lost rent, actual property damage, and/or repairs);
- Litigation expenses like the fees to hire an expert witness or to hold a deposition;
- Monetary and punitive damages for violating the law (e.g., if a landlord did not follow the proper procedures to evict a tenant);
- The cost of finding a new tenant to replace the former one; and
- The cost to search for and move into a new place.
Additionally, if the issue is being litigated, but the tenant has already moved out, the landlord might be losing rent if the action is taking up all of their time to look for a new tenant. Alternatively, a tenant may also be losing money if they are forced to stay at a hotel or some other expensive lodging while they await to hear a decision on their case.
Do I Need An Eviction Lawyer?
The eviction process generally involves many intricate procedural requirements and complex laws. The act of eviction itself also tends to be an overwhelming event for both parties. As such, in order to reduce the amount of pressure and/or challenges that an eviction action can pose, you should consider hiring a local landlord tenant lawyer for further legal guidance.
An experienced landlord tenant lawyer will already be familiar with the eviction laws in your jurisdiction. Thus, your lawyer will be able to explain how the laws may affect the outcome of your case as well as what your options and rights will be under the rules in your area, regardless of whether you are a tenant or the landlord in an eviction action.
If you are a tenant, your lawyer can perform research to find out if there are any defenses you can raise against the eviction claim. Your lawyer can also discuss what to expect if you lose the case, can provide advice on how to stop the eviction before it occurs, and can help you file an appeal if necessary.
Alternatively, if you are a landlord, then your lawyer can make sure that you have complied with the proper procedures and rules for an eviction action in your jurisdiction. Your lawyer can also help defend your interests if the tenant files an appeal and can explain what legal rights you have as a property owner.
Finally, as is evident from the information provided, hiring a real estate lawyer will give you many advantages that can help guide you towards a successful resolution. At the very least, having a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf with a landlord can potentially decrease your chances of being evicted.