Receiving a summons from the court is a scary thing. A man shows up at your door, hands you some documents and leaves. The documents are very official looking and don’t actually say “eviction” at the top but have the ancient, legal sounding words “Unlawful Detainer,” which means “eviction.” If you have little experience with the court system, this is intimidating. An attorney can help.

First, get yourself a glass of water, take a breath, and sit down. You’ve got time. The sheriff is not on his way to kick you out in the next few minutes. Read through the documents to see what’s going on. Then contact an attorney.

If you haven’t paid your rent in a while and you know the eviction is legitimate, there are still things to do to make the process less painful. First, landlords make mistakes. It’s important that your landlord has followed all the legal steps that he or she is required to do before evicting you. That means giving you proper notice, with the proper amount of warning, and served in the correct way. The landlord cannot do things like lock you out or put your furniture on the street. Only the sheriff can do that after a court order. Even if the landlord did the eviction correctly, they’d rather work out a deal to set a date for you to move out, then go to court. This is better for you too. You don’t have to go to court, and you can calmly move out at a reasonable time.

There are bad landlords out there too. Landlords who don’t fix things, harass you, and do other things to make life difficult for you. You have a right to quiet enjoyment of your rental property. You have rights to basic living needs. If your landlord is causing you trouble or the place you are renting is a mess, talk to an attorney. Yes, it’s true that you can withhold rent in certain circumstances until the problem is fixed. But an unscrupulous landlord may try to improperly evict or scare you into not exercising your rights. It’s better to speak to an attorney before withholding the rent to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

Also, if you live in a rent control area and a landlord is trying to get you to move, you may not be aware that they have to pay you money to move. This causes landlords to do nasty things: harassment or failure to maintain the property. I had a case once where the landlord was trying to a evict an old lady from her rental home so that the owner could move in herself without telling her that the law required the landlord to pay the tenant $12,000 in order for her to move. Fortunately, the tenant hired me, and I was able to work out a deal for her to receive $12,000 in exchange for her moving.

The bottom line is that an attorney can protect your rights as a tenant, defend you in the case of an eviction, or make sure you receive money that’s due to you.

Please call or e-mail me for a free consultation. (213) 223-2350 or

The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please seek advice from counsel.