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Like any other business owner, landlords occasionally have to perform unpleasant tasks. One of these is evicting tenants from your property when they fail to honor the terms of the lease.
You may choose to have an attorney handle an eviction for a variety of reasons. Before doing so, understanding how a lawyer can help you, as well as what you can expect to pay for the service, helps you make a smart decision.
Why Hire an Attorney to Evict Your Tenant?
The speed with which eviction lawsuits move through court comes with a price. Landlords must follow very specific rules throughout the process. In addition, the nature of the case (removing someone from his or her home), means that judges typically consider these cases carefully.
Many landlords successfully evict tenants without the help of an attorney. There are, however, circumstances in which an attorney's assistance is invaluable. For example, if this is your first eviction, hiring a lawyer to guide you through the process is smart. Also, if your tenant has his or her own lawyer and fights the eviction, you'd be wise to bring in legal counsel as well.
If the landlord/tenant relationship is complicated due to the tenant also being an employee, and you are firing said employee/tenant, a lawyer provides valuable assistance. Another tricky complication is if the tenant is filing for bankruptcy.
Finally, rent control and other housing programs create more stringent guidelines around evictions. If this is the case for your property, it's probably worth hiring an attorney.
How Much are Eviction Attorney Fees?
Attorneys charge for their time via a variety of fee structures, most commonly in the form of hourly, flat, or capped rates. In addition, clients pay a variety of legal costs. Costs differ from legal fees, and include administrative fees, such as filing and mailings, as well as court costs.
During your initial consultation, obtain a complete list of costs and fees to arrive at the total cost estimate.
How Much are Eviction Attorney Hourly Fees?
Hourly rates vary by location and firm size, ranging from around $200 per hour to around $400, with higher rates at larger firms and in larger cities. Typically, hourly attorneys charge a retainer equal to X number of hours, and then deduct work performed from that amount. When the funds are depleted, you either pay for another lump sum of hours, or receive monthly bills for hours worked.
How Much are Eviction Attorney Flat Rates?
Flat fees have become more common, especially for cases in which gauging the amount of work required is simple. With a flat rate, the attorney sets the price up front, and the client pays either the full amount or a portion of it, paying the remainder in monthly installments. Expect to pay between $1,500 and $4,000, depending on the location and size of the firm.
How Much are Eviction Attorney Capped Rates?
A capped fee structure works like a hybrid of hourly and flat rates. The attorney charges an hourly rate, and charges the same type of hourly retainer to begin working on your case. However, he or she sets both minimum and maximum amounts to handle your case. This means that the lawyer receives a minimum (usually the amount of the retainer), but you know that the charges will not exceed the maximum.
Average Costs to Evict a Tenant
Cost estimates vary by more than fee structures and location, but here are ranges you can expect to pay for an eviction case.
- An uncontested eviction averages between $600 and $1,000
- A contested case where the tenant does not have legal representation averages between $1,500 and $3,000
- A contested case where the tenant has legal representation averages between $3,000 and $5,000
Considerations When Hiring an Eviction Attorney
There are a number of things to consider when deciding to hire an attorney. You can't do much to change average fees for your area, but you do have options when it comes to the size and type of firm you select.
Generally speaking, larger firms charge higher fees. Typically, they hire top attorneys, so you can be fairly certain that their legal team provides excellent representation. However, this does not mean that you won't find an excellent attorney in a smaller practice, or even one who works solo. One of the benefits of a smaller firm is that it usually has fewer clients, meaning they devote more time and attention to your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you are ready to evict your first tenant, or your eviction case has special circumstances, schedule a free consultation with an attorney. He or she will explain the eviction laws in your state and offer advice on your case.