Archive for April, 2015

“I Can’t…” May be the Most Dangerous Thought… Ever.

When I was a little girl, my father, Ted Price, (may God be good to him) told me a story about how he climbed over the transom in a room he lived in (long long ago) because he had left his keys inside. Needless to say, this was no easy matter, but he managed it. Upon landing on the inside of the room, he bumped the door, and it popped open. It had been open all along.

That story was told to me probably 55 years ago or more, but I never forgot it. The point was obvious. Always check. Don’t just THINK you know.

I just answered a question on Avvo from a self described “single mom” who “has little.” She had apparently been renting a place (likely a home, not a commercial space, but she did not say.) She had been unable to pay the rent (job loss) and “broke the lease”. She says she “could not afford an attorney” and ended up with an agreement with the landlord to pay off the debt upon her removal from the premises. Which was… wait for it… $28,000. No typo–TWENTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Now, OK, this is California, and rents can run to $3,000 a month for a decent condo. She did not sound like a person who would have rented a $3000 a month apartment or condo, but who can say?

Even so, that amount of money would have been 8 months of rent, give or take, and there is no way a landlord would have won that in court if the lady/tenant had talked to an attorney. Landlords have a duty to mitigate damages, and no condo or apartment would have gone unrented for 8 months. (The scenario is worse if this was, say, a $1000 a month rental.) I always tell people that if they move without a fuss the landlord may be grateful and really cut them slack. (Many angry evicted tenants will trash the place. Avoiding this is worth a lot to a landlord.)

You see the problem? The lady had a thought: “I can’t”… afford an attorney. This thought—which she did not check out ( yes, there are legal clinics for landlord tenant where she lives)—has cost her a whopping debt, which she will not have to pay, or she will have to file bankruptcy. (Luckily, there are clinics for this, too.) Both have a cost far greater than the cost of attorney, even if she had paid. IF she had paid, which, given the availability of legal aid, is not likely.

There is a good chance the lease was not even binding to the degree this uninformed consumer thought. If she had checked, she would have found this:

She would have found out she did not have to pay any such sum, and who knows how much more. Now, if she has to file bankruptcy to get out from under this huge judgment, the next time she tries to rent, she may have a problem–as 99% of landlords will check credit. These are among the true costs of her thought.

I see examples of these problems—problems people have because they don’t “have money to throw around” —(a direct quote) and they sought no legal advice. Now they have problems that will be throwing them around for a long long time. This holds true in many areas of life, but most things become legal problems at some point. So–at some point, lawyers are gonna be in the mix.

The reason I SEE these is day after day (as you may have guessed) be cause there is a problem caused by the lack of legal knowledge. There is this web site called “Avvo”—see People blunder into it, because the avvo coders have created an awesome SEO system. (I have a love/hate relationship with this behemoth, but perhaps that is a story for another day.) Folks who would not know a Boolean search if it bit them –and in a way it does–type in a question and BLAM. Up pops Avvo. And I, and others like me in the site, see what a mess they have made. I am sure I am not the only attorney who gives my time, free, and my expertise to the public because we’d like to see people NOT get into such messes. But they do

It does not help that they all have thoughts about what attorneys are like and what attorneys cost and what the ease is of doing it themselves. . (The general public have long thought ill of attorneys—they have not always thought the internet made every single thing free and simple.)

But the thought “I can’t afford…” (or just “i can’t) is the most dangerous thought of all. That thought stops all investigation—even in this day and age of FREE AND EASY investigation. THAT’s the real irony.

Will my writing this change anyone or anything? Probably not. But it may make me feel a particle less frustrated. (Or not.) But hey. It’s a free country full of free information. And here is my two cents worth. And we all know what two cents buys these days.

Still, it’s true. “I can’t” are the 2 most dangerous word