Landlord tenant litigation often involves small sums of money. We are not saying $500 is chump change, but in litigation world it is not a significant amount. One of the reasons $500 is not considered to be a significant amount is because of attorney’s fees. Attorneys charge by the hour, and at today’s rates, $500 is less than three hours of an associate attorneys’ time. When you consider an attorneys’ hourly rate, and the amount of time it takes to litigate a landlord tenant matter, attorneys’ fees almost always exceed the amount in controversy. The type of landlord tenant case has no bearing on this issue. Whether it is a security deposit dispute, a warranty of habitability claim, or an eviction case, attorneys’ fees almost always exceed the amount in controversy.
Attorneys’ fees have an even bigger impact in landlord tenant litigation because frequently the loser has to pay the other sides costs. So before you go all in the next time over that $500 your tenant owes, stop and ask yourself some questions. One, what are my fees going to be? Two, what are the risks that I’m going to have to both my attorney and the tenant’s? Obviously, if there is a substantial risk you might pay $5000 in attorneys fees over $500, you will need to adjust your strategy and settlement posture accordingly.