Out of State landlords come in many shapes and sizes: from the small landlord to the medium size property management company, to the large bank. What they have in common is that their tenants sometimes fail to pay rent or breach the their lease, and traveling back and to Maryland for a Court appearance is not worth their time in may cases.
- Motions To Appear Electronically
- Granting Limited Power of Attorney To a Local
- Hiring a Property Management Company
- Why Attorney’s Cannot Testify on Your Behalf
- What Attorneys Can Do That Property Managers Can’t
- Sending an Employee/Independent Contractor on Behalf of an LLC (or any legal entity and when attorneys are required)
Motion To Appear Electronically
If a motion to appear electronically is granted, then the landlord will be allowed to testify via Zoom (preferred) or perhaps even a phone call. The issue with motions to appear electronically is some Judges feel as if the witness should be present. I once had a Judge tell me that she wasn’t very happy because I filed a motion to appear electronically for one of my out of State clients. She still held the trial because her peer granted the motion, but she let me know if the motion I filed ended up in front of her desk she would have denied it. For that reason I think the best practice is to file the motion to appear electronically at the time the complaint is filed, so you can get a ruling as quickly as possible on it and move accordingly.
Granting Limited Power of Attorney to a Local
Another tool I like to use is a limited scope power of attorney that authorizes a local to appear on behalf of the landlord. The local can be anyone: a friend, employee, stranger, etc. Of course, they will need to be familiar with the case details, so you’ll have to fill them in. But this local will be allowed to step into your shoes and testify on your behalf.
In most cases I use a friend or family member. However, I have had cases where my client just paid a local they didn’t have a prior relationship with to appear. Which is similar to my next point.
Hiring a Property Management Company
Assuming you have a property manager, then your property management company can just appear on your behalf for failure to pay rent actions, and even if you don’t have a property manager, you can always hire one to be your limited power of attorney.
Why Attorneys Cannot Testify on Your Behalf (Generally)
Very often, someone will attempt to hire me and expect me to be able to just go to court and testify on their behalf. It doesn’t work like that. An attorney is a very different role from a witness. Most Judges will not allow for attorneys to act as a witness. Our role is to make arguments from the facts that the witness present.
If I go to court without a witness, I cannot testify 9 times out of 10. The most I can do is attempt to work out a consent agreement or ask for a continuance. If a tenant does not show up for a failure to pay rent action, then I can ask for a default judgment. But if its for an alternative cause of action such as a holdover or wrongful detainer action then the Judge will want witness testimony.
What Attorneys Can Do That Property Managers Can’t (Practice Law)
Property managers are generally limited to filing failure to pay rent actions (unless your property management firm works with an attorney). This is because, filing a failure to pay rent action is not considered the unauthorized practice of law. Attorneys can file every cause of action including but not limited to breach of lease claims and civil claims, because we are authorized to practice law.
So, if the cause of action is something other than failure to pay rent I think it’s best to use an attorney authorized to practice law. However, a written power of attorney can be drafted in such away where the power of attorney where the agent showing up is not perceived as the unauthorized practice of law.
In fact, if you’re a business, the Court doesn’t even necessarily expect the owner of the business to show up on behalf of the company. An authorized employee familiar with the business records can do it. Which brings me to my next point.
Sending an Employee/Independent Contractor on Behalf of an LLC (or any legal entity and when attorneys are required)
Assuming the property is owned or managed by a business, the business can send an employee or even a contractor. One of my clients is a bank, the Court does not expect the owner of the bank to show up. An employee or independent contractor can get the job done. The employee can use their credentials as an employee familiar with the business records. The independent contractor can have a limited power of attorney just to be safe.
Also, if the case is anything other than a failure to pay rent action (such as a wrongful detainer action or civil claim, than an attorney will be required to be present because businesses are required to be represented by an attorney.
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