What do I do if I cannot go to my small claims trial?

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What do I do if I cannot go to my small claims trial?

My former landlord is suing me for $7000 for damages and rent. I agree to pay for the 30 days during which I was moving. However, he locked me out before the end of the month, which left me unable to clean and finish moving. I left him a voice mail inquiring as to what was going on and giving him my new address. He never replied. I have a court date that I cannot attend, as Iive over 100 miles away now.

Asked on May 17, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you do not attend the small claims appearance the court will enter a default judgement against you for the $7000 and you will never have a chance to explain your side of the story (unless you open up the default but that will require that you go there anyway and a lot of paperwork; and there is no guarantee).  You need to file an answer to the complaint and assert an affirmative defense that you were constructively evicted and locked out of the premises prior to the end of the lease.  Also assert that the lease was modifed and that you agreed to pay untiul the end (although if it was not in writing you may not have a good shot here).  ANd either go or hire an attorney to go.  There is too much at stake here.  Good luck.  


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