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Going to court: need advice on landlord debt case


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This is an update from a post a few months back about a landlord tenant issue. I’ll try to be as brief as possible.

Being sued by old (4 years ago) landlord, via lawyer.

I received summons for warrant in debt.

I went to court and denied plaintiffs claim. Court date was set and lawyer requested 15/15.

Plaintiff filed bill of particulars. The parts where they outline what they say I owe are summarized as follows:

1. Final month’s rent check bounced. Defendant made partial payment (half) but still owes half, plus fees.

2. Defendant failed to provide 60 days written notice of vacating property. Want a whole month’s rent.

3. Defendant failed to spit-shine apartment. Want money for cleaning kitchen, bathroom, etc.

In my grounds of defense, I’m going to "deny" or “don’t know” every item except the first (not listed above)…affirming that I had a lease there from on or about yada, yada, yada.

Here are my questions to the resident legal experts:

Can I cite the FDCPA in challenging their assertions?

This was a contractual agreement and a third-party (the lawyer) is trying to collect the debt.

My main worry is that this is in Virginia, one of the most conservative states in the union…especially when it comes to protecting the rights of the wealthy. Will FDCPA trump VA Landlord-Tenant Act? My understanding of how federal vs. state law works is this: state law holds sway as long as it provides REASONABLY the same level of protection as federal law…if state law doesn’t, federal law supersedes.

Am I right or wrong?

If I can cite FDCPA, how should I do so?

Should I basically say, “Your honor, under the FDCPA, the plaintiff needs to prove the validity of each claim contained in the bill of particulars.”

In other words, should I be trying to force them to prove – for example – their claim in item 2: failure to give notice. It would be impossible for them to PROVE that I DID NOT give them written notice.

I guess I’m just wondering this: how much of this will be the court just “taking the word” of the plaintiff because they’re a business interest, as opposed to them having to actually prove their case? I mean, how am I supposed to be able to prove that I provided a landlord with written notice that I intended to vacate a property five years ago? The federal government only tells you to keep your income tax returns for 3 years...but I'm supposed to keep a copy of a vacate letter for 5 years?

In your expert opinions, what are their chances of winning the individual claims under the particulars? Do they really go forward with these cases under the assumption that they can really win...or is it more that they figure you'll be scared and will just pay up the minute you get a notice...or that you just won't show up at the warrant in debt hearing at all and that they'll be given the judgement summarily?

Thanks for any advice/thoughts.

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