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Written by Christian Huebner

Jul 30

2013

Pro Se Tenants to Benefit After Legal Aid Appellate Victory

Christian Huebner, Sidley Austin LLP Loaned Associate

Christian Huebner, Sidley Austin LLP Loaned Associate

Legal Aid’s Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project won a major appeal last week for a tenant in a decision that recognizes the unique practical difficulties facing pro se (unrepresented) tenants.

In Pajic v. Foote Properties, LLC, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the trial court that had found the pro se tenant, Mr. Pajic, liable for unpaid rent and more than $44,000 in attorney’s fees.  The lower court also had dismissed Mr. Pajic’s own claims against the landlord.

Attorney’s fees were the headline issue in the appeal.  Since at least 1955, a residential lease provision requiring a tenant to pay those fees to a landlord has been illegal under D.C. law.  And for good reason: A pro se tenant would be less likely to stand up for his or her rights in court if doing so put the tenant at risk for paying thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars to a landlord’s attorneys. Read more →