Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Legal Research Tip 16: Eviction Joinder Conferences

Welcome to the next issue of the DCLRC E-Newsletter "Legal Research Tips"! You can view back issues of these tips through other posts in this blawg. Enjoy!

If your landlord files for eviction against you, you will receive a Summons and Complaint. this Summons and Complaint will list a date and time for your to appear at Small Claims Court. This appearance is not a trial. It is called a "Joinder Conference."

At this conference, a Small Claims Court Commissioner, the landlord and/or the landlord's attorney, the tenant(s), and the tenant's attorney, if he or she has one, will be present. Sometimes a mediator from the Tenant Resource Center is also present.

The conference is a meeting in Small Claims Court with a commissioner to discuss the eviction. At the meeting, the parties will either reach an agreement (usually regarding a payment schedule for back rent or an agreed move-out date), or set a date for an eviction trial. If you reach an agreement, it will be written down on a court form and everyone will get a copy to take with them.

The conferences are held in the City-County Building (Dane Co Courthouse), 210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, downtown Madison, on Tuesdays. Report to room GR-10 to check in. There will likely be several cases scheduled for the same time as yours and the Commissioner takes them in order. Be prepared to wait.

Tips for Tenants:
1. Don't skip the conference. If you don't show up, the landlord will most likely get a default judgment for eviction against you.
2. Tell the Commissioner if you have an issue you want heard at trial. If you have a defense, tell the Commissioner and bring receipts or other documents. Also tell the Commissioner if you never received notice to vacate your apartment. If you are given a trial date, it will be for either the upcoming Friday or Friday after next.
3. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Speak up for what you want.
4. Don't sign anything you don't understand.
5. If you reach an agreement, follow through on it.
More tips and information can be found in the pamphlet "Eviction: What is an Eviction Joinder Conference" produced by the Neighborhood Law Project.

Most of the information for this tip comes from the Neighborhood Law Project, a clinical law program from the UW Law School. You can contact them at the link above, or at 260-8221.