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March 11, 2005

Ask your legal question

Small claim

Dear Mr. Taheripour,

I live in Houston, Texas and last year I won a judgment in small claims court against the owner of a wrecking company for about $900 but he has not paid. Although the amount is not a lot, as a matter of principal I would like to find out how I can pursue this case. I have contacted several lawyers and it seems like none of them are willing to take this case because the financial rewards are not appealing. Is there any way I can follow it up myself?

Thanks for your help,


Dear T.B.,

Every state has different rules and regulations governing the collection of a judgment. Unfortunately, your situation is common in that many individuals have been successful in their case, however cannot collect. There is a legal document entitled a “writ of attachment.” (You would have to find out about the legal equivalent in Texas).

Basically, this means that the Court, having acknowledged your judgment, in essence places a lien on the defendant’s property. Consequently, you are deemed a “creditor.” Although this process may not show immediate results, when the business is transferred or sold, you are entitled to your $900. Also, you would be able to seek interest. For example, in California you would be entitled to 10% interest on the money that is owed to you.

As for the issue of assistance from an attorney, in light of the amount in dispute, I am confident that you could do every bit as good of a job.


Commercial rent

Dear Mr. Taheripour,

I have entered into a three-year lease for a commercial property. The first couple of months were fine, but now I cannot make enough money to pay the rent. The landlord has told me that I have three days to get out. I am worried that I will be responsible for the remainder of the rent. What would you suggest?


Dear G.A.,

A lease is a type of contract, whereby you are basically binding yourself to, in your case, a three-year commitment. Fortunately, the law takes the fact that real property is unique into consideration. I would suggest an attempt to find an individual (friend, relative, etc.) with the financial capability to become a tenant and assume both financial and physical responsibility of your property.

As for the issue of the several remaining payments for rent, the landlord has a “duty to mitigate his/her damages.” This means that a landlord cannot simply sit back without pursuing other options and simply have you shoulder the entire term of your rental agreement. For example, if your rent is $1,000 per month and it took the landlord two months to find a tenant, you would be responsible for $2,000. Certainly, the landlord cannot find a new tenant and collect from both of you.

With respect to the three day notice, my suggestion would be to vacate the premises immediately. Otherwise, the landlord could file an unlawful detainer, to which you would have only five days to respond. Assuming that a response was in fact filed, a majority of these commercial lease agreements have an attorney’s fee provision, meaning that you would be responsible for the landlord’s legal costs in evicting you.

Ali Taheripour, Esq.:
Law Offices of Ali Taheripour
12754 Ventura Blvd, Ste D
Studio City, CA 91604
Tel: (818) 754-6777
Fax: (818) 754-6778

Main areas of practice are civil litigation (including personal injury) and immigration law.



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