Arbitration/Mediation/lease agreement and sudden eviction
I am in AZ. I have leased a storage unit since 2005. I have always been given the option to pay for one year in advance for a 10% discount. Two years ago a new owner took over and allowed the same terms.
This year in 1/1/2014, I received a bill which allowed me to pay the annual payment as usual. The check for 12 months was cashed 1/16/14. I received a registered letter dated 2/5/14 due to construction, remodeling and other purposes we must vacate our unit by 4/7/14.
Our lease says "the lease will be renewed on a month to month, quarterly or years bases (depending upon payment method chosen). Either party may terminate this agreement upon given written notice of (30) thirty days"
Question - Since they cashed my check, didn't return my money with the eviction notice, didn't even acknowledge having a year of rent payment, can they legally evict me before the end of my 12 months paid period?
Loss of this storage unit right now would be a financial hardship as comparable unit size and cost are not available in this area.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.
Thank you for your question!
Sorry for the delay, I was away this past weekend.
If you have looked at some of my previous answers you may know that I always advise questioners that mediators act as neutral third parties to disputes and never "get involved" in judging the merits of conflict, but merely use special techniques to help the parties decide how to negotiate their own settlement.
I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice but can respond from my mediation, management and consulting experience. Issues such as yours may certainly have legal ramifications and you may wish to consult an attorney.
My opinion is that because the lease does have a 30 day bilateral termination clause, it is likely that they would prevail in an eviction.
If you wished to try to fight it, you could ask a court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) as you have paid for the year and your payment has been accepted. You could try to argue that the 30 day clause applies to month-to-month renters, but that you have a binding contract through the term of the lease -- especially since they offer no refund of your rent.
Obviously this would cost you some money to go this route, but perhaps the threat of such a course would be sufficient to motivate them to at least refund your rent and then give you the time you need to secure another accommodation.
In any case I always recommend:
1. Document a chronological timeline noting the creation of the contract, and your performance of it (payments, etc). Also document the rise of the conditions leading to the dissolution and record how this plays out.
2. Review carefully your existing documents and contracts.
3. Look at your legal options. You don't say how much money is involved here but any litigants will incur a large cost to file suit, and you have to count the possible cost to yourself to pay for or defend this. Remember that nearly 90% of lawsuits settle before trial so the question is usually not IF you will settle, but when and at what cost. Disputing parties would be better off to wisely choose a cheaper, faster mediated settlement.
4. Go see a lawyer. The local Bar Association usually has a referral service that will give you access to an attorney for free. You may wish to understand the legal landscape.
Once you understand where you are and how you got there you are then in a position to work out a settlement.
These are some ideas. Feel free to follow up with additional questions.
For your general information, the pros and cons of the types of dispute resolution methods follows.
Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation
Arbitration: the referral of a dispute to one or more impartial persons for final and binding determination outside of the judicial system
Benefits of Arbitration:
Confidential, no public record
Limited exchange of documentation, information
Quick, don't have to wait for a court date
Arbitrators have expertise in the subject matter and are trained in conflict resolution
Cheaper than litigation
Preserves business relationships
Negatives of Arbitration
It's often a compromise, no 100% winner
Complex arbitration can be costly
If not satisfied, may litigate the arbitration procedure
Poor results with an unskilled arbitrator
Both parties must agree to cooperate in the process
Mediation: the process by which parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party (the mediator) who works with the parties to reach a settlement of their dispute.
Benefits of Mediation:
Neutral mediator can objectively suggest alternatives not considered before
Parties are directly engaged in negotiating the settlement
Can be quicker than litigation
Less costly than litigation
Preserves business relationships
85% of American Arbitration Association cases mediated find successful solutions
Negatives of Mediation
may not reach a binding decision
Litigation: using the judicial system to resolve disputes
Benefits of litigation:
a clear winner and loser
uses a prescribed set of procedures
more predictable outcomes
Negatives of Litigation:
waiting for court dates can do more harm
usually more expensive than mediation and arbitration
part of the public record