Flat-fee Lawyer shenanigans

Here’s our story (hopefully, we can get some helps from the community):

We live in the San Francisco, California. We owned a single family house and rent out to two individual more than 10 years ago. We started having tenant issues few years ago. Hence, we nicely asked both tenants to move out and willing to pay for the so-called relocation fee + cash. Of course, both tenants are not cooperative. One tenant was paying roughly $250 monthly and other one was paying $450 monthly (they have their own room and shared our main entrance) + utility.

My mom did not have any lease agreement/contract with them when they move in at the time. One gentleman is now more than 62 years old now, and other one claimed himself had mental disorder (and have some doctor proof and stuff. In another word, he claimed himself “handicapped”).

So, around three years ago, we hired a lawyer to evict them out. We basically want to regain all space since I got married and kids now. So, we can do Ellis Act and do not want to rent out anymore. It’s our first time hiring lawyer, we basically paid up to $25K right before the Trial. The lawyer basically charge too much and we are not afford to pay (since we wanted to save money for relocation money for both tenants and such. We were willing to pay up to $30K per person). Of course, both tenants did not agree and asked for at least $100K… WTF, they are paying us $250/month and asking $100K to move out? We basically step out the case before the Trial. Both tenants decided NOT to pay anything (rent or utility) since 2-years ago.

Anyways, we decided to look for another “cheaper” lawyer after we step out the Trial. We found a Flat-Fee lawyer in Yelp. The lawyer basically took our one-time “flat-fee” money and not doing anything in past 2 years. This lawyer promised to help us do the Ellis Act Eviction. However, we have not receive any real words from him. Initially, he responded to our emails/calls periodically, basically just saying that “he is working on it”. There’s no real document/shows that Ellis Act Eviction has performed (at least, no letters serve to us and such).

The tenant-issues are getting very nasty now. This lawyer is not respond on any emails/phone calls anymore… Is there anyways to report this lawyer to Board? What’s our recourse on this lawyer, if any? We are hoping someone can point us to the right direction if possible.

Your help is much appreciated!

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Cow?? :confused: When did I get an alt? :thinking:


Teach yourself bagpipes, trombone, and drums. Start composting right outside their window. Turn off your water and power and take a vacation. Adopt a really loud dog that barks all night.


Yeah don’t do that. Even without a written agreement they probably still have a landlord-tenant relationship, so the place must be habitable.

I would think that non-payment makes it easier to kick them out… but I’m not a lawyer.


Are you saying your tenants have not paid rent for 2 years?

I know its tough to evict in SF but seriously it can’t be that tough…


The problem is this lawyer does not even owns an office. He is using the share-space with clients… I have no idea where to find him…

Correct. Both tenants did not paid rent and utility for more than 2 years now. They used the “free lawyer” services… I heard SFO city has dedicated up to 7 Mils “free lawyer services” for those tenants. It’s getting very ridiculous. A lot of tenants abused these rights. There was a landlord got sued 11 Mils couple years ago.

Are you sure he’s not one of your tenants?


My eyes glossed over when I read how the guy is supposed to pay only $250/month rent, hasnt paid in over 2 years, has no lease, and yet you were still willingly offering him $30k to leave. I’m so glad I dont live anywhere near there.


ON what grounds would any lawyer argue that they get free rent for 2 years ?

You need a competent lawyer.

That isnt the argument. It isnt about last month, it’s about next month - and how everyone is entitled to adequate living conditions and it’s against basic human decency to force a person into homelessness just for your own economic benefit. Or something to that effect. And some local laws that support this broader concept have given legs to some pretty absurd claims like this one.


yeah I doubt that flys even in SF.

Doesn’t seem like OP Is actually having any active eviction process.

They’re not paying rent cause OP is simply letting them live rent free. Maybe more accurate that OP’s hired useless lawyers.


Yea. The first lawyer we hired was pretty useless. He is sort of Famous in the Ads and Reviews. They own a nice office in Market St. We paid $25K but he’s not doing anything useful. He was thinking maybe the “Roommate eviction” will work initially, however, it was not obviously. On another hand, the tenant’s Free lawyer was pretty good and keep argued they are so-called “Protected Tenant.” We walked out the process right before the Trial, because the “Discovery” process will probably cause us another $30K-100K, without guarantee of winning. This lawyer suggest we can do the “Ellis Act” Eviction, which means we withdraw our rental from the market for at least 5 years. We kindly ask how much will this cost? He said it’s probably $50K and up, depends how long the process is. His clients pay 100K-200K for the whole process… I forgot to mention that because of two tenants, this lawyer treat this as “two” different cases and have to pay separately.

Yes, we have no plan to rent out anymore! If we know this hard to get back our rooms, we WILL not renting out in the beginning. My mom has some heath issues because of this rental issues.

Hence, we learned that we should find some cheaper fee lawyer, so we jumped on the second lawyer who doesn’t has a office but charge cheap. He meets his clients in Shared-Space office in Downtown. We paid upfront a flat-rate fee. He sent some kind of documents for both tenants initially. But it seems both tenants lawyer were pretty good and respond to him. We believe the second lawyer pretty much gave up on us. He does not respond to our emails/calls anymore. Is there anyways to report this lawyer or something?

And yes, the tenants stopped paying bills after the first lawyer eviction, which was more than 2 years now. We can’t do anything!

How much did you pay them and what specific services were agreed on?

If you paid the guy $500 flat fee and he sent a couple eviction letters then thats it. He’s done.

If you paid him a $2500 retainer for his services for at a $150/hr rate and he’s ignoring you after doing 2 hr work then thats a different matter.


You need to get a good lawyer. Seems your first 2 attempts were at the too expensive and too cheap ends of the spectrum.


The second lawyer agreed to do the whole Ellis Eviction. We have the written agreement. We charged $4000 flat-rate.

Most of the eviction lawyers out there are represent tenants. If you are in SF, you will know that. It’s hardly to see anyone willing to represent landlord. Anyways, thanks for the input.

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How many lawyers have you talked to ?

There are some on yelp who represent landlords. Many are exclusively tenant advocates but not all.

Maybe try this list :


If the first lawyer told you that an eviction would cost $50k-200k and the second said he would charge $4k for it, alarm bells should have gone off at that point. That price was too good to be true.

You need to use some unconventional methods to get these guys out. Get a camera set up in the kitchen, figure out what amount of money is felony larceny in SF, leave that amout of money on the counter, then after one of them takes it, wait until they spend it, report the theft to the police, show them the footage, he gets arrested and taken to jail, after he gets out, make another (reasonable) relocation offer. Hopefully he gets the hint.

I’m just spitballing here. I don’t know if my last suggestion really is any good. Maybe the police don’t even arrest thieves in SF anymore, but I think the eviction route is a dead end for you and you have to think outside the box.

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