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LLB: Reader Questions!

Illustration for article titled LLB: Reader Questions!

As unfortunately promised, I will now endeavor to answer two (2!) reader questions that were asked more than six months ago! I am nothing if not timely in my responses.


As always, you are guaranteed to be satisfied or your money back.

From Mr. k2b:

“Hey, how much you know about property management law? I got some bright-eyed new apartment manager trying to use the negligence/misuse maintenance charge clause to pay for her prettification project here and I’m sorta concerned her dumb ass is gonna get the place sued and sold out to those asshole gentrifiers down the block. It’s kind of obnoxious.”


From Mr. otterman:

“If you steal a Tesla, can you then re-brand it an Edison and resell it?

I’m asking for a friend.....”

So, here’s the thing. To answer these questions requires a detour into an issue I often discuss- the difference between the law, and “justice,” or “morality,” or, heck, “life.”


The law is nothing more than a set of rules, codifying expectations that society deems reasonable and enforceable. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s a good way to look at it. Sometimes these are expectations that we can enforce on each other (such as litigating over contacts); sometimes it is expectations that “the Man” enforces on us (such as criminal law); sometimes it is expectations about how we divide up stuff when we die or divorce (probate, family law). And while there is often overlap between the law and social expectations, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes the law lags slightly behind society (such as family law, and, until recently, same sex marriage). Sometimes the law isn’t the right instrument for social obligations (yeah, maybe a person who fails to show up to your MST3k viewing party after RSVPing did, in fact, break an oral contract ... but you’re not taking them to court over it).

But the law is always a blunt and inexact instrument, and while it beats settling things “the old fashioned way” (who is up for duels and blood feuds?), it helps to remember that.


This gets to k2b’s question, which I can helpfully break down as follows:

a. Concern about being sued. Okay, so here’s the thing; you can always be sued- for a good reason, a bad reason, or even no reason. Call this, um, the Trump Doctrine. If someone has deep pockets, and the desire to litigate, then they can just bring lawsuits (or screw people over and defend lawsuits) as the cost of doing business. So a good attorney will usually advise you in terms of probabilities- something may or may not make something more likely bring a lawsuit, and that lawsuit would cost $X to defend (or settle) with Y% of success. In a certain way, there is little difference between a good attorney and an actuary.


b. Property law (real property law, landlord tenant issues) tends to be VERY jurisdiction specific, which is a fancy way of saying that it varies depending on state and locality. While there are some federal laws that may apply in certain circumstances (exs. ADA, FHA), overall you will need someone who is knowledgeable about your specific locality.

That said ... during the legal climate of the 1960s and 1970s especially, many laws were re-written to be more protective of tenants. Misuse of tenant funds is a big no-no, and most states will have very specific laws regarding this.


With regards to Mr. otterman’s question-

As your attorney I advise you to drop a full sheet of high-powered blotter acid drive that stolen Tesla/Edison at top speed toward Vegas and it’ll be a goddamn miracle if you get there before you turn into some kind of wild animal and melt into the seats.


Are you ready for that? Checking into a Las Vegas hotel under a phony name with the intent to commit capital fraud after committing god know how many felonies in the prior 24 hours on a head full of acid? I sure hope so. I’m counting on you, Otterman.

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