Do you have a dispute with UDR over your security deposit, early termination, or rent overcharges? You have several options, including suing UDR in small claims court.
In this article, learn about:
- Common types of small claims lawsuits against UDR.
- What to do before suing UDR in small claims court.
- How much does it cost to sue UDR in small claims?
- How much can you sue UDR for in small claims?
- How to file a small claims lawsuit against UDR.
- Fun fact, lawyers are not allowed at the initial small claims hearing! This is to even the playing field so that each party has an equal chance of obtaining justice.
Common types of small claims lawsuits against UDR
We often receive the question, can I sue UDR in small claims? The answer is yes as long as the dispute is for $10,000 or less (more on this below).
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits against UDR:
- Failure to return your security deposit. For example, you requested UDR cancel your service but they never cancelled it.
- Late fees or additional fees. For example, UDR charged your account for late fees or additional fees that were not listed on your lease agreement or were not allowed in California.
- Illegal eviction or lockout. For example, UDR changed the locks to your apartment without notice.
What to do before suing UDR in small claims court
Speak with the Property Manager
The first thing to do when a problem arises is to reach out to the property manager for your rental unit. They are sometimes referred to as community managers by UDR. They may even be the same person that gave you a tour of the property before you signed a lease. However, the property manager's ability to make decisions will sometimes be limited and you may need to escalate the situation. If your property manager is unhelpful in resolving the matter, then it is time to go a different route.
Send a Demand Letter
A demand letter is a letter that outlines a set of requests. For example, you could request a refund and explain why you are requesting a refund.
If you eventually decide to sue in California small claims court, you are required to first request your money or property back before you can file the lawsuit. While you can request your money or property back orally, it is recommended you do so in writing in the form of a demand letter.
What to include in the demand letter?
Unsure of what to include in your demand letter to UDR? Here are a few suggestions:
- How much money you are owed. For example, I am owed my $3,000 security deposit.
- Why you are owed money. For example, I left the unit the same way I moved in.
- Your contact information.
- Where to send payment.
- Give them a few days to respond (usually about 7 to 14 days).
- State that if they don't respond, you intend to sue.
If your problem with UDR relates to your security deposit, you can use the California Court's security deposit demand letter-writing tool to help you write the demand letter.
Where to send the letter:
You should email or mail a copy of the letter to the leasing office and mail a copy to one of UDR's main offices.
Here is the UDR's address in California:
UDR- Newport Beach Office
880 Irvine Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92663
If UDR ignores your demand letter, what is the next step? You can sue UDR in a small claims court.
How much does it cost to sue UDR in small claims?
So how much are you going to spend by suing UDR in small claims court?
Court Filing Fees
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing UDR for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.
Once the lawsuit is filed, you have to notify UDR that you have sued them. This is called "serving." Serving Costs can range from $0-$75.
If you win, you can request that UDR pay for your court fees and serving costs.
How much can you sue UDR for in small claims?
In California, you can sue UDR for a maximum of $10,000 if you are an individual. If you are a business suing UDR, you can sue for a maximum of $5,000. Note, if you are a sole proprietor, you count as an individual.
By suing in small claims you are agreeing to waive any amount over the maximum amount you can sue for, even if you are owed more. For example, if UDR owes you $15,000, and you decide to sue in small claims, you are waiving suing for an additional $5,000. Meaning that you will win a maximum of $10,000.
While you may be missing out on the full amount you are owed, there are practical benefits to suing in small claims instead of suing in "regular court."
Here are some of the benefits:
- Court filing fees are cheaper in small claims than in other courts.
- The process is faster in small claims than in other courts as your hearing will usually be scheduled 30-70 days after you file the lawsuit.
- Lawyers are generally not allowed in small claims which helps keep the costs of suing low.
How to file a small claims lawsuit against UDR
Step 1: Identify UDR's legal entity that owns the property you lived at
In order to sue in California small claims, you need to be able to correctly name the UDR entity you are suing. UDR is one of the largest owners of rental real estate owners in California. UDR tends to hold each one of its properties as a separate legal entity. Here is how to find the name of the legal entity that owns the UDR property you lived at:
- Review your lease. Normally, on the first page of your lease, your landlord or property owner's name is listed.
- Call the County Tax Assessor. If you cannot find your the name of the property owner or landlord, you can call the county tax assessor's office where the rented unit is located and ask who owns the property. In California, each county tax assessor has the information on who owns a property.
- Run a search on the California Secretary of State's website. Once you know the name of the corporation or LLC, you can run a search on the California Secretary of State's website. In this article, we cover this process in detail. It is important to identify who the agent for service of process (someone selected by the corporation or LLC to receive legal documents on its behalf) as this is the person who will be served.
Step 2: Complete "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court" (Form SC-100)
- This form starts the California Small Claims Court lawsuit process. Download here.
- It is also known as the "complaint" or "claim."
Step 3: File "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court"
Each California Small Claims Court has a different procedure for filing. You have to check with your local small claims court whether they allow filing in-person, by mail, online, or by fax. Or we can file your case for you!
Step 4: Serve your landlord
Remember, you will be serving UDR's "agent for service of process" as listed on the California Secretary of State's website. Learn more here.
What is a small claims court hearing like?
Small claims hearings in California small claims are informal and most hearings last around 15 minutes. While many disputes settle before the hearing, here is what to expect if your lawsuit does not settle.
Who will represent UDR at the hearing?
- The easiest way to answer this question is that a lawyer will not be representing UDR since lawyers cannot represent parties at the initial small claims hearing. They will have a non-attorney representative.
- Right before the hearing, the judge will ask you and UDR's representative to show each other the evidence that you will later show the judge.
- The judge will ask you why you are suing.
- The judge will ask UDR's representative to tell them their side of the story.
- The hearing will last around 15 minutes.
- The judge will ask you to show them the evidence you brought. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence. Other times, you will get the evidence right back.
- Very rarely a judge will tell you whether you won or lost at the hearing. Instead, the judge will tell you that their decision will be mailed to you (usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).