Monday, February 17, 2014

Legal Aid & Ross Hart Will Be Speaking At REI of Virginia This Tuesday!


We’re having an interesting meeting this week. Our guest speakers will be David Beidler who is the General Council for the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley and our friend Ross Hart of Hart & Hart Attorneys.

David graduated in 1984 from Antioch University’s School of Law, a liberal, legal services oriented law school. He became Legal Aid’s general council in 2010. David specializes in housing law. Last time he spoke with us was a few years ago.

Legal aid gets funding from portion of the filing fees that we spend to take someone to court.

I don’t hear many people in our group talking about getting sued by Legal Aid but from time to time it happens. I would say that most of our members know the law and follow it. I don’t agree with it in a number of cases but I follow it like a book as I am a law abiding citizen.

Ross has done a nice job over the past few years informing us of what the new laws are so everyone’s up to speed. And we have talked extensively about the do’s and don’ts of renting property.  Another nice thing about our group is you always have people to contact if you don’t know the legal way of handling something to keep yourself out of hot water.

My only experience with Legal Aid was a bad one. I had a tenant that owned a successful barber shop that must have lied about his income as he was taken as their client. I was suing him and they were there to defend him.

We had a contractual agreement that he does a few minor repairs in the house instead of paying a deposit. I won’t do one of those deals again. After a few months of living there he called code on me for things that he didn’t do. Things that he contractually agreed to fix. Those kind of deals can get messy.

He moved out of the house and decided that he wasn’t going to pay back rent that he owed. Legal Aid also felt like he didn’t owe anything. Needless to say the judge determined that I was right and he did owe rent so I won the case. But I had to hire a lawyer to fight it for me so the reality is I lost due to my legal fees. So overall I don’t have the best impression of this service that is supposed to be helping Low Income people in the valley. I’m sure they do good work but my only experience doesn’t show that.

I see the money that we give them being best suited fighting cases against the Western Virginia Water Authority, Roanoke Gas or American Electric Power. Maybe they are scared of taking on these Goliath’s. I don’t know. But I can say that I don’t see it as being fair that tenants move into a place and get charged a deposit from Roanoke Gas that represents the highest month deposit of the previous tenant who has no relation to them. It would be more fair to charge a deposit based on averages over the history of the property. Or when AEP refuses service to a new tenant due to a previous tenants delinquent bill. As if they have any legal right to do that. I’ve had a number of complaints from our members regarding that issue.

So come on out. It should be an entertaining meeting. As always we should be nice to our guests. But not afraid to ask difficult questions.

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