1. Consider any defenses you can prove to the Court as to why you should not be evicted. Gather all evidence you can to prove these defenses.
What's an Affirmative Defense?
You are telling the Judge you should not be evicted because of an action taken by your landlord that violates the Landlord-Tenant Code, including:
- Failure to maintain electrical, plumbing, appliance, and other facilities, in a good working order, including repairs.
- Failure to keep common areas clean and safe.
- Failure to allow you to fix the rental agreement violation.
- Illegal lockout, utility shut off, or rent increase.
What's a Defense?
A Defense is a response to the allegations in the Complaint, including:
- Improper Notice (e.g. you never received a 5-day notice for failing to pay your rent).
- Incorrect amount of rent in dispute.
- Compliance with the terms of your rental agreement, or house rules (e.g. your landlord claims you had a loud party late at night but you can prove with airline tickets you were not on the island the night of the incident).
2) Locate useful witnesses that will help your case, for example:
a. building inspectors (who can testify to the condition of your rental unit),
b. utility company workers (who can testify to your utilities being shut off),
c. other tenants (who can testify to your landlord’s general disposition and treatment of the rental unit and/or other tenants),
d. family members (who can testify to the events that occurred).
3) Gather the documents to prove your case, for example:
a. If your landlord is evicting you for non payment of rent, you will need any receipts, canceled checks, bank statements, etc. which prove you paid.
b. If your landlord is claiming your damaged the unit, bring any pictures you have which prove it was already damaged.
c. If your landlord is evicting you for unauthorized tenants, bring proof that the person your landlord believes is living with you lives somewhere else – a lease or their mail.
4) Gather any correspondence between your and your landlord that supports your case, for example: Letters, Emails, Text messages (have your cell phone provider print them up for you), Hand-written notes
Note: if you are concerned that a useful witness may not show up at Trial you can Subpoena them. Obtain a Subpoena Form from the District Court, and serve the form on the witness: 1) personally by a Sheriff or individual over the age of 18 years-old who is not a party to the case do it; or 2) by registered mail.
You should also read Legal Aid’s brochure on “How to Represent Yourself” so that you understand how the procedures work at Trial and what you will need to do for the Judge to consider all your evidence.