Friday, December 11, 2015

MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT - Sean Ferrell [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2013]

Description: A time travel novel. The main character meets with “himselves” every year in an abandoned hotel in a futuristic dystopian NYC. The only people who come to the annual gathering are current, previous, and future versions of himself, except this year a woman shows up too. One of his future selves is murdered, and he must stop that from happening or everything will unravel.

Plot: This is a murder mystery but not really. Very difficult to explain. The MC has to prevent his own murder, while teaming up with some of his past and future selves and avoiding others. And find out who is the mysterious woman. This author has a seriously bizarre creative streak. The book is mind-bending. I like mysteries because I have to pay attention to try to figure them out, but this book required an extra measure of mental effort because of the time travel element. Very interesting.

Characterization: Most of the characters are the MC at various ages. He has nicknames for the various versions of himself, and each of the individual selves is reasonably well-developed and differentiated, which helps to keep them straight. The MC muses at times about how he has changed over his lifetime, which is an interesting bit of self-reflection. The third quarter of the book contained a POV change into the woman's POV for several chapters, which I didn't realize until quite a bit into it and it threw me for a while until the POV changed back to the MC.

Setting: April in New York City in a dystopian future. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: There are a few sex scenes, and all but one zipped by me and only after they were finished did I realize what they were. The book has chapters but they are not numbered. The narrator for this audio book has an interesting, somewhat monotone voice which actually helped with the characterization of the MC.

Overall: I enjoyed this book but it did require a bit of work. I would read more by this author, altho I need a break between books to let my brain relax.

Grade: B

Friday, December 4, 2015

LIFE'S A BEACH, THEN YOU DIE - Falafel Jones [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Amazon, free Kindle book [2013]

Description: Max Fried and his wife retire to New Smyrna Beach, Florida [east of Orlando]. Max was a computer forensic examiner before he retired. He meets an attorney who asks him to help find the assets of a deceased client. Max searches the client's computer, but finds more than he bargained for when everyone who knows what Max has discovered, ends up dead, and now the killer is after him.

Plot: Max obtains the deceased client's computer and finds bank info, emails, etc. Quite a bit of description of how to break into someone's computer. In fact, lots of techno info in this story. Someone, presumably the killer, tosses Max's house, spies on him, and assaults him, looking for something. Near the end of the book, Max figures out what the killer is looking for, which leads him to figuring out who the killer is. A bit of humor, a light read.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably developed and had their own personalities. Most characters were described in a similar fashion, height, weight, hair color, etc. Would have been good for a little variety in descriptions.

Setting: Beach town of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This appears to be a self-published book, and did need a better editor [a few typos and grammar issues, not too many but sometimes distracting]. But the quality of the story was equal to many traditionally published books, in my opinion.

Overall: A good, light mystery. Funny in places. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+


Friday, November 20, 2015

DUCK THE HALLS - Donna Andrews [Book recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2013]

Description: The week before Christmas, someone is playing pranks on the churches [most denominations are included] of a small Virginia town, including placing a cage of skunks in the choir loft of one and several hundred ducks in the main sanctuary of another. Meg Langslow, the protagonist, has the task of helping all of the churches find alternate space to hold all their pre-Christmas activities. After a small fire at one church, someone is found murdered.

Plot: The main plot starts with Meg scheduling a church's activities at other churches' facilities, because the first prank leaves skunk stench permeating the entire church. All the churches in this small town are accommodating to their needy neighbors. As the number of churches “out of commission” grows, Megs job of creating the master schedule becomes complicated. Then after one prank, a fire in the basement of a church, the plot changes because a church elder is found dead near the fire. Meg doesn't necessarily “investigate” the murder, but in her efforts to schedule everything, she talks to lots of people regarding the pranks and the murder.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably developed and had their own personalities. Meg, the main character, might be a little “too good” in that she doesn't really have negative character traits. In fact, many of the people in the story are somewhat two-dimensional in that respect. Meg has 4yo twin sons. Each boy has his own personality, which was nice to see, but their language development was much younger than most of the 4yo boys I know. In fact, I was expecting a sub-plot on speech therapy. I would guess the boys had the speech skills of 2-1/2 to 3yo boys. Once I pictured them as early 3yo, their speech and roles became more believable.

Setting: Small town in Virginia. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene. Some scenes were a tad over-described.

Other: The narrator was a good match for Meg's character. A good person, mild, easy-to-get-along-with. This book taught me what a “slow moving” story was like. Lots of description, possibly too much. Meg had quite a bit of interior thought throughout the story, which slowed it down a bit. At several points I almost stopped reading because there wasn't much action on the page. Some humor. Some of the chapter breaks were in strange places, like right in the middle of conversations but the end of one chapter didn't seem like a cliff-hanger, so it seemed odd to break the chapter there. Almost like “here's 12 pages, time for a new chapter” randomness.

Overall: A good holiday mystery, somewhat slow paced. I would read more by this author, but anything slower than this story I might stop reading.

Grade: B+

Friday, November 13, 2015

DEATH OF A LIAR - MC Beaton [Book Recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth investigates the report of an attack on a village woman. He soon discovers the woman was lying. Later, she reports another attack but Macbeth admonishes her to seek help for her compulsion to lie. The next day he finds her murdered. He investigates her murder, encountering other murders and illegal activity in the process.

Plot: This is a murder mystery set in the Scottish Highlands. Sub-plots include Macbeth's personal life filled with his dog and cat and disappointment with his love life, and his relationships with the constable who works for him and the other people in the village. The main plot of the murder investigations grew rather broad, with several new developments and a lot of suspects that sometimes made it a bit on the complicated side to try to keep everything straight.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, altho this may be because I've read quite a few Hamish Macbeth mysteries already, but it did appear to me that if a reader was starting the series with this newest release, she would still have a good idea of the different personalities of Macbeth and the other regular characters.

Setting: Scottish Highlands. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The main storyline was more complicated than most of the other Macbeth stories. I don't know that I would recommend a reader start with this book, which is probably number 30 in the series. Better to start with previous books and work your way up to this one.

Overall: A good Scottish cozy mystery, altho a bit on the complicated side. I would read more by this author [in fact, I've read a lot by this author].

Grade: B+


Friday, November 6, 2015

LUNATICS - Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel [Book Recommendation]



Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2012]

Description: Philip Horkman is a pet shop owner, family man, and kids' soccer referee. Jeffrey Peckerman is a forensic plumber [LOL yes I checked, it really is a profession] with an attitude. They have a “slight” disagreement which results in them being pursued by the police, terrorists, revolutionaries, bears, and assorted other bad guys.

Plot: The book is a farce - an exaggerated and improbable comedy. I've read all of Dave Barry's non-fiction, but this is my first time reading his fiction. After an initial disagreement at a kids' soccer game, the MCs [love those names] end up pursued by the police, mistaken for terrorists, and they either encounter or cause an escalating set of situations which get more and more improbable. Occasional chapters are television news reports and newspaper articles. The final situation is supposed to be the most improbable, but oddly it appears the authors did have a prophetic vision because one of the final improbabilities is actually historically accurate here in 2015. I imagine the authors had a WTF moment when that situation actually occurred.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Horkman is a true straight man, loves his family, good father, etc. Peckerman is wild and crazy, also a family man but makes you wonder about his sanity. Definitely reminiscent of the Odd Couple. They don't live together, but they end up relying on each other to get themselves out of their various predicaments.

Setting: South Florida and several other states and countries. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is narrated by the authors, alternating telling the story from their character's point of view. Dave Barry used a lot of F-bombs, which was definitely in character but sometimes I thought was a bit much. It ended just when I was getting tired of the slapstick, so it was the perfect length, possibly one chapter too long. The end wrapped up all the loose ends in a very humorous way.

Overall: Laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes a bit too over-the-top improbable. I would read more by these authors.

Grade: B+



Friday, October 30, 2015

WICKED CHARMS - Janet Evanovich with Phoef Sutton [Book recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The inside flap tells us that Lizzy and Diesel, the protagonists, are searching for the Stone of Avarice. They want to find it before others do, including Diesel's cousin Wulf. The search involves a treasure map, a ship, and an island.

Plot: The book is a light read and moves quickly. The storyline is somewhat over-complicated in that I got lost in a few places. The end includes a small twist which I didn't see coming but it didn't seem to affect the storyline much anyway. The very end was rather flat.

Characterization: The characters are not as well-developed as they could be, and if a reader hasn't read the previous two Lizzy & Diesel books [which I have], they will feel flat. All of the main characters have some type of special power, which made the story more interesting that it would be otherwise.

Setting: Massachusetts. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This story didn't have the “spark” that the previous Lizzy & Diesel stories had, possibly because it read more like a sequel and not a stand-alone story.

Overall: a fun book altho slightly disappointing. I would read more by this author [and in fact I've read most of her books], altho her newer books are not as good as her earlier books.

Grade: C+


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Chocolate Clown Corpse - JoAnna Carl [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: The back cover tells us that Lee Woodyard, the protagonist, owns a chocolate shop. The owner of the shop next door, a clown named Moe, ends up dead. When Moe's widow and children list the clown shop for sale, Lee tours it and finds Moe's widow unconscious inside. Lee attempts to learn who killed Moe and who is trying to kill his widow.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read, and has several scenes where Lee finds herself in sticky situations, including one scene where Lee extricates herself in hilarious fashion. The end includes a small twist which I saw coming about half-way through the book, well before it occurs. This did reduce the tension somewhat.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as they could have been. I wanted Lee to succeed, but I wasn't as invested in her success as I wanted to be, possibly because of the reduced tension level, see plot above. Lee's husband is a criminal defense attorney who is appointed to defend the man accused of killing Moe, which made for an interesting sideline.

Setting: Michigan in winter. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: Occasional chapters were followed by a page called “Chocolate Chat,” containing information, history, and trivia about chocolate.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B


Friday, October 16, 2015

Bye, Bye Love - K.J. Larsen [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that private investigator Cat DeLuca, of the Pants on Fire Detective Agency, it out running with her beagle when she literally stumbles over a dead body. As she pulls out her phone to report it, she is stun-gunned by the apparent murderer. When the police arrive, the body is gone. Cat “helps” the police find the killer.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. I read this book at the beach, and it is definitely a beach book. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It was a who-done-it and a why-done-it. I had a vague inkling of the “who” and the “why”, but the ending did surprise me. The end included a high-tension, scary predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. I wanted Cat to succeed, at the expense of her police relatives. I did find the book had a few too many characters that I had trouble differentiating, and at one point I decided not to try to figure out who everyone was. It didn't feel like that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, but of course I don't know if I would have enjoyed it more if I could have kept the characters straight.

Setting: Chicago. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is advertised as similar to Stephanie Plum, and I found that accurate, altho the Plum books do contain more humor.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+

Friday, October 9, 2015

SHARK SKIN SUITE - Tim Dorsey [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that Serge Storm, the protagonist, is a “fixer”, a sort-of paralegal and wannabe lawyer who travels around Florida as a kind of vigilante. Brook Campanella is a new lawyer who is good at representing homeowners against big banks engaging in shady foreclosure practices.

Plot: The book has 2-3 interwoven plot lines, and it did get confusing at times. Certain chapters read like they belonged in a different story entirely. Serge could be really funny, somewhat slapstick at times. The mystery aspect was more of a how-done-it. I did NOT guess the “how”. The trial was more on legal technique rather than questioning the witness, but it was well-done without being too technical for a non-legal reader. The end included a reasonably high-tension predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as I've read in other books. I wanted them to succeed, although except for the trial, I was somewhat confused on the ultimate goal.

Setting: South Florida and several of the Keys. The descriptions were very detailed, in some places somewhat overboard in my opinion. I was able to picture every scene, although sometimes I skimmed over the descriptions.

Other: This book had several interesting minor characters.

Overall: The confusing aspects of this book made it difficult to finish. I'm glad I finished it, because the trial and the end were fun to read. I'm not sure I would read more by this author.

Grade: B-

Friday, October 2, 2015

PAW AND ORDER - Spencer Quinn [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, audio book

Description: The back cover tells us the book is narrated by Chet, the canine partner of Bernie, an Arizona private detective. The team travels to Washington DC to visit Bernie's girlfriend, a reporter working on a big story she won't divulge. A source gets himself killed, and Bernie is arrested. After he's released, he and Chet work to solve the mystery.

Plot: The book is a bit more gritty than my usual “light, fun read,” altho Chet is a really funny narrator. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It wasn't really a who-done-it, because Chet gives the “who” away with something he sees and reports but doesn't know why it's important at the time. The process of Bernie figuring out the “who” as well as the “why” was interesting. The end included a somewhat-high-tension [altho not as scary as many books I read] experience and a satisfying twist. The main problem I had with the plot is that the triggering incident [where the story question began], didn't happen until the end of chapter 4. If Chet wasn't such a funny narrator, I may not have been sufficiently interested to read through the end of chapter 4.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Chet is really funny in what he reports as important. He notices all the smells and sounds he encounters, and gives the reader hints of things that Bernie doesn't know about because he doesn't have a dog's keen sense of smell or hearing. I wanted Bernie and Chet to succeed, altho the tension and danger level wasn't as high as I expected from this grittier story.

Setting: Washington DC. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The narrator, Jim Frangione, took a while to get used to. I heard sharp intakes of breath frequently. In the beginning few chapters, his style kind of grated on me, but as I got used to it, it did get better.

Overall: started too slowly, but the humor carried it to where it really started. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+


Friday, September 18, 2015

The Cat Sitter's Nine Lives - Blaize & John Clement [Book Recommendation]



Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: The back cover tells us that Dixie Hemingway, the protagonist, witnesses a head-on collision, and she pulls one of the drivers from the car just before it explodes. She then proceeds to a local bookstore, where she meets the proprietor and his cat. The next day, Dixie learns the driver claims he is her husband, and the store proprietor and his cat have disappeared.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It was a who-done-it and a how-done-it. I had a vague inkling of the “who”, no clue as to the “how”. The end included a high-tension, scary predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are very well-developed and nuanced. I wanted Dixie to succeed, and had concerns on how she would pull it off.

Setting: One of the Florida Key islands. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This book had several interesting minor characters.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: A-

Friday, September 4, 2015

Death & the Redheaded Woman - Loretta Ross [Book Recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The back cover tells us that Wren Morgan, the protagonist, is an auctioneer. While cataloging the contents of an old house for auction, she finds the body of a man suspected in a recent jewel heist. She meets a private eye and part-time bounty hunter, Death Morgan [interesting use of the word Death], who is working to find the stolen jewels and a murderer. Together they work to solve two mysteries.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. Quite a bit of humor. The story line is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It wasn't so much a who-done-it, more of a how-done-it. I did NOT guess the “how”. The end included a high-tension, scary predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are very well-developed and nuanced. I wanted Wren and Death to succeed, and had concerns on how they would pull it off.

Setting: Location is not specifically stated in this book, at least not that I remember. There are mentions of the Civil War and a river. The author is from Missouri and I assume this book is set there. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This book has a nice romantic sub-plot. There were a few places where I had to read the sentences a few times to figure out who said what [not enough dialogue tags and/or action beats].

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: A-


Friday, August 28, 2015

Murder with a Twist - Tracy Kiely [Book recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The back cover tells us that Nic, the protagonist, is a former detective. Together with her husband Nigel and their newly adopted bullmastiff Skippy, Nic investigates the disappearance of Nigel's cousin's husband. I love the line on the back cover - “despite the fact that it would be better for everyone if he just stayed lost.” This exactly sums up the character of the man they're looking for, and asks the question of why does the family want to find him in the first place.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly, with short chapters [some only two pages, which I thought odd] and lots of humor. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read, and includes plenty of suspects and motives. The end includes a satisfying twist, and although I managed to figure out most of it, the final resolution did keep me guessing until the end. The one negative I can say, is that at no time did I worry that Nic wouldn't solve the puzzle, or that her physical or emotional safety was at issue. That reduced the tension level quite a bit.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as they could have been. I wanted Nic to succeed, but I wasn't as invested in her success as I wanted to be, possibly because of the reduced tensions level, see plot above. I also wish the dog had been given a larger role.  A bullmastiff is a 100+ pound dog, and it would have been fun to see him with more of a role.

Setting: New York City. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The line on the back cover – Includes cocktail recipes – is entirely false. There were no cocktail recipes included. The last name of the main character is Martini, the characters do some drinking, and a few scenes are set in a bar, but that's as close as it came.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+

Monday, May 4, 2015

A to Z Reflections 2015


Last month was my first time participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I learned about it on March 28 by seeing the badge on an online friend's blog. With only 4 days' notice, I signed up.

The first week I wrote half the posts over the weekend and the other half during the week. This was a nightmare because my weekdays get crazy. After that first week, I learned to write the following weeks' posts over the previous weekends. This prevented me from doing much writing on my current manuscript, but for only one month I figured I could use the break.

It was fun visiting the blogs of many of the other participants. Some of those blogs have very interesting/unique concepts. Wow there are some creative people out there! I'll mention a few here that I enjoyed the most, in no particular order, with their A to Z topic, :


Colin D. Smith - 100 word flash fiction
AJ Blythe Cozies - Inspirational author quotes
Star Trek - SciFi Blog  - Star Trek
I swallowed a basketball - Songs that make me happy
Chronicles from the Man Cave - Television shows
Home School Dad - Nouns
Write Away - Mystery writing 101

I gained several new twitter followers and my blog's daily hit count increased quite a bit. My blogger pageviews graph now often looks like a neurotic rollercoaster, up/down/up/down. Time will tell if those hits continue into the future.

I'd prefer the survivor badge be square like the original badge and the daily letter-badges. Not a deal breaker tho.

This challenge took a LOT of time, but it was fun, a nice break, and I'll probably do it again next year if I can. Thanks to the organizers and to everyone who participated.

Now I have to start coming up with my usual blog stories starting next week! Hope to see you all back soon.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Legal Definitions - Z

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.
 

Hallelujah!  The last letter!

Zealous representation - To represent a client diligently with competence and promptness, passionately assert the client's position under the rules of the adversary system. The key phrase here is “under the rules”. I can't encourage my clients to manufacture or conceal evidence, or lie under oath. I can't outright lie to the judge or jury.  Even if I know the opposing party is lying.

Zoning - Land is classified into zones for different uses such as industrial, open space, residential, commercial. The zoning ordinance governs the types of structures, density, and land use for various parts of the town or community. Zoning is performed by a city council, or for unincorporated areas, the county board of supervisors.

ZZZZ – Yes, I've fallen asleep in court, after lunch while waiting for TWO-AND-A HALF HOURS for a judge to be assigned to my case. No, I only dozed for maybe 5 minutes until the bailiff woke me up and told me to go out in the hallway and splash cold water on my face. Many years ago I was also a juror on a case and I could have sworn the judge had fallen asleep [because he leaned back with his eyes closed and his head resting on the back of the chair], but every time an attorney made an objection, he did rule on it, so either he was a light sleeper, a good faker, or he really was paying attention with his eyes closed and his face relaxed. [Thanks to Donna Everhart for the idea for this definition.]

For those interested, I obtained primary information on these definitions from the following sites:

YAY! I finished the A to Z Blogging Challenge!

I'm exhausted lol

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Legal Definitions - Y

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.



[Oddly enough, this was the most difficult letter.  There aren't that many Y legal words.]

Yard – A piece of outdoor land, generally adjoining residential property, which exists for the use and enjoyment of the occupants of the property. If a tenant rents a house, he is also entitled to the use of the yard unless the rental agreement specifically states otherwise. This use, however, does not extend to the establishment of a marijuana farm or meth lab. Additionally, the tenant is generally required to maintain the yard, meaning watering the grass, mowing the lawn, etc. Approximately fifty percent of tenants residing in residential properties with yards, do not maintain the yard. This is why most savvy landlords pay for a gardening service and also pay the tenant's water bill, in hopes the yard isn't left entirely to die.

Your Honor – The proper way to address the judge in court. The phrase “with all due respect to Your Honor”, is usually a clue for the judge to prepare himself for a diatribe, because it is generally followed by the attorney telling the judge he's an idiot, sometimes using that exact word. This may or may not then be followed by the attorney paying sanctions for contempt of court.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Legal Definitions - X

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.



[I kind of cheated today. There were no X legal words I wanted to use, so I'm using “ex” instead. So sue me.]

Ex Parte – Motions, hearings, or orders which are heard by the court without formal notice to the opposing party. Ex parte matters are usually temporary orders [like a temporary restraining order or temporary custody] pending a formal hearing, or an emergency request for a continuance. Most courts require a diligent attempt to contact the other party or the other party's lawyer, usually by telephone altho sometimes by overnight mail, to provide the time and place of the ex parte hearing.

Excusable Neglect - A legitimate excuse for the failure of a party or lawyer to take required action on time. This is usually claimed by lawyers asking the court to set aside a default judgment entered against their client because they failed to timely file an answer or to show up at the hearing/trial. Illness, work overload, staff on vacation or sick or up-and-quit, mis-calendaring the hearing, or missing the bus/train, are common excuses which the courts will often accept. The offending party or attorney must reimburse the other party for its costs and legal fees incurred because of the error. This is separate from INexcusable neglect, which is often caused by voluntarily deciding not to file an answer and/or show up for the hearing/trial. This frequently happens in the eviction world because the defendant/tenant filed for bankruptcy, then fails to show up at the trial to let anyone know. However, if the defendant does NOT inform the court or the plaintiff of the bankruptcy filing, the plaintiff will be granted judgment [not knowing about the bankruptcy filing] and then go to the bankruptcy court and request permission to allow the judgment to stand. Most of the time, the bankruptcy court will allow this, meaning the defendant/tenant will be evicted because he stupidly did NOT show up for trial, which is INexcusable neglect.

Expert Witness - A person who is a specialist in a subject, who may testify at trial as to his/her expert opinion without having been an eyewitness in the case. Examples of expert witnesses are physicians, police officers, coroners, general contractors, real estate brokers, accountants, and computer programmers. I make use of real estate agents and brokers quite frequently to establish reasonable rental value of foreclosed properties.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Legal Definitions - W

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Waive – To voluntarily give up something. Most tenants want the landlord to waive the rent owed, if they agree to move out. Approximately fifty percent of landlords will agree to this, provided the tenant moves out on time, usually within 30 days, and leaves the property clean and undamaged. The other fifty percent of landlords want a money judgment for the rent owed.

Warranty of habitability - Implied in a residential lease, usually does NOT apply in a commercial lease unless specifically written into the lease. Most states impose certain duties on a landlord to maintain residential premises in habitable condition, including adequate weatherproofing, heat, water and electricity, and clean, sanitary and structurally safe premises. If those conditions are lacking, it may be legal justification for a tenant's defensive acts, such as moving out (even in the middle of a lease), paying less rent, withholding the entire rent until the problem is fixed, making necessary repairs (or hiring someone to make them and deducting the cost from next month's rent). A landlord who consistently does NOT maintain the premises in habitable condition is generally called a slumlord.

Waste – Damage to real property caused by a tenant [other than normal wear and tear], which lessens its value to the owner. Waste I have encountered with my clients include tenants discarding items into swimming pools, marking walls, punching holes in walls or doors, breaking the hinges of cabinets and doors, taking a sledgehammer to the kitchen counters, allowing the grass and landscaping to wither and die, and burning down the premises.

With prejudice – A dismissal with prejudice means the dismissed case cannot be brought again, or the court's order on the motion is final. Opposite of “without prejudice” which means the party retains the right to file a new case [or new motion] on the same claim.

Writ of possession – A written order of the court, authorizing and directing the Sheriff to evict the occupants of real property. When the court grants judgment in favor of the plaintiff/landlord, the clerk then issues a writ of possession. That writ is delivered to the Sheriff, who then forcibly evicts the occupants from the property if they don't move out voluntarily prior to the date the Sheriff arrives. Most of the time in CA, it takes about 2-3 weeks after the court grants judgment, for the actual eviction to occur. I have heard that in some states, the Sheriff arrives the same day, or within five days, of the court's judgment. And in some states, the Sheriff will place all of the occupant's personal property outside at the curb. That does NOT happen in CA - the former occupants have 15 days to make an appointment to come back and retrieve their personal property, and the landlord must safely store the property for that time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Legal Definitions - V

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Vacate - 1) When a judge sets aside or annuls an order or judgment - Defense attorneys sometimes ask the court to “vacate the judgment” on the grounds that they forgot to file an Answer on behalf of their client, the tenant. If this happens, the attorney is usually required to reimburse the plaintiff for his costs and attorney fees. And, 2) to move out of real estate and cease occupancy - The primary purpose of approximately one-hundred percent of eviction cases is to force the defendant/tenant to vacate the property. Only about seventy-five percent of cases result in an actual eviction. The rest are generally settled on a “pay and stay” agreement.

Verdict – The jury's decision after trial. If it wasn't a jury trial, the judge's decision is called a judgment, not a verdict. A “special verdict” is when the jury decides the facts but does not decide the case. For example, many times the jury will be asked to provide answers to specific questions, like “did the parties have a contract” and “how much was the required payment” and “was written notice provided and if so, on what date” and “did the defendant understand what he was signing”, but will NOT be asked the bottom line of “must the defendant move out” or “did the defendant engage in securities fraud” or “was the defendant legally incompetent when he signed” because the law on the issue is complicated and not even most lawyers or judges agree on exactly what it means. So the jury decides the facts in a “special verdict”, and the judge then applies the law to those facts.

Vexatious litigant – A person who files a lawsuit knowing it has no legal basis, with the purpose to harass, annoy, and cause legal expenses to the opposing party. I have filed [and won] several motions to declare opposing parties as vexatious litigants, which often result in (1) dismissal of the case, (2) those parties NOT being able to file any other lawsuit unless the court gives advance permission, and (3) often includes the awarding of sanctions of more than $10,000, payable to my client. Don't mess with my clients!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Legal Definitions - U

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.



Unconscionable - A contract or bargain which is so unfair to one party that no reasonable or informed person would have voluntarily agreed to it, usually signed by the one party because of duress, fraud, or deceit. A court will generally not enforce an unconscionable contract. Examples would include signing a contract to (1) give your first-born child to the other person, (2) rent an apartment when, buried in the fine print, is a clause which states if the rent is one day late, you must pay twice the rent for that month, and (3) purchase six cars and, buried in the fine print, is a clause which states that if you fail to make a single payment, even if it is the last payment, ALL of the cars may be repossessed, not just the last one.

Unconstitutional - Refers to a statute, governmental conduct, court decision or private contract which violates one or more provisions of the U.S. or State Constitution. Examples would include (1) a clause in a contract or deed which limits the transfer of real property only to Caucasians, (2) a law which restricts the ability of persons to attend church, and (3) denial of a parade permit based on the group's race or religion.  Approximately fifty percent of foreclosed homeowners believe it was unconstitutional for the lender to sell their property, even though they haven't made a payment on their mortgage in over a year.

Unlawful Detainer – Retaining possession of real property without the right to do so, including without the permission of the owner [squatter], without the payment of rent [deadbeat], or failing to comply with a lawful notice. An eviction case is called an Unlawful Detainer or U.D. case, because that sounds more scholarly than “eviction.” But we all know what it means, and now you do too. Welcome to my world =)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Legal Definitions - T

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.



Tenant – A person who occupies real property owned by another, either residential or commercial, usually for the payment of monthly rent. Most tenants are responsible, law abiding citizens. I don't get to meet many of those. Some of the tenants I meet are just experiencing a bad time of their lives, but others have relocated to their current dwelling from the netherworld, which is a euphemism for the fact they are tenants from hell.

Testify – Giving oral evidence under oath at a trial or deposition, with the opportunity for opposing parties to cross-examine. The amount of lying under oath which I have witnessed in court boggles the mind.

Time is of the essence – A legal phrase which means “the date/time indicated are EXACT. Even one second too late is too late.” Therefore, if I write a settlement agreement that states the defendant will move out of the property on May 1 at 4:00pm, if the defendant has not removed ALL of his personal property and ALL of the persons who reside there with him, and he does not hand over the keys at precisely 4:00pm [or before], he is in breach of the settlement. Most of my settlements have provisions for what happens upon breach, the most common being the defendant is responsible for paying a LOT more money. I once had a defendant ask the judge whether, if he didn't move out on time, he would be arrested. That provision is NEVER a part of my settlement agreements, altho there have been defendants for whom I would have LOVED to have included that provision.

Trial – A hearing wherein the facts of the case are presented for determination. The trier of fact [the entity who determines which facts are true and which aren't] can be either a judge or a jury. Most eviction trials are bench trials [non-jury]. Most legal aid organizations demand jury trials because the tenants don't have to pay for them [legal aid and all], and landlords don't want to pay for them either. Therefore, demanding a jury trial gives the tenants more bargaining power to obtain the settlement they want.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Legal Definitions - S

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Sanction – A financial penalty imposed on a party or attorney by a judge, usually for a violation of the local rules. Most judges tend to waive sanctions [not impose them] after a stern lecture. Some judges are sanction-happy and impose them for any minor technicality, probably to help increase the court's available budget.

Sealing the record – An order of the court making the court's record non-public. Criminal records of juveniles are usually sealed. Certain civil records are sealed to protect trade secrets, national security, etc. Post-foreclosure eviction records in CA are sometimes sealed by CA state law. And in certain CA counties, the parties can agree to seal the record, so the defendant/tenant's credit report does not include the fact that he was evicted. This helps the tenant because future landlords never know he was evicted. It can help the current landlord motivate the tenant to move out, but it does not help future landlords who search credit reports but never find out that this applicant is a deadbeat who has been evicted multiple times in the past.

Security deposit – A payment required by a landlord from a tenant, usually prior to the tenant moving in, to cover the possible repairs of damage to the premises greater than normal "wear and tear." If the unit has no unusual damage upon the tenant moving out [not greater than wear and tear], the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant. Many small claims actions are filed by tenants who believe the slimy landlord completely refurbished the unit with the tenant's deposit.

Sheriff – The actual physical eviction is performed by a Deputy Sheriff, who notifies the landlord of the exact date and time of the return of possession, or “lockout.” The landlord arrives at the property on that date/time with a locksmith, the Sheriff forcibly removes the occupants, and the locksmith changes the locks. Most of the time, the Sheriff will allow the occupants 5-10 minutes to collect necessaries like medications. Thereafter, the prior occupants must make an appointment with the landlord to retrieve any remaining personal property. The landlord is not permitted to inform the occupants of the exact date and time of the lockout, because sometimes Sheriff deputies are injured, or worse, by disgruntled occupants.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Legal Definitions - R

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.



Reasonable wear and tear – A tenant living in a residential dwelling is allowed to use it for normal residential purposes. The paint, carpet, etc will experience common “wearing out.” A tenant is not responsible to pay for reasonable wearing out. Unusual damage to the property can be deducted from the security deposit after the tenant moves out. Some examples of unusual damage are crayon marks on the wall, holes in the walls and ceilings, urine and feces [both animal and human] ground into the carpet.

Receipt – A written and signed acknowledge of payment of money or delivery of goods. When the tenant pays rent, the landlord often gives a receipt for the payment. Many times the canceled check is the receipt. If the tenant pays cash and does NOT obtain receipt, it falls within the legal adage “if it's not in writing, it doesn't exist.” Who would pay anywhere from $600 to $1000 in cash [most higher rents are paid by check or money order] and NOT demand a receipt for the payment? Way too many tenants don't demand a receipt, and then they testify at trial that the landlord is a scumbag but they trusted him. What's up with that?

Rent – Hiring personal property [like a car] or real property for the payment of a price to the owner, usually monthly. The person paying the rent money is then legally entitled to retain possession of the property for the stated term [lease], or month-to-month.  Non-payment of rent is the most common reason for evicting a tenant.

Rent-controlled – A local ordinance which limits the allowed amount of rent or rent increases and/or the right of the owner to evict tenants. Most rent-control ordinances are enacted in jurisdictions where most of the residents [read: voters] are tenants.

Rental value – The amount of money the rental property is worth on the open market. Theoretically, the rent charged equals the rental value. In rent-controlled jurisdictions, long-term tenants usually don't pay nearly the fair market rental value of their units. Sometimes, this causes unethical landlords to manufacture a reason to evict them. Occasionally, this actually works.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Legal Definitions - Q

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Quash – To annul or set aside an action. A Motion to Quash is a motion by a defendant asking the court to declare the service of the Summons and Complaint invalid, requiring the plaintiff to find him and serve him again. The intent of this motion is to delay the eviction while the defendant gets another chance to have a lot of fun evading service. When defendants don't have lawyers, they go to court and swear under penalty of perjury that they weren't served. Then I serve them in court in front of the judge hahahahahahahaha neener neener neener.

Quiet title – A lawsuit requesting the court to make a determination that the plaintiff is the owner of the real property. These are frequently filed after foreclosure sales, alleging the lender did not follow proper procedures, so the sale should be rescinded and the property returned to the borrower/prior owner. In CA, if a third-party bona fide purchaser bought the property at the foreclosure sale [instead of the property going back to the lender], approximately one-hundred percent of the time the prior owner might be entitled to collect money damages from his lender, but he cannot be restored to title. Some quiet title cases demand return of the title to the plaintiff because “the original note was obtained fraudulently.” This means the plaintiff wants the house back but he claims he isn't responsible for paying for it. Approximately one-hundred percent of judges in CA will make valiant efforts to refrain from laughing while throwing the case out.

Quitclaim deed – A deed for real property which grants “only that interest which the grantor owns.” This type of deed is commonly used in the divorce context, when one party “gets the house.” One person signs his interest, whatever that may be, to the other person.  I could sign a Quitclaim Deed granting my ownership interest in the Brooklyn Bridge to a third party. Since technically I am not stating I own any of it, I am just granting what I own which is nothing, my signature is theoretically not fraudulent unless I took your money when I gave you the deed. Quitclaim deeds are sometimes used in the foreclosure context where the borrower grants a partial interest in the property to someone who is in bankruptcy. Then the lender can't foreclose without permission of the bankruptcy court. Approximately one-hundred percent of the time, the bankruptcy court will give permission because the bankrupt person is not on the note and generally has no idea that he owns part of the property.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Legal Definitions - P

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Pain and suffering – How most non-lawyers, and some lawyers, describe their experience in court.

Paralegal – A non-lawyer with specialized training, who performs routine tasks requiring some knowledge of the law and legal procedures. Some paralegals are employed by a law office, and others work freelance for various lawyers. I've been a lawyer for almost half my life, and I know paralegals who know more about the law than I do. A good paralegal is worth MORE, in my opinion, than most lawyers are worth.

Peremptory challenge – Each party in a jury trial may “thank and excuse” a certain number of potential jurors without having to give any specific reason. These challenges cannot be used for invalid reasons, such as to exclude all women or black persons from the jury, but can otherwise be used just because the party or attorney “doesn't think that person will vote in my favor, no matter what the facts.” At the start of a case, the parties also have the right to file a peremptory challenge against ONE judge without giving a reason. There are several judges in the courthouses where I practice, that I will “file paper on” [exercise my peremptory challenge], because those judges do NOT afford landlords a fair trial. I can only do this once per case tho [additional challenges must be for cause, like the judge is related to a party or attorney], so I have to be careful to weigh the risk that I paper a bad judge and am randomly assigned to a worse judge.

Personal property – The pile of “junk” that tenants leave behind when they move out. Some of my clients have had to pay more than $25,000 to trash-out companies to remove the abandoned personal property of a single bad tenant/prior owner.  These people give new meaning to the word hoarder.

Plaintiff – the person or entity who filed the complaint, thereby starting a case. In an eviction case, almost all plaintiffs are landlords or new owners of foreclosed properties.

Preponderance of the evidence – One of three legal burdens that the prosecution/plaintiff has, in order to prove his case. (1) Criminal cases require beyond a reasonable doubt, which does NOT mean 99.99%, it just means that all reasonable doubts must be resolved in favor of the defendant. For example, if two solutions can be the result of the facts presented, and one of those solutions means the defendant did NOT do the act, then judgment must be in favor of the defendant. Obviously, “not guilty” is not the same as “innocent.” It just means the prosecution did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. (2) Clear and convincing evidence is required for certain cases, like probate, child custody, and paternity, and for the resolution of certain motions [like whether a bankruptcy case was filed in good faith]. Some people attempt to place a percentage on this burden, something like 80%, but there is no legal percentage, it is just “substantially more probable as true than not true.” (3) Preponderance of the evidence means more probable than not. This is not the same as 51%, but is 50% plus a feather-weight. The scales must just barely tip in favor of the person who has the burden of proof. In most civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof [defendants have the burden for most affirmative defenses], so if the evidence is 50/50, the plaintiff loses. Evictions are theoretically governed by preponderance standards, altho in some areas, especially rent-controlled jurisdictions, most juries, and even some judges [snarl], will thumb their noses at the requirements and use the clear and convincing standard.

Pro bono – An attorney providing legal services without pay. Most states, including CA, either request or require attorneys to work a certain number of pro bono hours per year, to help the poor or “less fortunate” among us. Sometimes my clients want it also, usually after I've already done the work and they decide they don't want to pay me. Most of the time, those are my ex-clients.

Process server – A person who serves legal papers to another person or entity, usually by personal delivery. For example, a Notice or a Summons and Complaint. Some defendants evade service, requiring process servers to get creative in finding the persons and serving them. One of the process servers my firm uses has even served celebrity defendants at the Grammy awards [“Congratulations on your nomination! Here's a paper to remember me by....”]. Here's a link of a process server serving a celebrity at a public event.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Legal Definitions -O

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Objection – If one party has a LEGAL reason why a piece of evidence, usually testimony, should NOT be heard by the jury, that party usually objects. The key term here is LEGAL reason. You can't object just because you know the answer to that question will make you look bad.

Occupant – A person residing in or using real estate. An occupant can be the owner, a rent-paying tenant [whether residential or commercial], a deadbeat brother, a daughter sponging off her parents along with her deadbeat boyfriend, or a squatter.

Opening statement – A summary of the case, given by the attorneys usually to the jury [altho sometimes to the judge in a bench trial if the case isn't a standard eviction case], letting the jury know what to expect. For example, (1) “ladies and gentlemen, today you'll learn that Colonel Mustard killed the victim in the Conservatory with the Candlestick” or (2) “ladies and gentlemen, today you'll learn that the defendant here [gesture toward the tenant] ran a meth lab from his apartment and the resulting explosion displaced an entire city block.” That last opening statement was one I didn't need to give, because the explosion also displaced the tenant to the point that his new residence was a hole six feet deep in another city.

Opinion – A decision, usually by the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court following an appeal of the trial court/jury decision, which takes the facts as determined by the trial court/jury and applies the law to those facts. For example, (1) “we are of the opinion that separate facilities are of necessity not equal” and (2) “we are of the opinion that a criminal defendant must be informed of his rights, so that he may intelligently invoke them.” In CA, an opinion may be published or unpublished. If the opinion is published, it can be cited in future cases and becomes a statement of the law.  If the opinion is unpublished, it applies to that specific case only, and cannot be cited as law in a future case.  Generally, an unpublished opinion comes from a case where "hard cases make bad law."  The judge felt sorry for one of the parties, so ruled in that party's favor despite the law, but does not want to establish precedent in using the law in that manner for future cases.

Oral contract – A contract which is NOT in writing. In most cases the standard legal adage applies – if it's not in writing, it doesn't exist. However, if a tenant pays rent and the landlord accepts the rent, then an oral contract exists for the rental of the property occupied by the tenant, for the proffered amount of rent.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Legal Definitions - N

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.

 
Notice – The official document requiring the tenant to perform, or cease performing, certain actions. The most common notice is a Notice to Pay Rent or Surrender Possession. Others include Notice of Termination of Tenancy and Notice to Perform Covenants or Surrender Possession. That last one can include the requirements to (1) remove unauthorized occupants or pets, (2) remove abandoned cars from the parking area, (3) cease smoking marijuana in the common areas, (4) cease playing heavy metal rock “music” at all hours of the day and night, and (5) “cease the loud, rhythmic thumping and moaning sounds emanating from your apartment, which disturb the quiet enjoyment of the other residents.” Yes, my firm did serve that last notice once, because the noise was so loud it not only disturbed the quiet enjoyment of other residents in the same complex, but residents of the neighboring complexes were also complaining.

Nuisance – The unreasonable, unwarranted, or unlawful use of property which causes inconvenience or damage to others. Some examples in an eviction context are included in notice above. Most of the time, the tenants causing the nuisance are seriously disrupting the quiet enjoyment of the other residents in the apartment community. Sometimes, however, individual residents are overly-sensitive to the personality quirks of others. I mean, seriously people, this is an APARTMENT COMPLEX. If you want to live in complete peace and solitude, join a convent or a monastery.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Legal Definitions - M

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Mediation – A meeting of the parties of a lawsuit, usually with a neutral third party, where the parties try to resolve the dispute without having a trial. For eviction cases, the landlord generally wants the tenant to move out RIGHT NOW and pay all the back rent RIGHT NOW, and the tenant usually wants to STAY in possession and NOT PAY ANY RENT or move out in 30 days OR MORE and NOT PAY ANY RENT. Most settlements usually result in each party not getting all of what they want.

Meet and confer – Before filing a motion with the court [asking the court to make a decision on a dispute], the parties are usually required to “meet and confer,” or discuss the disagreement and try to come to some sort of resolution without requiring the court to decide the issue for them. For some reason, CA thinks that lawyers representing opposite sides of a dispute can actually agree on something. Sometimes this happens. Most of the time, the court has to slap them around prior to making the decision for them.

Motion for summary judgment – Also called MSJ. A motion requesting the court to grant judgment in favor of the party bringing the motion [moving party], without having a trial. The MSJ includes most or all of the moving party's evidence, and makes a statement that the evidence proves the moving party is entitled to judgment. The opposing party usually files an opposition and includes all of its evidence. The judge then decides whether a trial is necessary. When the plaintiff wins an eviction MSJ, the defendant/tenant/prior owner doesn't get to have his day in court, see letter D previously, which is highly beneficial and much less expensive for the plaintiff, especially if the defendant had demanded a jury trial.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Legal Definitions - L


A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


Landlord – an owner of real property who rents that property to others, called tenants. Synonyms for landlord include scumbag, slumlord, money-grubber, and “the people who pay my salary.”

Leading question – a question which suggests the answer. Leading questions are generally not allowed on direct examination [questioning your own witnesses] but are permitted on cross-examination [questioning your opponent's witnesses]. Examples of leading questions are “Wasn't that driver going too fast in the fog?” and “Was the rent one thousand dollars per month?” Perry Mason did it best - “Isn't it true you shot Bob because you caught him in bed with your wife?”

Lease – a rental agreement with a fixed beginning and ending date. If you rent your apartment for one year, January 1 through December 31, you have a one-year lease. If the rental agreement has a specific beginning date but no definite ending date, it is a month-to-month agreement. In CA, a month-to-month agreement can be terminated by the tenant, by giving the landlord a 30 day notice, and by the landlord, by giving the tenant a 30 day or 60 day notice, depending on certain factors. A lease cannot be terminated without the agreement of both parties or the occurrence of specific events, for example a fire destroys the premises or an active-duty military person is deployed. The death of the tenant, in most cases, operates as a 30 day notice to terminate the tenancy of a month-to-month agreement, but does NOT terminate a lease, altho some leases do include that provision.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Legal Definitions - K

A to Z Blogging Challenge.  My topic is LEGAL DEFINITIONS EXPLAINED IN PLAIN [AND HOPEFULLY HUMOROUS] ENGLISH.


K – a legal abbreviation for the word contract. The law has a lot of abbreviations [altho definitely not as many as the military], like P [or the pi symbol] for plaintiff and D for defendant. Many a law student's notes will say “P & D w K” and that is entirely understandable for any law student or lawyer unless they haven't had their morning coffee.

Key – the symbol identifying which party has possession of the apartment. When the landlord gives the key to the tenant, the tenant then has legal possession, whether or not a rental agreement was actually signed or any rent money was actually paid. Conversely, the tenant is still in possession until he tenders the key back to the landlord. Many of the settlement agreements I write, state that if the tenant delivers possession of the apartment, in good condition, back to the landlord by X date and X time, the landlord will forgive some or all of the back rent owed. Unless the tenant tenders the key on or before the stated date/time, he still has possession and the back rent is still owed. The moral of this story is never just move out, always get a receipt that states you returned the key.  One local judge, recently retired [unfortunately, because he was really funny], would tell defendants to hire a busload of nuns to watch the return of the key and get it all on film, so there would be no question that possession had been returned to the landlord.

Kin – blood relative [including spouse and adopted children], generally used in the context of death, as in “next of kin.” In CA, if a tenant dies, any lease remains in effect until the stated ending date. So if the lease ends on December 31, April rent was paid, and the tenant dies on April 28, the executor of the tenant's estate [usually next of kin] is still responsible for paying the monthly rent until December 31. Most of the time, the executor clears out the tenant's personal property and delivers possession back to the landlord, and the tenant's estate is only responsible for the monthly rent until the landlord finds a new tenant. For a month-to-month rental, the agreement ends 30 days after the last rent payment. In the example above, the rental would end on April 30, giving the executor [next of kin] only two days to clear out the tenant's personal property. Most landlords will work with the next of kin for a week, maybe two, and deduct the additional rent from the security deposit. The moral of this story is, if you like your relatives and don't want them to have a harder time than they would otherwise have on your death, try to die near the beginning of the month so they have additional days to clear out your apartment.