A Eulogy For The One-Sided Attorney Fee Provision

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Residential landlords: August 1, 2011 will be a sad day for you.  For you will be morning the passing of a much prized contract provision: The one-sided attorney-fee clause.  A new law that goes into effect on August 1, 2011 will automatically make one-sided attorney-fee provisions a two-sided affair.

Since the beginning of time, the typical attorney-fee provision in a lease has read something like this (greatly paraphrased):

In the event that the landlord has to sue you (the tenant), than the landlord may recover its attorneys’ fees and costs, and you (again, the tenant) may not.

Starting on August 1, 2011:

If a residential lease specifies an action, circumstances, or an extent to which a landlord, directly, or through additional rent, may recover attorney fees in an action between the landlord and tenant, the tenant is entitled to attorney fees if the tenant prevails in the same type of action, under the same circumstances, and to the same extent as specified in the lease for the landlord.

The new law goes into effect on August 1, 2011 for new leases entered into on or after that date.  For renewals, the law goes into effect on August 1, 2012.