“Do I have to have a witness present if the Tenant does not show?”
The short answer is yes – you must present a live witness to recover either a money judgment or possession.
Your witness does not have to be the owner of the property; it can be a property manager, a business partner, or an agent who is familiar with the books and records of the owner’s account. However, it cannot be just a friend, cousin, or someone completely uninvolved with your rental property business.
An attorney cannot hand a lease up to the judge without presenting it through a live witness because the lease would be hearsay, or an out of court statement used to prove the contents as being true.
A live witness is required because the lease must be introduced into evidence to show that:
- the Plaintiff has a legal right to re-possess the property,
- the Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a written lease
- the Defendant breached the lease.
And then of course, the witness will also testify about damages by presenting live testimony instead of invoices and other pieces of paper, which would also be hearsay.
If you think about it, this is only fair. It certainly wouldn’t be right if a Landlord appeared in court, only to have the Tenant or Tenant’s attorney hand up a bunch of slips of paper asserted to be actual payment receipts, and then not be able to cross-examine the Tenant about those exhibits because the Tenant is not personally present. Although it would be easier if no one had to appear in court, the good news is that the Tenant is bound by the same rules.
Please feel free to contact me with other questions about what evidence we should present to succeed in court.