Janet Portman


Janet Portman joined Nolo in 1994 and is the Executive Editor. She has a Bachelor’s degree (Honors Humanities, Phi Beta Kappa) and Master’s degree (Religious Studies) from Stanford University, and a law degree from Santa Clara University of Law. Her first job was with the California State Public Defender, where she handled criminal appeals for indigent clients and spent six months trying cases for the Alameda County Public Defender. She successfully argued a case before the California Supreme Court. (People v. Woodard, 23 Cal.3d 329 (1979).) Janet is an active member of the California State Bar.

Work at Nolo. After taking some time away from the law to raise her family, Janet joined Nolo as part of the team writing the company’s first national landlord-tenant book, Every Landlord’s Legal Guide. She has authored or coauthored many books since then: Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants, Every Tenant's Legal Guide, Renters' Rights, Negotiate the Best Lease for Your Business, Leases & Rental Agreements, The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities, and California Tenants' Rights.  Drawing on her days as a “PD,” Janet also contributes to the criminal law sections of Nolo’s websites.

Janet has contributed commentary to major media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, Kiplinger’s, and The New York Times. For many years she was a nationally-syndicated columnist, writing “Rent It Right” every week.

Why Nolo? Joining Nolo was a natural next step after the public defender’s office. Janet went from helping indigent criminal defendants to educating people about everyday civil law—how to understand it, apply it, and stay away from entanglements in the court system. She takes pride in writing books for both landlords and tenants, without bias. The best compliment she ever received came from a landlord who, having read Every Tenant's Legal Guide, said, “I wish all my tenants would read this—I’d have way fewer problems!”

Articles By Janet Portman

Eviction Help for Tenants
Tenants who are at risk of eviction may have several options, depending on how far the termination and eviction have progressed and the circumstances of the case. By Attorney Janet Portman
Eviction Help for Landlords
When headed into an eviction, it's usually best to have the help of a seasoned landlord-tenant lawyer. You can assist your lawyer in several ways.
Late Rental Payment Laws
Many states do not have laws that specifically regulate late fees. However, most states apply a “reasonable” or “fair” standard when dealing with disputes over late fees between...
Letter of Intent
A letter of intent summarizes the key terms of a leasing deal that’s still subject to negotiation. A well-crafted letter is a road map that will not bind either party to the deal, but it will reflect everyone’s serious intent to get this lease signed.
Understanding Triple Net Leases: Liability Insurance
If someone is injured on the landlord’s property, you and/or the landlord may be sued. Or, if you or the landlord accidentally damage...
Triple Net Leases: Dividing Maintenance Costs Between Landlord and Tenants
Triple net leases require tenants in multi-tenant buildings to pay a portion of the landlord’s maintenance and operating costs. It’s important to understand and negotiate costs the landlord has “passed through” to you, and to press for specific exclusions.
Writing a Non-Binding Letter of Intent
Tenants occasionally want to write their own, non-binding letter of intent, to confirm preliminary understandings and set the stage for negotiations. It’s important to make sure that the letter does not turn into an enforceable contract, like a lease.
Responding to a Letter of Intent
Knowing how to respond to a letter of intent, especially one that might bind you to its terms, is key to keeping lease negotiations open. A landlords binding letter of intent needs to be addressed immediately, lest you end up being bound by its terms.
Percentage Rent
Percentage rent—a portion of a retail tenant’s profits—is often charged to shopping center or strip mall tenants. Understanding how this works, and how to negotiate for a good formula, will be critical to your success.
The Tenant Improvement Allowance
Most commercial tenants want to customize their space. A “tenant improvement allowance” (known as a TIA or a TA) is a common arrangement for paying for these improvements. The Tenant Improvement Allowance (TIA or TA) is money set aside for the tenant to use to customize his space.