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

Coronavirus-Related Amendments to Your Commercial Lease
Landlords and tenants can always amend a commercial lease if they agree to the new terms. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the country, forcing small businesses to slow operations or close, landlords and tenants are making smart changes that aim to keep both parties in the best financial shape possible.
Tenants Caught in Foreclosure: Who Gets the Rent?
Learn to whom tenants should pay rent when landlords fall into foreclosure.
Foreclosure and Renting to a New Tenant: Tenant Remedies
If a landlord rents out property knowing it will soon be in foreclosure, what can the tenant do?
Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences, and Double Punishment
Judges often have discretion to decide whether to give defendants who are convicted of separate crimes concurrent or consecutive sentences. (See Oregon v. Ice, U.S. Sup. Ct.
All About Preliminary Hearings or "Prelims"
Preliminary hearings, often referred to as "prelims," require the prosecutor to show enough credible evidence to a judge to convince that judge to send the case on to trial.
Suing Your Landlord for Mold-Related Health Problems
Actions to take if you have significant health impairment caused by mold.
Tenants' Rights: When to Hire a Lawyer
Lawyers are expensive, but there are times when hiring one might be necessary to protect your rights as a renter.
Coronavirus-Related Amendments to Your Residential Lease
Residential landlords might need to vary the terms of their leases in light of legal and practical realities of the coronavirus epidemic. Here are some suggestions on how to vary particular clauses.
Asbestos Hazards and Seller Disclosures
Home sellers are responsible for informing prospective buyers about environmental hazards, such as asbestos.
If I Reject a Plea Bargain and Lose at Trial, Will I Get a Harsher Sentence than the One Offered?
There is a risk that the prosecutor may end up recommending a harsher sentence than the one proposed as part of the plea bargain. Or, even if the recommendation remains the same, the judge may not follow it.