If my landlord pocketed the money we’ve given him for utilities which amount totals to about $600 in the last 4 months, can I take him to small claims court?

We gave cash in hand since we’re all “friends”. He has now deactivated his phone and is off site.

Asked on July 14, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if the landlord did not use the money for utilities, resulting in you suffering some loss or "damage" or cost--like having the utilities shut off, or having to pay more to keep them on--you can sue him to recover the money. You need to know where he is, however: unless the legal papers (the summons and complaint) can be legally and properly "served" (delivered in the way required by the court rules) on him, the court has no authority over him and cannot take the case.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.