Can guests get sued for back rent?

My parents were staying with a friend for a couple months off and on when their friend got evicted. The landlord went after my parents for 6 months of back rent, $13,000, even though they did not sign any rental lease agreement or contract for said property. My parents were present during the court ordered eviction and the police report is the only indication that my folks were ever near the property. I just need to know if what the landlord did was technically legal for them to go after my parents in the way they did even though there was no contract.

Asked on October 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, if your parents were simply guests of the actual tenant, never were on the lease, and left when the tenant did (e.g. didn't "hold over" for longer), then they owe the landlord nothing (except possibly for any direct, out-of-pocket costs they provably caused; e.g. if your parents broke a door moving their stuff out, the landlord could probably sue them for that repair or replacement cost). A tenant's guests have no duties or obligations to the landlord other than to not cause damage, waste his utilities, etc.

Therefore, there should be no grounds for the landlord to sue your parents, and if he does file a lawsuit, they should have a good defense and be able to get it dismissed quickly by showing they were only guests of the actual tenant.


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.