If I’m renting a room from my father and he destroyed property which I paid for, is there anything that I can do?

I am renting a room at my father’s house that i pay for with money from social security checks (I get as survivor’s benefits). I installed a lock on my door and he destroyed it with a drill while I was in my room sleeping. I installed the lock because I know that he and his fiancee have been in here multiple times while I have been out of the home. What can I do?

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you are paying rent, you are a tenant, not merely a guest. If you don't have a written lease, then it is an oral or verbal lease. This means you are a month to month tenant, annd either of you could terminate the tenancy on one month's notice. Bear that in mind.

As a general rule, a landlord may not go into his tenant's space for non-emergency reasons except with reasonable notice (such as 1 day), at reasonable times (e.g. during the day), for reasonable purposes (e.g. inspection, maintenance), and a reasonable number of times (i.e. not every week).

However, at the same time, a tenant is generally not allowed to make changes to the landlord's property or install locks to keep the landlord out (the landlord must be given a key) unless the tenant has the landlord's permission or the lease says he or she can do this. So on the face of it, both you and your father have violated typical terms of a residential tenancy.

Since you both violated terms--you by installing the lock, him by entering your space--it's unclear that you would win if you did bring a legal action; it's also unclear what you could sue for at this time, other than an order directing your father to not do this again. However, as noted, if he doesn't like having you as a tenant or agree with what you want as a tenant, he could terminate your tenancy with one month's notice.

You might be best served by trying to sit down with your father and work out exactly what are your rights, vis-a-vis privacy, etc., and putting that into a written lease that will lay out the expectations for both parties.

If you and he can't work matters out, you perhaps may wish to consider finding somewhere else to live, since remaining in this situation--renting one room in another's house under an oral lease--will leave you vulnerable to landlord intrusion, with the threat of termiantion of tenancy hanging over you if you and your father come to loggerheads.


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