What are a sublandlord’s rights when a subtenant leaves?

I sub-let a house to 2 roommates/tenants – on 09/16 1 gave her 30 day notice and on 09/19 the other gave hers. On 10/01 they both moved out. Today I texted them (only means of contact), “Are you planning on paying your utilities for September and the rent and utilities for the remainder of your 30 days notice ?”. If they fail to pay , what are my rights? My rent and bills are due in 2 days. Do I keep their deposits and what’s the process?

Asked on October 3, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Do you have a written lease or are they month to month tenants on an oral lease?  Neither from what I see here gave you 30 days notice to vacate the premises if the rent was paid on the first of every month.  So not only do yo have an issue to address on the utilities but also on the rent.  I would also be concerned that you have no other means of contacting them other than by texting them. 

Next, the security deposit  is technically for damages done to the apartment over and above "normal wear and tear."  It is generally not to be applied to rent or utilities. But  would seek help from an attorney in your area for confirmation of state law.   Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If there was an oral lease, or a written lease which provided for 30-days notice, then the tenants must pay for the notice period.

2) If they do not pay amounts due under the lease, you may keep their deposits. Look up "California landlord tenant law" or "California security deposit" or the like to see the exact requirements, type of notice, etc., but in general, you would send them a letter/statement detailing what is owed and that you are applying the deposit to it; you'd also return any remaining balance.

3) If either or both subtenant disagree, they can of course object; and if you and they can't work out something you can both live with, you'll end up in court (probably small claims court) to resolve the matter and see who owes what.

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