Am I tenant even though I lived rent free?

UPDATED: Jun 19, 2011

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Am I tenant even though I lived rent free?

I am a college student and I want to know if I am considered a tenant? Is an oral agreement between the landlord and I, despite being rent free, still considered a lease? I was living at a very wealthy friend’s home for nearly 11 months. He did not live there buy he gave me permission to stay. However I was kicked out of my room and the place without notice by his head houseman and property manager. I feel I was wrongfully evicted, was bullied, harassed by 2 people claiming to be his representatives. Do I have a case?

Asked on June 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The issue is not so much whether you were a "tenant" per se as that any permitted or invited resident of a premises must generally be evicted--if he or she does not go voluntarily--through the courts. So you could be given notice to leave, and if you don't leave by the end of the notice period, you could be evicted through a legal action. If you were simply locked out (or th equivalent) without notice and without a legal action, it may have been an illegal eviction.

However, even if it was, it's not clear that there effectively anything to sue for. Since you were not paying any rent, you can't really recover damages. You might be able to force them to let you back in, but that would just be temporary, since they could then provide notice and evict you out properly. There is no cause of action for being "bullied" or "harassed" unless you feel it was because of your race, religion, sex, age over 40, disabilty, etc. So this may be a case where you technically have rights, but it's not worth the cost (i.e. a lawsuit) to enforce them. You may wish to consider it a win that you lived for 11 months rent free and leave it at that.

If you still want to look into this, you should consult with an attorney with landlord-tenant experience. Good luck.

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 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.

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