Can I sue my ex for not paying rent?

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Can I sue my ex for not paying rent?

My ex and I lived together for about 5 months. He wasn’t on the lease but he agreed orally and via email to paying his share of the rent. Anytime it was the 1st of the month, he would skip town and promise to pay my roommate and I back. He also agreed to helping with the bills. After never receiving any of the money, we handed him back his things and asked for just the keys and garage remote back to the landlady. He refuses to return those as well. Could we sue him for not paying the money he promised?

Asked on November 24, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you should be able to sue him for the rent he owed; for any amounts he owed on other bills; and also for the cost of replacing keys, remote, etc. An oral (also often called a verbal) lease is enforceable; if someone orally agrees to pay rent and/or pay other expenses as rent (or part of rent), then he must pay them. If he didn't pay them, he could be sued for  the money. He can also be sued for any belongings of the other tenants or landlord he stole, lost, destroyed, etc.

Note depending on the circumstances, it's possible he may try to counterclaim for illegal eviction if you have locked him out in some fashion...tenants may only be evicted through the courts. That might give him, if he does  this, some offset vs. what he owes you. For example, to end the tenancy under a month-to-month lease, you have to provide 30 days notice. If you do not, then he could look to recover for a month's occupancy or to get back into the apartment.


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