Can a landlord sue for the cost of clean up after telling a tenantthat they were not allowed back on the property?

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Can a landlord sue for the cost of clean up after telling a tenantthat they were not allowed back on the property?

My wife and I were renting a private lot for our mobile home without a lease. Our home became a total loss 3 months ago due to a fire. The landlord told us we were no longer allowed to be on the property and she would not be accepting any more of our money for rent. She said that she was handling the cleanup of the property. However now I’m being harassed at work by her kids who are telling me I have to pay for the cleanup and back rent owed. What are my options?

Asked on May 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for the loss of your home.  It must have been devastating.  From what you have written here it appears that you were a month to month tenant on the land.  Without a written lease your tenancy would be termed that way by the court (I am also assuming that you paid the rent monthly, correct?).  Now, under a written lease I would assume that the lease would state that you are to have insurance for damage to the property.  Here, there was no written lease but was the home insured?  Did that insurance policy by any chance include any coverage for this situation?  It may be hidden in there somewhere.  Check and see.  It may be an out for you here depending on f they sue you or not. Now, as far as I can tell you tenancy was terminated by the fire as well as her statements.  You were "constructively evicted" by the fire and the landlord.  Really she had to give you a month's notice to vacate and you seem to have continued to pay the rent and do the clean up until you were told otherwise, correct?  So I would  let them know that your landlord - with whom you made the lease - terminated the agreement illegally and you owe nothing.  Then get a lawyer when they come after you becuase this clan seems to have that in mind.  Good luck.


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