Can my roomate keep my personal belongings for back due rent?

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Can my roomate keep my personal belongings for back due rent?

A friend offered to let me stay at his place for a while. I was told me not to worry about paying rent. However, a month later he tells me that I’ll have to start paying $400 a month. Subsequently I lost my job and was unable to pay. I told him that I would move out as soon as feasible and he agreed. My girlfriend and I went to pick up my belongings on Friday. We got half of it. But went we went back the next day, I was locked out. Now he says he’s keeping the rest until I pay him $650.00. I’m supposed to be leaving the state in 2 days. Can he do this?

Asked on November 13, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, he can not. I am assuming it was a verbal month to month lease. There are a lot of issues here that deal with that: proper notice, etc.  But if you are considered a "tenant" then he can not change the locks until he has an order of eviction allowing him to do so. And a landlord can not keep your things hostage.  If you were not a tenant then the situation is considered a bailment and again, he can not hold your things hostage.  If anything happens to them it can be considered conversion.  He wants his money. If you go to court to get in he will bring a proceeding for the money as a counterclaim to your action.  the police will probably not escort you in to get your stuff but you can try.  Can you negotiate with him?  Try and come to an agreement as to an amount so you can get out and go?  It may be the fastest way to be done here.  Good luck.


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