Can our landlord refuse to let us access to our former rental so that we can retrieve our belongings until all charges for damage claims have been paid?

UPDATED: May 3, 2012

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Can our landlord refuse to let us access to our former rental so that we can retrieve our belongings until all charges for damage claims have been paid?

We have moved out but had an arrangement to pick up some of our stuff at a later date. It is a joint tenancy and we are not resonsilbe for all these damages

Asked on May 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, the landlord is not allowed to hold onto your belongings until you pay for damages (whether you personally are responsible for them or not); the two things--your liability, if any, for damage, and your right to your personal property--are wholly separate. If the landlord believes you owe him money for unpaid rent or damage, his recourse is to take the amounts out of the security deposit and/or to sue you for the amount he claims you owe. He must turn your belongings over to you, though if he had to put them in storage (for example, to re-rent the premises; or to have repairs or renovations done to it), he is permitted to charge you the reasonable storage fee.

You can try contacting the police, to see if they will help you gain access to your belongings. If they will not--and there's a good chance they won't; the police may consider this a civil, not criminal matter, and one which must be resolved by the courts--your recourse would be to sue the landord for a court order directing him to allow you access to your property or for the monetary value thereof (if he disposed of them). The landlord may elect in that same action to counterclaim for amounts he believes you owe him.


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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