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?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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.

 


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