If a tenant has caused damaged for which they will not pay, does a landlordhave a right to take their stored possessions?

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If a tenant has caused damaged for which they will not pay, does a landlordhave a right to take their stored possessions?

My wife and I rented to her sister and family a house for several months, while her husband (whose in the navy) was being deployed to Japan. When she finaly moved out she left us with almost 6k in bills, ruined our credit with the utility companyies, and left the house a awful mess. The refuse to contact us, and have basicly told us that he’s deployed now and too bad. We have keys to the storage units where they have stored personal property, can I take posession of this property to pay for the money they owe us? What rights do I have in this matter, I feel he is using the Navy to hide from his debt

Asked on August 12, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

DO NOT ENTER THEIR STORAGE UNIT AT THIS TIME.  What you need to do is to sue them for the damage and the unpaid bills.   How you will have to do this depends on if you have a lease and the terms of the lease. Remember that leases can be oral as well as verbal but just make sure that you do not run in to any problems under state law as to same (known as the statute of frauds).  Once you sue them - which will not be easy since he is in the military but it will not be impossible - you can obtain a judgement to seize personal property.  This is really an unfortunate situation.  Good luck with resolving it to your satisfaction.  


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