Can you forceyour landlord to reimburse you for charging for sewer and waste when the city already charges you?

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Can you forceyour landlord to reimburse you for charging for sewer and waste when the city already charges you?

My lease agreement says that I have to pay for gas and electricity but not waste management or sewer service however my electric bill has a waste management and sewer service charge on it anyway and a previous resident manager told me that I had to pay it anyway. The owner now admits wrong doing and tried to pay us off with a check for the amount of two months worth of charges and put “paid in full on the check”. I didn’t cash mine. Can I force the owner to reimburse me for the full amount of time that he has been responsible for the lease (about 13 years).

Asked on April 24, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you have been overcharged according to the lease, you can look to recover for the overcharging. There are two hurdles, though, to be aware of:

2) The first hurdle is the statute of limitations, or time to bring a legal action. Generally speaking, the SOL for written contracts (including leases) in CA is only 4 years, so you may be able to recover back only 4 years of charges. It is sometimes possible to extend the SOL, such as if you could not have discovered the wrongdoing until more recently, but if your lease sets out what you can and cannot be charged for, it may be difficult to make that argument.

3) If you paid the etra charge for 13 years, it is possible that it would be taken that you and the landlord modified the lease to include that charge, with the modification being shown by your and his behavior for more than a decade. That's an uphill argument for the landlord, in the face of a written lease, but it is a possible defense to raise.


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