Is my landlord allowed to fine me for graffiti on the outside of the apartment complex near my unit?

UPDATED: Oct 6, 2011

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Is my landlord allowed to fine me for graffiti on the outside of the apartment complex near my unit?

There was some graffiti drawn on the outside of my apartment complex and my landlord has fined me for it. I have no idea who did it and there was more graffiti done around the same time on the other side of the complex and she didn’t fine anyone for that. Is what she is doing legal?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

IF you (or someone under your control--a child; a child's friend who was your guest; some other family member; etc.) drew the graffiti, then the landlord could seek to recover the cost of cleaning it up; in this case, though, to get the money (if you did not pay it voluntarily), the landlord would either have to sue you (and prove your responsibility) or possibly take it  from your security deposit at the end of your tenancy (in which case, you'd have the chance to seek its return, if you disagreed).

Or if there is anything in your lease--which is, after all, a contract--which states that you would have to pay for graffiti under certain circumstances AND those circumstances occured, she could fine you.

However, unless she can either show you did the damage (and seek to collect as she could for any damage a tenant does) or has some contractual term allowing her to fine or charge you, she cannot simply decide on her own to impose a fine.

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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