If my landlord pocketed the money we’ve given him for utilities which amount totals to about $600 in the last 4 months, can I take him to small claims court?

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If my landlord pocketed the money we’ve given him for utilities which amount totals to about $600 in the last 4 months, can I take him to small claims court?

We gave cash in hand since we’re all “friends”. He has now deactivated his phone and is off site.

Asked on July 14, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if the landlord did not use the money for utilities, resulting in you suffering some loss or "damage" or cost--like having the utilities shut off, or having to pay more to keep them on--you can sue him to recover the money. You need to know where he is, however: unless the legal papers (the summons and complaint) can be legally and properly "served" (delivered in the way required by the court rules) on him, the court has no authority over him and cannot take the case.


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