If my roommates moved out with no notice an causesd damage, can I hold their belongings “hostage” until they pay for damages to their room?

UPDATED: May 26, 2012

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If my roommates moved out with no notice an causesd damage, can I hold their belongings “hostage” until they pay for damages to their room?

My roommates have moved out just 1 week before rent is due with no notice. They owe me $265 for damages to the wall, a cracked window and broken blinds. They have a dresser and an entire garage full of items. Can I hold it “hostage” until they pay me? If they were to come get it tomorrow, do I have to give it to them? I am on the lease, they are not. They were friends who needed help and I rented them a room for 5 months with no deposit or signed agreement.

Asked on May 26, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, I'm afraid that your holding their belongings would be a violation of the law (conversion). While what they did to you is more than unfair, unfortunately witholding their personal possessions would be illegal. Yet, you are not withhout a legal remedy here. You can sue them for the amount of unpaid rent, as well as the cost of the repairs (for the blinds, windows, etc). However, you'll have to make sure that the fees and time involved in filing such a suit is worth it to you.

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