Can a landlord withhold a tenant’s personal belongings as security for payment of a utility bill?

UPDATED: Aug 26, 2011

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Can a landlord withhold a tenant’s personal belongings as security for payment of a utility bill?

I was living in one of my parents homes until recently they kicked me out. I wasn’t given the opportunity to remove my belongings from the house at the time of being evicted. I was given a verbal agreement from my father that my belongings would be safe until I could find a place to live. I recently went back to the home to retrieve some of my belongings and they had been stolen. They were taken from the home for ransomed on a utility bill not in my name. My father and I never had a rental agreement or anything of the sort. I was responsible for my bills, but the bill he is claiming I owe is in his name. What can I do to get my property back? The home in which I was living I and my fiancé were the only tenants. The home is in my fathers name, but he does not nor has he resided at this home for years now. They have stolen thousands of DVDs from me and God only knows what else.

Asked on August 26, 2011 North Carolina


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A landlord cannot legally withhold a tenant's personal belongings as security for an unpaid utility bill even if the landlord is the tenant's father. However, given the facts of your question, the dispute that you have written about is more than a simple landlord tenant issue, it is a father son issue.

From what you have written, it seems for all intents and purposes, you were a "guest" of your father at his home.

You had no written agreement to lease the home that your father owns that he kicked you out of. Did you ever pay any rent for the home that your father owns but you occupied other than being responsible for the presumed utility and other assorted monthly bills for the property?

I suggest that you and your father sit down together and make your own "peace." The dispute that you presently have with your father is something that the court system really does not enjoy having to make a decision upon.

Good luck.

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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