If my tenant is suing $109 in unused rent, can I countersue for changing the locks, time spent cleaning and the original $180 I paid the tenant to leave?

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If my tenant is suing $109 in unused rent, can I countersue for changing the locks, time spent cleaning and the original $180 I paid the tenant to leave?

I had a month-to-month lease agreement with a tenant requiring a 30 day notice. They gave verbal 30 days on the 19th and paid last month’s rent 19 days less the deposit of $243. With 14 days left on lease, the tenant wanted out and called the police regarding a bathroom sharing issue. The police came out said tht is was not a police matter and not to call again. The tenat then attacked my other roommate. The tenant had her sister call the police this time. My roommate did not press charges. I wanted the tenant out and offered 14 days on the $243=$180; the tenant wanted $289 including the deposit. I said no.The tenant took $180 and is now suing.

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can't sue for the cost of cleaning, unless it went beyond normal end-of-lease cleaning and the conditions were worse than normal wear and tear. Similarly, you can't sue for the cost  of changing locks, since that is something you choose to do--not unless the locks were broken by the tenant and had to be replaced. Essentially, anything that is normal wear and tear, which a landlord would normally do at the end of a tenancy, or which a landlord freely chose to do, is not something you can recover for.

You could potentially try to countersue for the original $180, on the grounds that there was an agreement that the tenant would accept $180 in payment of all claims, which agreement the tenant has violated by trying to sue you; you could also raise that agreement and your payment as a defense to the tenant's suit, on the grounds of "accord and satisfaction"--that is, that there was an agreement to settle any claims, which agreement you honored.

Or alternately, it may be best to pay the tenant his or her $109, rather than expend the time and cost of litigation.


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