Can My Landlord Really Do That?

The answer is no, probably not.

Anyone who’s rented their digs from a Craigslist posting probably has had to deal with unprofessional or even actively malicious landlords. It’s like I tell my friends: You don’t know who’s crazy until you live with them. Trying to break a lease can be an expensive, painful, drawn-out process.

Any slumlord worth his salt will try to squeeze out the maximum amount of money he can from you, especially when it comes to matters that he (perhaps rightly) assumes you’re ignorant of. So, can your landlord do ____? Since California is a state with excellent tenant protection, probably not.

Can my landlord keep my deposit?

If he provides an itemized account of your deposit funds, he can. He can use these funds to cover unpaid rent and to perform repairs and cleaning beyond normal wear-and-tear for the time period that you occupied the space. If your lease agreement lists other uses, then he can deduct for those as well. However, you must receive this itemized list, as well as any remaining funds (if there are any), within 21 days of your move-out date. If the landlord fails to do so, boom, the whole deposit is yours. Good luck getting it, though.

I left my rented space in excellent condition, but my landlord is claiming in the walk-through that I left it trashed and it needed serious repairs. What can I do?

Honestly? Nothing. Unless you took photo and video evidence that shows clearly and comprehensively throughout your space (and common areas, if applicable), you’re SOL. Hopefully you did that. If not, that’s an expensive lesson you’ll never forget.

Can my landlord evict me for coming out as transgender?

If you’re renting a room in a house and the landlord lives there, too, then yes (though he is not allowed to make discriminatory comments verbally or in writing to you regarding your gender identity). If you have a more traditional landlord/tenant agreement, then good news, he can’t evict you for this reason. However, the landlord may find a different, legal reason to evict you, and you’ll likely be SOL when it comes to suing, unless you luck out and he leaves you a slur-laden voicemail about it later.

Can my landlord come into my room without warning? Can he let other people into my room without informing me?

Unless it’s an emergency situation, no — even if you’re just renting a room in their house. You can buy a surveillance camera very cheaply online to set up inside your room if you believe your landlord is entering your rented area. Make sure that you purchase a camera that automatically sends the footage to your email if you can, as you can use the evidence to break your lease with no penalty. If your landlord does this habitually, file a report with the police. That's trespassing.

Can my landlord evict me because my roommate didn’t pay, even though I did?

If you signed the lease together, then yes, he probably can. Your lease probably lists you and your roommate as jointly responsible for the rent payments. Check it to make sure, though. If you weren’t aware that your roommate had bailed on payments, contact your landlord to see if you can get some leniency. Be calm, kind and reasonable in your communications, and ask for his help as a favor, because it is one. Grovel, if you have to. Unless he has another tenant lined up behind you, he’ll probably be willing to cut you some slack.

I paid my rent in cash, and now my landlord is evicting me for nonpayment. What do I do?

Yikes! Here’s a great example of why rent should be paid with checks or money orders. Your best hope is to get a record of cash withdrawals from your bank account to show in court. This is probably lawyer territory, if you can afford one.

The tenant above me purposely flooded his apartment when he got evicted. The landlord is trying to charge me to repair the water damage. Do I have to pay?

No, you’re not liable for those repairs. Don’t pay for them, and make the landlord take you to small claims court if he wants that money from you (he’ll lose). Don’t forget to take photo and video evidence of your unit’s condition, especially if it’s uninhabitable or if your personal items have been damaged.

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