Can I include my former landlord’s wife in a small claims court suit if she is also the property owner but not included on the lease?

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Can I include my former landlord’s wife in a small claims court suit if she is also the property owner but not included on the lease?

I am having to sue my former landlord in small claims court. His wife’s name is not on the lease but she is listed as co-owner of the property. I know this because of foreclosure notices. I think any judgement will be difficult to enforce upon him as I am unsure where he works. She is, however, a prominent member of the community and much more likely to be honest and eventually collect from.

Asked on July 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You should name the landlord's wife since she is also the owner of the property along with the landlord.  You want to name all owners of the property you rented as defendants.  You should also name the property management company as a defendant if there was a property management company.  To be certain you have not omitted any defendants, you should also add after the names of the landlord, landlord's wife, property management company and DOES 1 through 10, INCLUSIVE, Defendants. 

DOES are fictitious persons included in a lawsuit to be certain you didn't omit any defendants.

In addition to the amount you are seeking to recover in Small Claims Court, your damages should also include court costs.  Court costs include the court filing fee and process server fees.  The landlord and landlord's wife will need to be served  with separate copies of the summons and complaint (the complaint is the lawsuit attached to the summons).  If there is a property management company, that party will also need to be served with the summons and complaint.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Technically your "contract" - the lease agreement -  is only with the husband, which is most likely against public policy here and maybe set up that way so that she does not appear to have liability for being a "bad" landlord, especially if as you say she is a prominent member of the community.  But the reality is that she shared in the proceeds of the contract - your rent - and if the suit is based upon something about the premises - a breach of the contract based upon same is the same - then she is also liable as the owner.  So the short of it is yes, name her as well.  Let it be her problem to explain to the judge why she should NOT be named. Good luck.


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