Can my landlord hold my possessions hostage if I have paid my rent?

UPDATED: Jan 4, 2012

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Can my landlord hold my possessions hostage if I have paid my rent?

We are students. Our apartment had mold so our landlord moved us to a hotel for 4 weeks while the house and our clothing and furniture were cleaned. We were told we wouldn’t had to pay for anything. Now he wants us to pay $57,000. we said no. Break is over and we are returning to the apartment for school Now, our clothes and bedding are at the cleaners and he said we must pay for them to get them back. He is out of money. The cost is $7,000. The cleaners will sell them in 30 days.

Asked on January 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Under the law of all states in this country, a landlord cannot legally hold a tenant's possessions in exchange for the tenant paying back rent. To do so is a civil wrong. However, in your situation, the landlord is not holding your possessions that have been cleaned. Rather, the cleaners where he took the items to is holding the items for payment.

The cleaning company is not your landlord. If the cleaners sell your possessions because the landlord cannot pay the cleaning charges owed, your landlord who placed the possessions there would be obligated to pay you the fair market value of the items.

I suggest that you have a face to face meeting with your landlord about the current situation to resolve it followed by a written letter memorializing the meeting.

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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