If I’m renting a room from my father and he destroyed property which I paid for, is there anything that I can do?

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If I’m renting a room from my father and he destroyed property which I paid for, is there anything that I can do?

I am renting a room at my father’s house that i pay for with money from social security checks (I get as survivor’s benefits). I installed a lock on my door and he destroyed it with a drill while I was in my room sleeping. I installed the lock because I know that he and his fiancee have been in here multiple times while I have been out of the home. What can I do?

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If you are paying rent, you are a tenant, not merely a guest. If you don't have a written lease, then it is an oral or verbal lease. This means you are a month to month tenant, annd either of you could terminate the tenancy on one month's notice. Bear that in mind.

As a general rule, a landlord may not go into his tenant's space for non-emergency reasons except with reasonable notice (such as 1 day), at reasonable times (e.g. during the day), for reasonable purposes (e.g. inspection, maintenance), and a reasonable number of times (i.e. not every week).

However, at the same time, a tenant is generally not allowed to make changes to the landlord's property or install locks to keep the landlord out (the landlord must be given a key) unless the tenant has the landlord's permission or the lease says he or she can do this. So on the face of it, both you and your father have violated typical terms of a residential tenancy.

Since you both violated terms--you by installing the lock, him by entering your space--it's unclear that you would win if you did bring a legal action; it's also unclear what you could sue for at this time, other than an order directing your father to not do this again. However, as noted, if he doesn't like having you as a tenant or agree with what you want as a tenant, he could terminate your tenancy with one month's notice.

You might be best served by trying to sit down with your father and work out exactly what are your rights, vis-a-vis privacy, etc., and putting that into a written lease that will lay out the expectations for both parties.

If you and he can't work matters out, you perhaps may wish to consider finding somewhere else to live, since remaining in this situation--renting one room in another's house under an oral lease--will leave you vulnerable to landlord intrusion, with the threat of termiantion of tenancy hanging over you if you and your father come to loggerheads.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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