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Can a landlord, without warning, verbal or written, add fences and gates (with padlocks) to a single family rental?

Santa Cruz, CA |

When we first moved in to this 3br/2ba home with a single car garage that the landlord was using, there was a standard wooden fence around a large grassy backyard. Attached to the house was large wooden deck between the garage & the house. In the last month the landlord has put up fences limiting us to just the deck area & a very small portion of the backyard. The fences are solid wood & about 8ft high, with no less than 9 gates all with padlocks. Now he put a fence up between the back of the house and garage cutting off the deck from our backyard portion, also with a gate & combo lock. He says it is for our safety! However, he built a large shed with bedrooms in the back and converted the garage to studio with kitchen & bath. Gas, electric and water all off our meter. Not returning calls.

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Best answer

    I see two options here. 1) A rent deduction for the loss of use of the backyard. 2) Reporting the conversion to local authorities.

    It sounds like an un-permitted conversion for which the city/county could force a take down. If the LL institutes eviction proceeding you can defend by proving it is a retaliatory eviction.

    I suggest exhausting all means of communication with the LL in an attempt to come to a compromise before getting the authorities involved.

    -Michael R. Juarez Law Office of Juarez and Schaeffer PO Box 16216 San Diego, CA 92105 (619) 804-4327 www.jslaw.org Mike@jslaw.org This posting is provided for “information purposes” only and should not be relied upon as "legal advice." Nothing transmitted from this posting constitutes the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed here may differ substantially in individual situations or in different jurisdictions.


  2. Your have several options, including an action for forcible entry/forcible detainer. Your landlord has apparently set up illegal units on the land that is part of what you rented. You can also file a complaint with the local code enforcement authorities; doing is so is absolutely privileged. However, THREATENING to do so to get him to take down the barriers could be extortion, which is a felony. You should hire a tenants’ lawyer (not a local landlord lawyer) to represent you.

    This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided is a general statement of the law. Reviewing a case and giving legal advice to a client requires more information than can be exchanged in this format. If you need legal advice, contact an experienced tenants' attorney.

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