Almost a year ago, I began serving an 8 mos. sentence in jail. Within a month after I was arrested, the landlord (homeowner) removed the door, destroyed the structure I was renting, allowed people to steal my valuables, what was remaining largely destroyed by elements. All this without any legal eviction proceedings/ writ of possesion.
In fact, I contacted LL from jail, let them know my situation, and requested them to store my belongings, which I would pay for upon release. What specific criminal and civil liabilities does the LL face for this behavior? Am I still within SOL to pursue this?
While I can't give you specific advice on what you need to do, here is the general law on self-help evictions, which are against the law in California, as well as what you might be able to recover in a civil lawsuit. Landlords who effectively evict a tenant themselves without following the proper legal procedure run the risk of California penalties for self-help evictions. California Civil Code section 789.3 (a) provides as follows:
"789.3. (a) A landlord shall not with intent to terminate the
occupancy under any lease or other tenancy or estate at will, however
created, of property used by a tenant as his residence willfully
cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any
utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to,
water, heat, light, electricity, gas, telephone, elevator, or
refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the
control of the landlord.
(b) In addition, a landlord shall not, with intent to terminate
the occupancy under any lease or other tenancy or estate at will,
however created, of property used by a tenant as his or her
(1) Prevent the tenant from gaining reasonable access to the
property by changing the locks or using a bootlock or by any other
similar method or device;
(2) Remove outside doors or windows; or
(3) Remove from the premises the tenant's personal property, the
furnishings, or any other items without the prior written consent of
the tenant, except when done pursuant to the procedure set forth in
Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 1980) of Title 5 of Part 4 of
Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prevent the
lawful eviction of a tenant by appropriate legal authorities, nor
shall anything in this subdivision apply to occupancies defined by
subdivision (b) of Section 1940."
A landlord who violates California Civil Code Section 789.3 shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for all of the following:
-- Actual damages;
-- $100/day of violation (with $250 minimum);
-- An injunction prohibiting violation during the court action;
-- The right to stay; and
-- Reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.