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Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

This is a discussion on Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen? within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; Feb. 1st I received the keys to my apartment. At that point an old rusty fridge was supp to be ...

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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 07:00 PM   #1
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Confused Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Feb. 1st I received the keys to my apartment. At that point an old rusty fridge was supp to be taken out so that I could buy another one and the stove was supp to be replaced. It wasnt because my landlord said his wife cleaned out those items. I told him I would deal with the stove, but that I wanted the fridge removed. That day the landlord tried to close my back door and it wouldnt close all the way. He said he would fix the door ASAP. He then informs me that I needed to get an extra shower curtain to cover the window above the bathtub, because the windows had mildew on them.
I have called him about several issues. One being that when a worker from the gas company came he told me that the stove was real old and may not be safe. The second being that the heater had a weird smell and that it made my has "foggy/smoky" and it gave me headaches (I havent used the heater, I have been dealing with the cold) and lastly, that he still has not removed the fridge. His responses:
Regarding the old stove: "That's not true, the stove works fine, but I will replace it when I get back in a couple of weeks"
Regarding the heater: "Let the heater run all day with all doors and windows open"
Regarding the fridge: "You can move it..."
2wks ago, I locked myself out and called him. He was still on vacation, so he advised me to go to another tenant (who is on my lease, mind you, as someone that helps the landlord) because "he should know how to get into my place". After the guy tries to use a knife and screwdriver to get into my front door, I tell him I will call a locksmith instead. The guy assures me he can get in and informs me that he knows "a couple of my windows are broken". This was info the landlord never told me about. The guy was unable to let me in and I called a locksmith.
I do not work everyday, and currently I am on vacation from school. I have been home EVERYDAY ALL DAY, up until yesterday, when I had a doc's appt. I left at 10am and returned at 4pm. My apartment was broken into, from the back door and windows (the door that the landlord was supp to fix). My door was injured and harmed (I now have medical bills for him), my 37' plasma screen TV was stolen, my $700 purse, my $1400 laptop, and cash. I made a police report and the cop noted that he thinks it was someone who lives in my building who did it. I called my landlord and left him a message yesterday, but he has failed to call me back. My rent is due and I plan on paying it, but others say I don't even have to pay it. I am not in that home anymore and I am putting in my 30 day notice.

Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen, and for my dogs doctor bill???? And do I have to pay rent for next month???
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 02:44 AM   #2
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Can anyone help me please???
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 01:22 PM   #3
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

First I did not see anywhere in your post that said you have a lease. If you have no lease, you may give 30 days notice to vacate at the beginning of any rent cycle (varies by state), and move out before the month is over. You must continue to pay rent for the time you have possession of the unit and for the 30 day notice period. If you fail to do so, the LL may serve a pay or quit notice (varies by state) then file for eviction for non-payment. You do not want a LL to ever file this with a court as it will effect your ability to rent for years!

Next, I noted that you "asked" or "called" the LL about all of these things. Did you put any of them "in writing"? The broken back door, the need to remove the fridge, replace the stove top, the broken window, the questionable stove, the heater smell? Did you put it in writing? Send it to him by certified mail, return receipt requested? Did you keep a copy? You need to do this to prove that you requested the problems be fixed and to prove that he has been informed of them. Phone logs only show that you tried to call, not if you got an answer, who you spoke to, or what the conversation was about. E-mails don't hold up in court since they are easily faked. You need to be able to prove his prior knowledge of problems and his failure to address those within a reasonable time to prove liability.

Did you get any of those promised items in writing (that he would replace the stove top, remove the fridge, or whatever else he promised to do)? If it's not in writing, you can't prove he ever promised to do it. Again, everything in writing is what is considered by a court. Anything else is just a he said-she said argument in court.

The handiman, caretaker, or whatever the lease calls the neighboring tenant, told you about broken windows. Did you relay the information in writing to the LL? Because a caretaker knows of this, is not proof that the LL knows about it. He may have no knowledge of it. The caretaker was unable to obtain access, so the windows must have locked securely after all or he would have been able to gain access to the unit through them. (The LL will bring this up in court.) He had no keys to your unit so he is not a trusted employee of the LL's. A true employee (a PM or agent, and sometimes the maintenance man) would have had a master key to open the lock.

About the gas employee, did he check the stove itself? Did he tag the unit as unusable or refuse to turn on the gas? If not, what he stated was only opinion and not fact. Had the employee been worried about the safety of a gas appliance, he should have checked the appliance itself. That is his job. If it was not safe, he could have red tagged it ("do not use") or refused to turn on the gas at the unit if there was a gas leak. Either this employee wasn't doing his job (lazy) or was only stating that he didn't think it looked good. He should have checked all the gas appliances to be sure there was not a leak or that they didn't emit CO fumes to excess levels. It is his job to red tag any appliance that does not meet code. Since he didn't red tag anything, you have no proof that they aren't safe. Do you have smoke detectors and a CO detector? You should have for your own safety. These are portable and cheap. You can take them with you whenever you move. Get one of each in case the next place doesn't have them. Not all states require that units have them. Additionally, the heater may smell if it has been cleaned or painted recently, or if the apartment was sprayed (and the spray got on the heating unit). This would be a temporary thing and should go away within a few days of use.

If you have written proof of all the problems with the unit, you should be able to prove that the LL was liable for not fixing the problem with the door. If so, you can sue him for the depreciated costs of the items lost. I don't know if you could get vet bills. They are not people or objects and may not be covered. (Did you have a pet addendum to your lease?) Do you have any proof that he knew about this problem with the door or window?

If you do not have written proof that the LL was informed of the problem before, you may be unable to sue him for liability. Successful liability claims usually must show that the person had 1) prior knowledge of the problem and 2) failed to take action in a resonable amount of time to correct the problem. If you attempted to sue him, he would claim ignorance of the problem. Without written proof, you may have no case. That is why all repair requests should be made in writing and delivered CM, RRR, to show that he received them. This always protects you. If you have no proof of those needed repairs, you can file a clain with your renter's insurance to recover the costs of the stolen items. If you wish to continue to try and sue the LL just the same, see if you can find an attorney who is knowledgeable on liability cases and that would take your case on a contingency (payment when won) basis. Any other type of attorney or payment basis would be a bad choice. The attorney may just accept the case to get your payment with no real expectations of winning.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 02:59 PM   #4
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Thank you so much for your response. I havent even been at the apt for a month, so I dont have anything in writing. Within a week of moving in, he was already out of the country on vacation. So all agreements that we have are verbal, so far. And the only address I have for him is a P.O. Box. Can I still send a certified letter??? And I have a month to month lease. My landlord never agreed to replace the broken window though. This was something the landlord never informed me of! The man he sent to help me get into my place, was the one who informed me about the broken windows. And the only reason the "caretaker" didnt have keys, was because the landlord forgot to give them to the "caretaker" before he left the country (the LL told me this), so usually, he does give him the keys. And yes, it was prob. just the opinion of the gas company worker; he did not put any "redtag" on the stove. But initally the LL stated that the stove will be replaced, because it was there for almost 20 yrs, he believes. And yes, I do have a Pet Addendum with my lease. Do you think it's possible, if I send a letter now, that would do me any good???


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Originally Posted by OHlandlord View Post
First I did not see anywhere in your post that said you have a lease. If you have no lease, you may give 30 days notice to vacate at the beginning of any rent cycle (varies by state), and move out before the month is over. You must continue to pay rent for the time you have possession of the unit and for the 30 day notice period. If you fail to do so, the LL may serve a pay or quit notice (varies by state) then file for eviction for non-payment. You do not want a LL to ever file this with a court as it will effect your ability to rent for years!

Next, I noted that you "asked" or "called" the LL about all of these things. Did you put any of them "in writing"? The broken back door, the need to remove the fridge, replace the stove top, the broken window, the questionable stove, the heater smell? Did you put it in writing? Send it to him by certified mail, return receipt requested? Did you keep a copy? You need to do this to prove that you requested the problems be fixed and to prove that he has been informed of them. Phone logs only show that you tried to call, not if you got an answer, who you spoke to, or what the conversation was about. E-mails don't hold up in court since they are easily faked. You need to be able to prove his prior knowledge of problems and his failure to address those within a reasonable time to prove liability.

Did you get any of those promised items in writing (that he would replace the stove top, remove the fridge, or whatever else he promised to do)? If it's not in writing, you can't prove he ever promised to do it. Again, everything in writing is what is considered by a court. Anything else is just a he said-she said argument in court.

The handiman, caretaker, or whatever the lease calls the neighboring tenant, told you about broken windows. Did you relay the information in writing to the LL? Because a caretaker knows of this, is not proof that the LL knows about it. He may have no knowledge of it. The caretaker was unable to obtain access, so the windows must have locked securely after all or he would have been able to gain access to the unit through them. (The LL will bring this up in court.) He had no keys to your unit so he is not a trusted employee of the LL's. A true employee (a PM or agent, and sometimes the maintenance man) would have had a master key to open the lock.

About the gas employee, did he check the stove itself? Did he tag the unit as unusable or refuse to turn on the gas? If not, what he stated was only opinion and not fact. Had the employee been worried about the safety of a gas appliance, he should have checked the appliance itself. That is his job. If it was not safe, he could have red tagged it ("do not use") or refused to turn on the gas at the unit if there was a gas leak. Either this employee wasn't doing his job (lazy) or was only stating that he didn't think it looked good. He should have checked all the gas appliances to be sure there was not a leak or that they didn't emit CO fumes to excess levels. It is his job to red tag any appliance that does not meet code. Since he didn't red tag anything, you have no proof that they aren't safe. Do you have smoke detectors and a CO detector? You should have for your own safety. These are portable and cheap. You can take them with you whenever you move. Get one of each in case the next place doesn't have them. Not all states require that units have them. Additionally, the heater may smell if it has been cleaned or painted recently, or if the apartment was sprayed (and the spray got on the heating unit). This would be a temporary thing and should go away within a few days of use.

If you have written proof of all the problems with the unit, you should be able to prove that the LL was liable for not fixing the problem with the door. If so, you can sue him for the depreciated costs of the items lost. I don't know if you could get vet bills. They are not people or objects and may not be covered. (Did you have a pet addendum to your lease?) Do you have any proof that he knew about this problem with the door or window?

If you do not have written proof that the LL was informed of the problem before, you may be unable to sue him for liability. Successful liability claims usually must show that the person had 1) prior knowledge of the problem and 2) failed to take action in a resonable amount of time to correct the problem. If you attempted to sue him, he would claim ignorance of the problem. Without written proof, you may have no case. That is why all repair requests should be made in writing and delivered CM, RRR, to show that he received them. This always protects you. If you have no proof of those needed repairs, you can file a clain with your renter's insurance to recover the costs of the stolen items. If you wish to continue to try and sue the LL just the same, see if you can find an attorney who is knowledgeable on liability cases and that would take your case on a contingency (payment when won) basis. Any other type of attorney or payment basis would be a bad choice. The attorney may just accept the case to get your payment with no real expectations of winning.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 06:46 PM   #5
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

You can send a 30 day notice to vacate to the LL. However, if you send it certified to a PO Box and the LL is out of the country, no one will be able to pick it up for him. You may just get notice of non-delivery. I suggest you send it by regular mail with a delivery confirmation, unless your state law or your rental agreement required certified. (You are on a month to month, correct? Not a lease?). This would tell you what day it was delivered into his PO Box. It is not your fault if he doesn't get it then, it has legally been delivered to his address as of that day. It is his responsiblity to have someone checking his mail for important notices such as this. Go ahead and give notice. Just check state law to see if you have to give notice at the beginning of the month or if you can give it at anytime. You would find this under your state's LL-Tenant law, under a section called notices. Good luck with your next LL.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 01:25 AM   #6
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Thank you very much for all of your advice!! But your advice is not to sue him?? I know in CA, in small claims, I can go up to 7500.00 dollars, but I am not greedy. I just want the amount of the items stolen....

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You can send a 30 day notice to vacate to the LL. However, if you send it certified to a PO Box and the LL is out of the country, no one will be able to pick it up for him. You may just get notice of non-delivery. I suggest you send it by regular mail with a delivery confirmation, unless your state law or your rental agreement required certified. (You are on a month to month, correct? Not a lease?). This would tell you what day it was delivered into his PO Box. It is not your fault if he doesn't get it then, it has legally been delivered to his address as of that day. It is his responsiblity to have someone checking his mail for important notices such as this. Go ahead and give notice. Just check state law to see if you have to give notice at the beginning of the month or if you can give it at anytime. You would find this under your state's LL-Tenant law, under a section called notices. Good luck with your next LL.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 08:51 AM   #7
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

You will have several problems if you attempt to sue him. The first of which would be that he is out of the country. How are you going to accomplish personal service of the summons to court if he isn't even in the country? A person must be served with a summons to go to court. You cannot send a summons to a PO Box. No one will be available to sign for a certified letter at a PO Box. It will be very difficult to get service of the summons in order to sue. Who will serve him in whatever country he is in? Without a summons issued to him personally, the court will not allow the suit to proceed.

Your next problem, even if you can accomplish service of the summons to small claims court, is that you have no written proof that he was ever informed of a problem with the door. You may know that he knew. But you will have to convince a judge of that. What evidence can you present to the court that he knew of the door problem? In order to sue for a liability issue, you must show 2 factors - 1) that he knew of the problem and 2) that he had time but failed to fix it. If you can't show substantial proof that he knew of it, you can't even address the second part. What proof do you have that he knew of the door? You have nothing in writing. The LL will claim no knowledge of it. (You don't think he will honestly admit blame do you?) So how will you convince the judge?

I feel for your position. But I really think this would be a waste of time and money. That is why I suggested that, should you wish to sue, you consult a local attorney who could advise you further. The atttorney could not be present at court though (most states do not allow attorneys in small claims court). Between the attorney consultation fees, the hassle of attempting to get service on him, the cost of filing the small claims court case, and the lack of proof, it just does not seem to be a good move on your part to sue. It is very doubtful that the case would ever be heard or won. I'm sorry. Did you have rental insurance? That would have covered your losses. Tenants should always consider rental insurance to cover themselves for these types of circumstances. Break-ins, broken pipes which ruin your belongings, and such acts are covered under rental insurance, but are usually not recoverable from the LL.

This LL has you over a barrel. While you can not serve him for a lawsuit, he can have you served if you don't pay your rent. Any attorney in town could be hired long distance to have you served for court. This is not a good situation for you. Give notice to vacate (as long as you don't have a lease), pay your rent to whatever PO Box he has, then move out. Find another place where the LL is reasonable and keeps the place maintained well. There are many good LLs out there. You just had a run in with a bad one. Good luck.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2008, 05:17 PM   #8
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Wink re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Yes you can.
I filed in small claims court for breach of contract against my landlord and owner for habitability violations and deplorable conditions too numerous to list. Court is this Friday.Everyone tried telling me some bull**** but in this state the law is in the tenants favor. Not only did I file against them but the county health AND building departments issued him citations for the f'd up condition he has maintained this place (plus the fact it is a converted basement that he didnt get permits to build nor inspected for code compliance and is an illegal unit.) Considering I started on a lease and continued the lease these two characters are in deep do do. To CAP it off the landlord (who lives across the street from me) actually told the sheriff who served his summons that no one by his name lived there, Can you imagine what the judge will say when I tell him that? I mean I have walked the rent to his house many times or dropped it in his mailbox and he tells the SHERIFF no one by that name lives there in order to refuse the summons? Well that just damns him to losing the case if he doesnt show up. HE and the owner who were both served will lose and be liable. You need to go to this website.
http://www.apt-assoc.com/CaliforniaCivilCode.pdf
learn it, know it, apply it.

Good luck
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 10:12 PM   #9
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

Jaded, you have a case in small claims court because you have *documented* proof that your LL knew about the conditions in your unit. You have written reports and citations from the county health and building department. Those prove to a judge that the LL WAS informed in writing of the issues and that he *neglected* to do the necessary repairs. You can sue for his neglect of his duties. The above poster has no written documentation at all because no repair requests were made in writing. If the above poster goes to court, there is nothing to show that the LL ever knew of the problems. That LL will, of course, say he knew nothing about it. The tenant cannot prove different. You can't prove neglect if you can't prove he knew of the problem and failed to fix it.

Additionally, as you say, your LL was served his summons, which is a requirement to sue in court. The above poster's LL lives out of the country and it will be nearly impossible to serve it on him. The sheriff will not serve papers on someone out of the country as they have no legal authority there. The only ways to have them served out of the country would be to either have the law enforcement officers of that country serve him (having transferred the summons to their office from your county sheriff) or to hire a private process server. Without being served, you cannot obtain any judgement against a person.

The law in CA does favor the LL. But your case and the above poster's are too different to compare. Good luck in court.
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Old Aug 14th, 2008, 05:08 AM   #10
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Default re: Can I sue my landlord for negligence, for the cost of my items stolen?

The landlord filed a postponement request on my small claims action against him and then filed an unlawful detainer against me. I had an attorney prepare the response which is a beautiful document might I add. His lawyer had to request trial within 30 days. Aside from what my attorney ponders when Im NOT in his office; which course of action is best for me in this matter against the idiot who A.demanded rent for an illegal unit after knowledge of such.B.has numerous citations that have not been abated since I moved in AND after the order to repair. AND after I filed in small claims and he didnt show up the first time and it was reset he postpones to boot me out without a place to go and all my money he illegally collected! Illegal unit is illegal unit damnit! IT breaks the lease PERIOD!!!
He communicated with me ZERO except to admit his guilt (on paper)and then supposedly used the nail and mail service to send the 60 day notice then filed a ud ON top of it. Give me a break, great thanks for moving it to superior court for me!!
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