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N Cal Attorney
N Cal Attorney, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 9035
Experience:  Since 1983
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At what point does a spiteful tenant's behavior leave the

Customer Question

At what point does a spiteful tenant's behavior leave the civil law domain and become criminal, if ever? This tenant was obsequious at first. The paid late from the get-go, and in the third month of her tenancy, her rent was so late that I couldn't pay my bills on time. (I was in a bad patch financially at that time.) I left her a message saying, "Janine, I have GOT to have your rent by Monday." Not yelling, but sounding emphatic and angry. When she sent it, she included a note saying that I must never phone her again. And then the Campaign started. I own the house next door, and it was vacant. I live about an hour away, so I often told people where the key was hidden and let them look at it without me there. Some very promising people went to look, who seemed like slam dunks. There were two couples looking for a place to share, and the had too many dogs for most landlords. I love dogs, and it is a quasi duplex, and they were gung-ho. Never heard from them. I eventually did hear from someone, who told me "Janine" had told her I'd evicted the last tenants for no reason and that the house was in foreclosure, and that I was a horrible person. She bragged of having driven some people to a newsstand to show them the Notice of Sale. I had disclosed that in my ad and on the phone, as the law requires, but she didn't know that. I also knew I was not going to lose the house, and I did not lose it. It's all good again, with a new loan and no threat of foreclosure whatsoever. She waylaid tradesmen who came to work on the house next door, told them I was losing it and that I wouldn't pay my bills. Both false, but that explained why, when I needed them back, they didn't return my calls. She told the woman who moved into the vacant house not to pay her rent, that I would just "pocket it" because I wasn't paying the loan. Well, I had filed Chapter 11 and had massive legal fees ahead, and was soon to resume paying the loan, with a payment greater than the rent. That new tenant never did pay, and when I finally got her out with an unlawful detainer, owed me $21,000. She was unstable too, and warred with Janine. They both called the cops on each other, but Janine told the cops that I had put her up to it. I mean, this was CRAZY. Janine did pay the rent, and I predicted she'd retaliate if I evicted her for late pay, or say I was retaliating, so I bore it. In a yard-junk battle with the new woman, she told me she had rounded up neighbors to give them a tour of the properties and show them I was a slumlord. She told the new woman that she worked for the city (false?) and that "the whole city hated me." She waylaid my handyman at one point, and told them she had stopped watering the fruit trees (which must have water in our hot summers), because she didn't want to spend money watering my trees. The water theme was carried into her departure. After she gave notice and left, "because of all the BS!", we found the garden house up by the house, in a fenced yard, with both ends cut off. She took the water out of her name and it was shut off. (This is the big one...) After it was shut off, she opened all the taps in the house, and even took the set screws out of the handles of one shower, so that someone trying to turn off the taps would fail. If I had had the water put back on when no one was there, it would have been expensive. It could have run for days. It happens that the city didn't really turn it on when they said they would. My handyman opened the valve in the street. Once it was open, he found all the taps running, and turn them off, except for the ones where the handles had been sabotaged. Those required pliers to turn the valves off, and I'll need new set screws to re-attach the handles to the valves. She sabotaged the water system in hope of costing me money. Another thing, just before they left, her 17 year old son slashed a tire on my handyman's car, believing my H-M had stolen the his (the kid's) potted cacti. The son soon withdrew the accusation, admitted it and apologized. My handyman didn't want to press charges. "Janine" left owing two months rent, with one month's rent on file as a deposit. I didn't have big costs readying the house for rent, so she only owes me one month's rent. Because she has moved out, and because she owes the rent due to a rent check that bounced, I am pursuing the bounced check in small claims court.
Now, about out police...kind of weird. They get paid a lot to not prevent burglaries and car theft, but they can sniff out a pot pipe three blocks away, so they arrest hapless teenagers all day. They're not especially stressed or overworked. Out of 60 police department employees, 48 make over $100K/year, and ten of those make over $200K).
Question: From all of the above, did Janine commit any crimes that the police would take reports on? Or, is it all civil?
Submitted: 17 days ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 17 days ago.

I am sorry to hear this.

Cutting off the hose ends and taking away the set screws were acts of vandalism. See Penal Code § 594.

So the answer is yes, she did commit crimes.

A normal police officer should be willing to take a report, but I don't know how professional your local department is.

I hope this information is helpful.

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
A normal police officer. No, these guys are decidedly not normal.In the civil realm, it's inarguable that she drove away good tenants. The awful one I rented to was the one who was bold enough to tell me what Janine had said to her. I had a meeting of creditors coming up and I felt I had to get a lease signed. Anyone sensible wanted nothing to do with the house. Being accosted by an angry troll who would be your nextdoor neighbor is bad enough, even if you don't believe what she says about her landlord.Either of those women could have cost me the confirmation of my case by their failure to pay rent, which reduced my income and made my Plan seen unrealistic. I don't know how I succeeded, to be honest.I don't have the money for a civil suit, but I sure hate letting her off the hook. Small claims will have to do.
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 17 days ago.

You can try to file a police report anyway and see what happens.

And you can sue in small claims court for the property damage, repair costs, and lost rents she cost you by scaring away prospective tenants, and for slander.

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