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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10238
Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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I quit my job and visited my mother while I wait to move and

Customer Question

I quit my job and visited my mother while I wait to move and while I was gone my roommate changed the lock on the door. I called the police told me they couldn't do anything because there was no written contract. She says I can't come get my stuff until I pay her 850 for August's rent which she changed without written notice and less than 30 days notice. My question is would it be a good idea to file a lawsuit
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Dear Customer,

Thank you for using the forum. My name is ***** ***** I hope to assist you today.

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

When you say your "Roommate" changed the locks - is this roommate a fellow tenant (are you both on the lease?), or is this roommate the landowner and you are a tenant living there with an oral lease?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Roommate is not the lease I am not. I have lived there for six months but all the proof I have is a couple messages from her saying she has the key for me and her asking me to be her roommate. I had mail sent to the house but she gave me the wrong address so there is a word wrong on the wedding announcement. I have two of those. I also have witnesses.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I'm just not sure if I have enough to file a civil lawsuit
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Dear Customer,

You are going to be considered a "subtenant" and you are entitled to the same protections that a tenant would have (30 days notice for a lease termination or rent increase, protection against an "illegal eviction", and a right to sue your "master tenant" (suit would be the same as if you were a tenant suing your landlord)).

The fact that you don't have anything in writing makes it more difficult than if you had a written lease, but you can still use your testimony (in addition she still has all of your personal property that you want to get back).

This kind of suit is going to be dealt with in small claims court anyway, so the risk to you is very small - just a small amount of your time and a minimal filing fee (which you may even be able to get waived depending on your financial assets and income).

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Okay that's good to know. Do you think I would win a court case if I filed one? If I do file a claim would I get money or what would happen? Should I be asking for money? If so how much? Will she have to pay for travel expenses also and what not because I don't have a place to be nor the money to stay in this town I have to go back and live with my mom which is two hours away.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Should I try to come up with more proof? Will witnesses help me at all?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Dear Customer,

I cannot speculate on your odds of prevailing in this matter - however, at a minimum you should at least get the return of your personal property (I cannot fathom a good reason why the court would allow this other person to keep your property - I do recommend visiting the court and sitting in on small claims hearings in advance of your own to see how the arguments proceed - this will help you best present your argument, decide whether you need witnesses for your case, etc. - witnesses can be helpful, but remember, this is small claims, not a supreme court oral argument, so hearings are short and plan accordingly).

Your damages are going to be limited to the actual damages for the illegal eviction (usually cost of finding alternative housing for the time of illegal eviction (30 days)), and possibly "punitive damages" - but you are not entitled to any travel expenses, etc. incurred while you are pursuing your claim.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
If she returns my property before that can I still file a claim?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Yes, you can - there is still the matter of the illegal eviction (it is simply up to you and whether or not it is worth it to you to pursue the matter, but you can file suit).

What exactly the odds of winning or the court will award as damages are things that are outside the scope of what I can tell you (there is always an "inherent risk" in litigation, and your matter has a great deal of variables in it that make it a little harder to guess as to what the court would identify for the final calculation of damages - but you can use the outline I have provided above as a good rule of thumb).

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Do you know how long this would take or does that depend on the court?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Most small claims matters are resolved within 2-4 months, but the exact time can vary depending on the backlog or calendaring for the specific department that the matter is being heard in.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Also I had the cops there but they wouldn't let me in because of the lack of proof that I lived there. If I go back with the cops does she have to let me get my stuff. And because there is no signed contract can she even say that I broke the contract if there never was one.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

It really depends on what the department is comfortable with. Without a formal lease agreement or roommate agreement, you really don't have anything for the police department to allow you to enter the home and remove property.

However, if you go to court and get a court order, you can use that court order to have the police assist you at that time.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
If she throes it away or destroys it she has to pay for it right?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

That is correct (and the court is more likely to impose "punitive damages" for this - so additional damages beyond just the cost of replacement).

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
actually after that question this one is my last. If I win and she has destroyed my stuff does she have to pay to replace all of it?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

Yes - you just have to be able to prove the assets and the estimated value. (But again, this is small claims so the standard of proof is not extraordinarily high here - you are not going to be required to get an appraiser or anything like that, just a list of your property and replacement costs for each (along with where you found these values) will be sufficient)

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I'm sorry this is seriously the last question but if I give an appraisal of all my stuff and she pays it in payments I'll I only get all of that money if she pays it all at once or do I get it as she pays it. Or does the court pay it and she pays it in payments or do you know how that works?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

She is supposed to pay the judgment all at once.

But if she fails to do so, and you do not reach a payment agreement, you can use wage garnishment, bank levies, and place liens on her personal property to enforce the judgment.

These are all done by using what we call "post judgment enforcement" (getting orders from the court to enforce your judgment - you go to the courthouse and the court clerk issues these as "writs" 30 days after the judgment if the judgment debtor does not pay you, usually you will have the sheriff's civil division or a private process server do this for you - the cost of actually enforcing your judgment (along with interest) is added to the judgment amount).

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Okay thank you. She said something about after 30 days of my stuff being there she can throw it out because she has a thought that I abandoned it. Can she do that?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.

While landlords can dispose of abandoned property - they do so with great risk, and your situation does not appear to match that - your master tenant/landlord knew where you were and knew you were returning, then changed the locks (illegal eviction) and is refusing to return your property - so while "abandoned property" is a real thing in NV, it doesn't sound like it applies to your situation at all.