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What your girlfriend needs to do in this situation is to file a claim against the landlord in small claims court. She can do this without a lawyer. By going this route rather than withholding the amount from rent owed, she will avoid any action by the landlord to claim she's the one in default and to commence an unlawful detainer suit. This allows her to file her claim with no counter claim by the landlord that she is in default. Filing the suit will give her the collection options and leverage she needs to collect this money. That's because once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, she becomes a judgment creditor, and if the landlord doesn’t then pay the judgment, she can have the sheriff serve a summons on the landlord for a debtor examination. That forces the landlord to meet your girlfriend in court again and answer questions under oath about his assets. After that information is obtained, she has the power to garnish wages, attach bank accounts, have the sheriff seize other personal property, and/or place liens on any non-homestead property the landlord owns to satisfy the judgment. In my experience, simply filing the suit is typically all she will need to do to resolve this outside of court because most of the time, once served with a summons he is being sued, the landlord will want to settle out of court to avoid the judgment being on his permanent record and his wages garnished/assets attached.
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