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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 30365
Experience:  JA Mentor
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Can you be sued for subletting after lease is done? My lease

Customer Question

Can you be sued for subletting after lease is done?
My lease says I can't sublease my apartment. My apartment manager told me through text messages that it was okay, so I did. My lease is now done.
My security deposit check came back late, over the 21 days it was supposed to be returned in, and with deductions. I know that since it is late, they can't take out deductions. My apartment manager refuses to give me my landlord's number so I can't contact them about this. I told him I would take them to court if I can't contact them, and he came back at me with the subleasing ordeal.
Can they really come back at me with the sublease, even though I have written permission to sublease?
JA: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: California
JA: Has any paperwork been filed?
Customer: Not yet
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

There are two parts to every lawsuit - liability and damages. If you sublet the apartment when you weren't allowed, but the sub-tenant paid the rent each month, the landlord has not been legally damaged. You could be liable for any damage your subtenant caused to the apartment (although you could sue them directly), but your landlord can't hold your deposit solely because you sublet.

A landlord does not automatically forfeit the deposit if the itemized list of damages is not sent within 21 days. Cal. Civ. Code, Section 1950.5. However, not sending the notice is evidence of bad faith. A landlord who withholds a tenant's deposit in bad faith could be liable to the tenant for three times the deposit.

If you sue, the landlord has the burden of proving that the withholding was justified. Withholding your deposit because you sublet when you weren't supposed to is also bad faith if the sublet didn't cause the landlord any financial harm.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

If the apartment manager is refusing to let you talk to the landlord, you can sue the manager directly and "John Doe." John Doe represents the landlord. That will allow you to amend the Complaint once they give you the landlord's name.

The other option is to give them a choice: they can repay your money now, or they can pay you three times the amount they kept in court. Most landlords will pick option (a) because the law is not on their side.

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Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Lucy, thanks so much for your help. So I have the check that they sent me after deductions, 47 days after my move out. When I decide to go ahead and file a claim, I'm going to guess that I should not cash this check? (I've never done anything like this before, please forgive me).
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

You're allowed to cash the check and sue for the part they didn't send you, as long as there isn't any language on the check or in the enclosed letter that says something like "By cashing this check, you agree to waive any and all claims..."

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

Or if it said "paid in full" on the memo line.

But then you could write "without prejudice" above your signature to protect your right to sue.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Just to clarify, when you say I can sue for three times the amount of the deposit? Or the deductions?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

Three times the amount they kept that they shouldn't have.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

Do you have any questions about this?