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I want to know if my co-tenant first moved out of the

Customer Question
I want to know...

I want to know if my co-tenant first moved out of the apartment and cut off the utilities in the apartment and refused to let me change it, I had to move out, is that a constructive eviction?

Lawyer's Assistant: What steps have been taken so far? Has any paperwork been prepared or filed?

Not yet

Lawyer's Assistant: Where is the apartment located?

Massachussetts

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

I would also like to know if my roommate entered my room and broke my things is that a violation of any kind

Submitted: 22 days ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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4/3/2018
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 22 days ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,329
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 22 days ago

Thanks for your patience. Unfortunately, this isn't considered a constructive eviction because only a landlord can have the power to evict anyone constructively or legally.

In your case, if you agreed with your co-tenant that you and them would share access to the utilities, this appears to be a classic breach of contract. A breach of contract just simply means that one party was obligated to perform and they have either have not performed or have said that they will not perform. This applies even when there was no written agreement, but just an oral agreement between the parties. Typically, the aggrieved party is entitled to be returned to the same position they were in before the breach.

As far as breaking your stuff, this to me sounds like a conversion. Conversion occurs when there is a substantial interference with the personal property rights of another. This is possible when either a person is blocking the rights of another’s right to the personal property, even if that person had authority to possess the property, but that right was taken away by the owner (e.g. the owner took away permission from the person currently in possession). Usually, the measure of damages is the fair market value of the property at the time of conversion or a return of the property itself. For example, a vehicle that is worth $4,000 at the time the owner’s access was blocked is likely what a court would award. You may want to consider just writing a formal demand letter advising that the property should be returned ASAP There’s a site that I’ve used in the past where you can find a good template for a demand letter (click here). It only costs $10 and it is way cheaper than litigation.

What other questions did you have for me today that I can help you out with:-)?

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Customer reply replied 22 days ago
there is another way to go about litigation regarding breaking my things? What would be the alternatives if I have no contact with the roommate? And is it civil or criminal?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 22 days ago

You could always try out that demand letter I suggested if you wanted to stay out of court. You could also offer mediation (which is informal and outside of the court and it is also privately done, usually at a lawyer's or mediator's office). The only other way to get compensation is if you go to court, unfortunately. Also, it would be civil, but you could always refer the case to your local district attorney because breaking items of someone else is also a crime (destruction of property).

What other questions can I help you with today?

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Customer reply replied 22 days ago
Do I need proofs for that? She did so while I was absent from the apartment and what if she refused to admit she did it?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 22 days ago

Proof would certainly help if you went to court. If you have photos or other evidence that it was your property, combined with any oral testimony you have, that'll help you considerably. Regardless of whether she refuses, you have to help the court believe through clear and convincing evidence that she was responsible. If it was just you two living there, if there were no other possible culprits, and if she had any reason to do this at all, then even if you don't have a smoking gun, then you can help your case considerably.

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
Does my own words count as oral testimony?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

Yes, absolutely.

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
there is nothing I can do about the part she cut off the electricity?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

Yes, you can. If you agreed that you would share the costs and responsibilities of the electricity, but she did not let you do that by failing to get it transferred, then you can sue her for breach of contract. Just be prepared to answer any questions by a judge potentially regarding what steps you took before you moved out. The reason is because the court will want to know what you did to mitigate damages before you left.

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
Is there a limit to make the destruction of property criminal, say the price of the damage?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

Usually, there's no limit, but oftentimes a person will be charged if it's over $50.

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
what if I threw her stuff away and she did the same to mine?I'm scared that she will press charges on me, although I want to cease fire. And the truth is I don't think she will.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

I understand. In most cases, people won't bring charges for things unless it's very important to them (e.g. their iPhone, family heirlooms, etc.). So, she could and my recommendation to you would just be very careful. Did you have any other questions for me about this?

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
What is the line between civil and criminal then? Who decides if it's a crime or a civil matter?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

You decide whether to bring a civil charge; however, the district attorney is the only authority to determine whether it is criminal.

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Customer reply replied 21 days ago
Sorry for the amount of questions, I'm almost done, so based on what factors does a case become criminal?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 21 days ago

It's no problem. Usually, the district attorney looks at what the statute is for destruction of property and determine whether they have enough evidence (e.g. witnesses, photos) such that they could prosecute the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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