Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in California

Illegal sublet rights?

I sublet an apartment in August & signed a 9 month lease with the current tenant, giving him a refundable last months rent & deposit. The lease states I can terminate by 30 days written notice from both parties, if in agreement.

He phoned me 2 weeks ago to say the landlord wanted all subletters out of the building & that my sublet had only been agreed with the building manager verbally & not in writing from the landlord but that he was applying to them to do this retrospectively & would keep me posted. I told him I did not feel comfortable subletting illegally & wanted to be kept informed.

Hearing nothing I found another apartment & gave my notice to him on the phone today, I said given the situation (& that despite moving out earlier) I felt it fair that I should only be obligated to pay rent til the end of the month, not 30 days, and that I considered my contract with him void. I asked for a date by which I would receive both my deposit & last month rent back. He said he would have to think about it.

Unfortunately I do not have the original landlord or building managers addresses.

I would like to put something in writing today. What are my rights? What should I do?

Asked on 11/09/07, 6:51 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Robert L. Bennett Law offices of Robert L. Bennett
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Re: Illegal sublet rights?

I am on your side, and believe the law is, also, on some points, but not on others.

The basic law of contracts (a lease is a contract) is that something in writing cannot be changed by an oral agreement. You had a valid contract to sublet, and if the landlord/owner/manager wants to change it is the original tenant's problem for the "illegal" lease, not yours.

However, you would still be obligated to live up to the 30 day notice which was agreed.

You are entitled to your deposit returned within 21 days, except for unpaid rent, damages caused by you, and if you did not leave the premises as clean as when you moved in, you are responsible for cleaning.

Since you are apparently going to face a situation where you are probably going to end up in Small Claims Court, I would retain an attorney to write a letter to the tenant demanding your rights to the refund of the deposit, as well as threatening action if it isn't paid promptly.

Good luck!

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11/09/07, 9:21 pm
George Shers Law Offices of Georges H. Shers
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Re: Illegal sublet rights?

Mr. Bennet is entirely correct in his answer to you. You may be able to argue, moreover, that the tenant basically evicted you by saying that you could not sublease but he would try to get that changed and then in a reasonable time did not tell you there was any change in the landlord's policy. So there was what is called a "constructive eviction", in that as a practical matter you were unable to return to the premises for a tenant's right to quiet enjoyment of the premises.

Call the tenant and tell him that your offer to pay to the end of the month was a compromise offer [it amounts to your paying over 30 days rent since the constructive eviction, which is 30+ days more then you are legally required to pay]; if he does not accept within three calendar days and also return your deposits, the deal is off and you want the deposits and any rent you paid for the day of the eviction and afterwards.

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11/10/07, 1:22 am

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