Legal Question in Civil Litigation in California

My former roommate lost his job and borrowed $12,000 from me to cover it up. I don't think he is every going to pay me back unless I take legal action.

Here are the basic details: I live in California and my roommate turned out to be a pathalogical liar who lies to everyone around him, even when confronted on it. He lost his job last December and for over six months came up with excuses to not pay his portion of the rent, like he lost his checkbook or money was in the mail from a closed bank account (turns out the IRS was auditing him). I ended up paying my portion of the June rent 3 times due to his deception. He has now borrowed/conned $11,833.40 from me with the promise (I have records of this) that he would be paying me back right away.

All of this was a lie and we had to end our lease in June at the request of our landlord who had also been lied to and given fake checks by him. He left the apartment trashed and had to be physically removed from the premises over a day after he was legally required to vacate. The only source of payment I have secured is that the landlord will be sending me the roommate's half of the security deposit (~$3,000) directly, though this will likely not be the full deposit due to the roommate's actions last weekend.

I already have a signed promissory note from him saying he owes me the full amount of money, but there's no date on the contract for when to require payment. He has no source of income, and has been essentially disowned by his family (though he's made promises of borrowing money from them to pay me back that never happened). He has told some of my acquaintances that he owns land and has stocks, a 401k, and possibly money in BitCoin. I know he will lie about all of this (and anything else) if asked directly as that is his M.O.

So... should I get a lawyer, take him to small claims court on my own (with a $10,000 limit in California), send him a demand letter, or perhaps contact his family (he's in his mid-20s)? I have texts, emails, and chat messages backing up my side 100%, including the support of the former landlord.

Thank you for your time and advice.

Asked on 7/03/13, 1:20 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach

If you sue in small claims court, you need to understand that is your one shot. You are not allowed to split your claim up into different amounts to meet the jurisdictional cap, or sue him or her over and over again. A lawyer cannot represent you in small claims court, although they can advise you before and after the proceedings.

If you are interested in small claims court, I suggest visiting your local courthouse and finding out if they have a small claims advisor's office. Some courts used to have a pamphlet that explained the entire small claims process, and laid out all of the legal rules.

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Answered on 7/03/13, 2:54 pm

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