Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

My roommate wants to put a lock on her door, but the circuit breaker is in her room. Is she allowed to deny me access to getting power back on? And if she still does it, would she be responsible for the locksmith fees to come out and get in her room so I can flip the breakers? The circuits don't normally have an issue, but it's happened a few times in a year that I've had to flip the breakers.

Asked on 7/03/13, 12:13 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

This is a tough one. Normally, when two or more people become cotenants on a lease or rental agreement, there is no legal provision or right regarding excluding X from Y's room. Both X and Y, generally at least, have an equal right to possess, occupy and use the entire rented unit.

However, beyond that, so-called "roommates" (who aren't really roommates at all; they are perhaps more correctly called "apartment mates" or something like that) usually have some kind of agreement or understanding, generally oral but perhaps occasionally written, that modifies the basic condition that each has full run of the place. Typically, there'll be an understanding that this is my bedroom, that is your bedroom, and we'll share the kitchen and den -- or something of this ilk.

Such understandings would probably be enforced in court, if their existence and terms could be proven to the satisfaction of the judge or jury. Proving the existence and terms of an oral agreement regarding private bedrooms would generally be pretty easy. However, proving that there was any understanding regarding something as abstract as access to a circuit breaker could be very difficult. I'd suggest that the two of you try to work out something to "de-fuse" what appears to be mistrust between the two of you. It's pretty rare for roommates to feel the necessity to put locks on their doors -- maybe from the inside, but seldom on the outside.

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Answered on 7/03/13, 1:21 pm

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