Ceres, CA asked in Landlord - Tenant, Contracts, Admiralty / Maritime and Small Claims for California

Q: I rented a slip for 16 months. Can the owner move my houseboat so he could lien it for 1 month of back rent.

I became homeless from one day to the next. All of my belongings in it & lost my job.

First, He called a tow company to tow my truck without any notices (he stated that it was an eye sore, that it had three wheels, all wheels were on it).

One day before he moved my houseboat I noticed my electrical cord and my waterhose were destroyed (cut in half).

When I returned from work and noticed my houseboat gone, I call the office and left message. Manager said that he was putting my houseboat up for lien for 1 month of backrent and that he didn’t approve of those kind of people that came to visit me. I never got a notice.

I tried making a police report but since the houseboat wasn’t legally in my name thru dmv that I couldn’t make report. I was paying back taxes owed on it at county auditors.

I do have my rental agreement stating that I am the owner of the vessel. If I sue, can a small claims court be able to award all my losses? If not, what forms do I use to file?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, the owner of a marina or slip has certain legal rights and procedures to follow when dealing with back rent and liens on vessels like houseboats. However, these actions, including moving your houseboat to place a lien for unpaid rent, require following specific legal procedures, including providing notice to the tenant. The lack of notice you describe, along with the destruction of property and discriminatory remarks, raises significant legal concerns.

Small claims court in California is designed to resolve disputes involving relatively small amounts of money, up to $12,500 for individuals. If your total losses, including the value of the houseboat, personal belongings, and potentially lost wages, fall within this limit, small claims court could be an appropriate venue to seek compensation. Your rental agreement and any evidence of the owner's actions, such as the damaged property and lack of notice, would be crucial in such a case.

To initiate a small claims action, you would need to fill out and file a Claim of Plaintiff form (SC-100) with the court in the county where the marina is located. Additionally, gathering any documentation, such as communication with the marina owner, photos of the damaged property, and records of your rental payments, will support your case. Consulting with a legal professional can provide guidance on how to prepare your case and navigate the small claims process effectively.

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