My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: California
Me and my roommate never signed a lease to a place we wanted to rent and landlord will not return our deposit. Here is the sequence of events that have occurred:
- Found house on Craiglist
- Emailed the posting lister “Heather” and she immediately replied and referred to us the landlord’s phone number
- Called the landlord, filled out applications which he emailed on April 10
- Saw the house on April 11
- He was pushing for us to move in ASAP starting April 15, when we ideally desired to start renting May 1
- However, we really wanted the place and agreed to move in on April 15
- However, we mentioned that we may not have all the rent and security deposit by that date
- In order to show our interest and commitment to the place, we issued the landlord a check for $885 which would count towards our security deposit
- April 12: called the landlord and mentioned we were having trouble with one of our roommates and getting all of our funding together
- We told him we were going to find a 3rd roommate ASAP to fill all of the funding and he agreed
- We did not mention what date “ASAP” might be
- April 15: the landlord proposed move in date (no lease signed, no rent, no deposit except the $885), however, we called the landlord and he did not answer his phone
- April 19: called landlord and let him know we found a 3rd roommate, however, we would not be able to have all rent and deposit until May 1st.
- April 20: called landlord and said he found another applicant and that he would think it over and call us back
- April 21: landlord hadn’t called back so we called to update and he said he’s still thinking it over and will call back
- Not once has landlord called us. We have attempted calling everyday from this point from both of our phones, other phones, and blocking our numbers. He has not answered once. We have left multiple voicemails and even emailed the original poster of the Craigslist listing to have the landlord call us. She never replied and the landlord did not call.
- April 28: drove to the place to speak to the upstairs tenants. They informed us the place has been rented. Still no call or update from landlord.
- As a last resort, we were on our way to the place again to see if by chance the landlord would be there seeing as it’s the first of the month and the tenants are possibly moving in. On the way, we decided to call landlord one last time and he finally answered. He said he was keeping the $885 and would counter sue us for back rent of the 15 days no one lived in the house. Told us to “tell it to the judge”. At the house, we spoke to the tenant and said he first contacted the landlord around the middle of April and landlord said it was already rented (to us). However, landlord called back after April 15 and is now renting to this tenant.
We are college students and want our $885 back. Do we have a case in small claims court? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you very much.