I am in the process of moving to a new apartment. I paid the security deposit, and signed the lease.

About one week before the agreed move in date, the landlord informed me that the previous tenant, despite having given their 30-day notice of intent to vacate some time ago, is now asking to stay longer. They claim that therefore my only options are to move in later, move into a different apartment, or accept a refund of my security deposit and move on.

The landlord believes the are obligated to let the existing tenant stay, even though the tenant already gave a notice of intent to vacate. Is this true? (I can find various unofficial sources online which say "no, they are not obligated to do this", but does California law address this explicitly, or is there any case law about this?)

2 Answers 2


The landlord is obligated to let the existing tenant stay in that they cannot legally physically remove them or change the locks without a court order.

The business between the landlord and holdover tenant doesn't involve you. All that matters is that the landlord told you that the unit would not be ready for you. Your lease should have a section describing what happens should the unit not be ready in time.


There is one sense in which a landlord may have to "let" a tenant stay, which is that they cannot physically evict a holdover tenant themselves. The landlord has to file suit against the tenant, and if they win the case the sheriff will eventually remove them. In this scenario we are talking about a matter of days.

But if the landlord permits them to stay over, he cannot also sue to immediately evict the tenant. The language of the lease could itself grant permission to change from a yearly lease to a month-to-month lease. Or, accepting another months rent would constitute giving permission to remain. In that case, the landlord would have shot himself in the foot, leaving himself little legal recourse: he would be in breach of contract w.r.t. your lease agreement. You have a fourth option, namely to stay somewhere else for whatever period of time it takes to make the unit available to you – probably the landlord will not be happy with that option (this is an option that your lawyer would mention to the landlord). A fifth option, which I presume the landlord also didn't mention, is that you can petition the court to order the landlord to comply with the terms of the lease, or to compensate you (more than just the refund).

The basic principle is that your lease is a contract, and both parties must abide by the terms of the contract unless there is mutual agreement to change the terms of the contract. In case of breach of contract, suing the other party is an option. In some cases the court might order a party to comply with the terms of the lease, or, it might order the damaged party to be compensated. As the damaged party, you have a duty to mitigate your losses. That could involve accepting an alternative unit – as long as the alternative is a reasonable substitute. People pay extra money for a good view or for convenience, there could be a case that e.g. you deserve some additional compensation.

These are basically issues of negotiation, which your attorney would conduct on your behalf. The question of whether the landlord has some legal obligation to another party is irrelevant to you: what matters is that he has an obligation to you, and it appears that he intends to not honor that obligation. Which is why you need to get a lawyer to initiate proceedings against the landlord, if you cannot come to a satisfactory agreement.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .