May 27, 2010 3:41 PM Subscribe
My friend, renting a room in a house, has found that the people he was renting from didn't actually own the house. He came home to find an eviction notice on his door and the locks changed. The fake landlords have moved all of their stuff out, changed their phone number, and are gone without a trace. Now my friend can't get to his stuff.
My friend is in North Carolina and I'm in New England, so I can't help him out in person, unfortunately.
He came home after work a couple of days ago to find the eviction notice on his door and the locks changed. He stayed the night at a friend's. He went back the next day and briefly ran into a person who appears to be the real landlord. The real landlord didn't want to have anything to do with him: wouldn't let him into the house and didn't really want to talk to him except to suggest that he arrange a meeting between himself, the fake landlords / subletters, and the real landlord. He hasn't been able to get in touch with the fake landlords at all.
He went to the police. The police seemed to confirm that the real landlord is genuinely the owner and had my friend fill out a report on the incident but they didn't appear to be able to offer any real help.
The contents of the room are all of his personal possessions: a couple of pieces of furniture, a laptop, personal paperwork such as a copy of his birth certificate, copies of his US military records, and correspondence addressed to him like bank and credit card statements, and sundry other items. The object is to get all of this stuff back.
Obviously the ideal situation would just be to get ahold of the fake landlords and persuade them to help in getting it all back but assuming that is not possible: I would expect that the real landlord has no incentive to help him and in fact may have disincentives because some of the remaining stuff in the house might belong to the fake landlords; by letting it go the real landlord might be giving up leverage over the fake landlords if they still owe rent or might be letting my friend steal something if he is lying or had a fight with the fake landlords, et cetera. And I would expect that the police are in a similar position and anyways may not even have any legal standing to intervene in the situation as it is now.
So my guess is that the appropriate next step is for my friend to contact a lawyer who can construct a legal incentive for the real landlord or the police to help him get his stuff back.
Questions: Is that correct, is there any recourse other than getting a lawyer involved? My friend is concerned about the expense of getting a lawyer involved - is there any way to guesstimate or set an upper limit on the cost? Any suggestions for particular things he should have the lawyer do? And do you have any advice on selecting a lawyer with the appropriate skills and background for this?
You Are Not His Lawyer and all that, of course.