Turn Off the Water and Your Tenant Might Turn the Tables

Any experienced landlord knows that there are always going to be problem tenants. These are the people who habitually destroy valuable property, harass neighboring tenants, break the law, and create outlandish disturbances that would tempt anyone to simply kick them out rather than deal with them through normal legal channels.


Although it might be tempting to change the locks or simply stop paying the water bill, doing so could land you in some pretty deep financial water, not to mention on the wrong side of the law. These strategies might accelerate a tenant’s departure, but they frequently backfire in the long run.

There Are No Eviction Shortcuts

In California, the only way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental property is through proper legal action. This process is known as an “unlawful detainer” action – more commonly called “eviction”.


In fact, California law expressly prohibits landlords from turning off utilities, removing a tenant’s furniture or other personal property, changing the locks, shutting off the water, or any other type of “self-help eviction”. In other words, there are no evictions shortcuts.


Violating this portion of the law can actually turn the tide against the landlord, as the law imposes civil penalties on landlords who engage in self-help eviction tactics. Tenants can receive up to $100 a day plus attorney’s fees and costs for spoiled food and hotel stays. If the court finds that the landlord acted maliciously, it can also impose punitive damages on the landlord. It’s also not unusual for tenants to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other civil wrongs. As you might expect, a wrongful eviction lawsuit can quickly become a costly, time-consuming affair.

Possible Criminal Charges

Furthermore, taking a tenant’s property, removing a tenant’s windows or doors, or threatening, harassing, or menacing a tenant are all criminal acts. Landlords who terrorize or threaten their tenants can be charged with a variety of crimes, including trespass, battery, and assault.

California Real Estate and Eviction Law

There will always be problem tenants. No matter how tempted you are to take matters into your own hands, protect yourself and your property by working with an experienced eviction lawyer.


Kirkman J. Hoffman has more than 20 years’ experience representing commercial and residential landlords, owners, and property managers in Silicon Valley and the surrounding regions. Contact the team at Hoffman Law Group today at (408) 241-9620 to discuss your eviction matter.


This website has been prepared by Hoffman Law Group, APC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.