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Rent From Parking Space Pocketed By Niece

Discussion in 'Small Claims & Municipal Court' started by Agent Gibbs, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Agent Gibbs

    Agent Gibbs Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    California
    My parents owned 2 condo units in the same building in SF and they also come with 2 parking spaces.

    In 2016, my niece moved here and my mom let her stayed in one of the condo and used the parking space for free. The other parking space was rented out to another tenant in the building.

    Later that year my mom passed away and i became the trustee of the family trust. The same week my mom passed away the renter of the other parking space moved out. During that time i didnt have the mood to handle the business of finding another renter, so i asked my niece to take care of that.

    Eventually someone rented the space. Between October 2016 and October 2018, when the grant deeds of both properties were still under my mom's name, my niece kept the rent from the parking space to herself. During those 2 years, i did raise the question of getting those rent back in front of other family members during a family gathering but she just ignored it and throwing a fit because from her standpoint i was humiliating her.

    I guess the question is do i have a case trying to recover those 2 years' of rent money, not for myself, but for the trust? When it comes to real estate property, she is not a beneficiary according to the trust.
    And i know in CA, the maximum amount i can ask for is $5000.
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    The trust would be the plaintiff. As trustee, I believe you would be permitted to represent the trust.

    The statute of limitations for breach of an oral contract (what you had with your niece) is two years so any rents that were collected more than two years prior to the date of a lawsuit would be excluded from the lawsuit.

    The maximum amount in CA small claims court is $10,000 for non-business entities:

    Basics - small_claims_selfhelp

    I think estates may fall into that. You'll have to check.

    CA requires you to make a demand for payment of the specific amount before suing.

    Criminal prosecution may be an option if you want to report the theft/conversion/embezzlement of the money.
     
  3. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    That you allowed her to handle the matter for two years with no clear direction or requirements will likely work against you a bit. Certainly she will present a different point of view of the agreement that was made.
     
  4. Agent Gibbs

    Agent Gibbs Law Topic Starter New Member

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    To whom?
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    The police. Although the police may call it a civil matter and not respond. Then you'll have to move up the food chain to your local prosecutor.
     
  6. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Police won't have anything to do with it. This is clearly a civil issue.

     
  7. flyingron

    flyingron Active Member

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    And I'm going to have to disagree. While a trustee can certainly start a claim, California case law is pretty clear. Non-attorney trustees cannot represent the trust in court.
     
  8. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure why this is relevant given that you said the title to the properties was "under [your] mom's name."

    "Renter of the other parking space"? Are you saying that someone rented the parking space by itself? Or did this person also rent the other condo (the one your niece wasn't living in)?

    Again, are we talking about only rent for a parking space? Or rent for the other condo and the parking space? Also, are you sure title was in your mother's name (by herself), and not in the trust's name?

    If the trust owns the properties (which your post seems to indicate is not the case), yes. However, one problem you'll have is that your post indicates rather unequivocally that you have breached your fiduciary duties as trustee. If your niece was withholding the rental payments, this should have been addressed immediately, not two years down the road.

    I have to imagine that two years' worth of rent on a condo in California is going to be at least $25-30,000, which is well beyond the jurisdictional limit of small claims court (to get within the $5k small claims limit, the rent would have to be barely over $200 per month). This would be handled in the unlimited division of the superior court (maybe the limited division if the place is a real dump and not in a desirable area such that the rent for two years would be under $25k).

    You need to retain an attorney, and not just for purposes of suing your niece.

    Concur.
     
  9. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    I believe this is only regarding the parking space. Significantly less money involved.
     
  10. Agent Gibbs

    Agent Gibbs Law Topic Starter New Member

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    No, she actually never rented the space out.

    Instead, i recently found out she has a roommate all these time without my knowledge and permission.
     

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