Landlord not responsible for theft

Q. I gave proper notice to end my lease and started moving out a week before it ended. I moved almost all of my belongings into my new apartment and was living there, but I accidently left a jewelry box in my former apartment. When I went back to retrieve it, it was gone. I still had my key and three days remaining on my lease. Is my landlord responsible for the theft?

A. The odds are the landlord will not be responsible for the theft. As a general rule, a landlord is not responsible for thefts occurring in a tenant’s apartment. That is why it is so important a tenant has insurance coverage. For the landlord to be responsible, you will have to show he or someone who works for him stole the property or was negligent in caring for your apartment, and that is why it was stolen.

For example, if the landlord thought you had completely moved out and sent in his cleaning crew, he would be responsible if they stole the property. Your landlord could also be responsible if he was showing the apartment before your lease ended, and allowed someone into the apartment unsupervised. The bottom line is that for your landlord to be liable for the theft, you must show more than simply the fact he was the landlord.


Q. I cashed my paycheck at a store. The store is now calling me, saying there are no funds in the employer’s account and the check bounced. Am I responsible for the check, or is the company? Do I have any rights against my employer for all of the bounced check fees I incurred as a result of my paycheck being returned?

A. Because your employer issued the check and signed it, the employer is responsible for the amount of the check. But when you cashed the check, you endorsed it, making you also responsible for the amount of the check if it is not paid. In other words, the store has the option of going against either you or the company that wrote the check. If you pay, however, you have a claim against the company that wrote the check.

In my opinion, you also are entitled to damages against your employer for the amount of fees incurred for any of your checks that bounced as a result of the paycheck being returned. I suggest you immediately let your employer know that you expect it to pay the check and compensate you for all of the fees you incurred as a result of the check bouncing.


Q. My son was bitten by an animal at a petting zoo. The zoo has refused to pay his medical expenses. Can I sue in small claims court?

A. Assuming your medical bills are $10,000 or less, you may bring a claim in justice court, the new name for small claims court. The real question, however, is whether the zoo has any liability for the bite.

For the zoo to be liable, you must show more than just the injury. Animals are animals, and when we go to a petting zoo, we always assume the risk that one of them might bite. For the zoo to be responsible, you must show some fault on its part that caused the incident. For example, if the zoo had unusual animals not fit for a petting zoo, or knew that this animal had bitten children in the past and did not post notices or remove the animal, it could be considered “negligent” and responsible for your child’s injury. On the other hand, if this was just an accident and the first time this animal had bitten a child, or if your son was being a little too aggressive with the animal, my opinion is you probably have no basis upon which to impose liability.