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ALERT! NEW LAWS REGARDING LANDLORD/TENANT ISSUES 

 

NEW 60 Notice to Terminate Tenancy:
Effective January 1, 2003, if you have been a tenant in CA for one year or more your landlord must provide you with a 60 days notice to terminate your tenancy. The 30 day rule still applies to tenants who occupy the residence for less than one year.

PET LAW-MOBILE HOME PARKS
In California, a mobile home park may not refuse permission to a tenant to have "at least one pet within the park, subject to reasonable rules and regulations of the park". Also, a condominium or "common interest development" project may not refuse an owner the right to have "at least one pet within the development, subject to the reasonable rules and regulations of the association.." These new rules only apply, however, to leases or common interest documents (e.g. C.C.& R.'s) executed, modified or amended after 1/1/01).

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW-SECURITY DEPOSITS
Landlords routinely require a Security Deposit to be posted as a condition of the rental agreement. In California, for residential tenancies, a Landlord may charge up to two times the monthly rent for unfurnished (three times for furnished) rental units.

The deposit is held until the Tenant moves out. The money is then supposed to be refunded within 21 days of moving out, less deductions for rent owing and charges for cleaning or repairing damages caused by excessive wear and tear. The deposit generally
transfers to successive owners. A non-refundable deposit is not allowed. Thus, it is refundable no matter what the contract says.

In some jurisdictions, the Landlord must pay interest on the deposit. Here, a Landlord may mix the money with his own and use it as he/she pleases. When the money does not have to be held in a separate account, Landlords sometimes find it difficult to freely refund the Tenant's money when required to do so, especially if they have already spent it!

Thus, while many Landlords do handle these funds responsibly, there are many that do not and play some games including the following:

1. Keep the money. The Landlord simply decides to keep the money without cause
to do so. This is based on the theory that most Tenants will not bother to take legal action to chase after the money.

2. Let's renovate. The Landlord wishes to improve the rental unit at the Tenant's
expense. Items that need simple repair are replaced or improved and the Tenant is charged the full cost.

3. I forgot. The Landlord forgets all the pre-existing problems that existed upon
move-in and now blames them on the departing tenant.

4. I made up the numbers. The Landlord did not actually incur charges but feels that
he could incur them, someday. So he makes up charges like $100 for general cleaning, $150 for carpet cleaning, $100 for trash removal etc. It adds up fast. You get the idea.

Tenants should act to protect their deposit money. One popular method is to use the deposit for your last months rent. Unfortunately, this is not legal without the Landlords consent. There are several things Tenants can do to protect their deposits.

Just call Mr. Radoff's office for assistance before you sign that lease (800) 595-2948.

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW-EVICTIONS
This is the process whereby a landlord forces a tenant to move out of the rental. It can be a traumatic event. Sometimes there are good reasons to evict a tenant. Other times, the tenant faces an eviction because, unfortunately, the law in many California jurisdictions allows a landlord to evict a tenant for no reason.

An eviction judgment remaining on the tenant's record could make it very difficult to rent any other rental home for the next 7-10 years! As a tenant, you do not want one of these following you around on your record when you apply to rent anywhere.

Most all eviction cases (Unlawful Detainers) must be preceded by an eviction notice. The notable exception is at the end of a lease where generally no special notice is required.

Notices may demand something certain like, for example, a direction to move out within 30 days (in month to month tenancies). In many jurisdictions, no reason is needed for the
eviction, but illegal reasons like retaliation or discrimination may invalidate the eviction and even give rise to a case against the landlord for such acts. In many government subsidized and rent control jurisdictions, valid grounds for the eviction are required to be alleged and proved. Other notices may demand the tenant to vacate in only three days when illegal activity, nuisance or waste is alleged in the notice.

Notices may also give the tenant an opportunity to cure a breach of the contract to prevent the eviction. In this type of notice, the tenant has an opportunity to save the tenancy by curing the breach. Such curing action of the tenant includes paying rent or other lease charges, refraining from doing something improper or even to do something required.

If the tenant disagrees with the notice and remains in the property, a court eviction lawsuit called an Unlawful Detainer will follow. Of course a technically defective notice may spell doom for the landlords case IF the tenant's case is prepared and presented
properly to legally attack the defect. If not, the landlord will usually "get away" with it and win a judgment even with a bad or illegal case! A court order is needed for an eviction. A landlord in California is not allowed to physically force a tenant out on there own for any reason.

There are things a tenant's can do to protect themselves to reduce the risk of eviction.

Many tenants simply move out and do not fight the case thinking this will solve the problem. Do not make this mistake. Simply moving out may mean a judgment will be taken without the tenant even knowing what happened until it's too late.

Tenants should defend their cases in court to try and prevent an eviction judgment (which would severely hurt their credit) BUT tenants should never represent themselves in court in an eviction case. I know that sounds very self serving coming from an attorney's office but a tenant without an attorney will lose the case or agree to a bad settlement almost all the time regardless of the potential rights or defenses. This is a simple truth we are faced with. I do not blame the courts because we have many fine judges here. The reality is that the laws and procedures of Landlord Tenant are very technical and move quickly. Because of this, there are so many traps for the lay person to fall into that once fallen, the tenant will usually not get up until it's too late.

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW-RIGHT OF PRIVACY
The right to Privacy is a very important one. It means protection of personal information and against unwanted or excessive intrusions into the home by a Landlord or his/her agents.

Private information of tenants is normally given in the application process. Information about income, bank accounts debts, etc. is routinely provided when completing rental applications. While the right of privacy is waived for the purpose of the application, it is
not waived as to the world. Thus, the law protects tenants in that a Landlord should not share that information with others.

Renting a home means that the tenant has bought, for a time, the exclusive right to possess that home. The landlord has legal title and the tenant has a form of possessor title to the property. That means the tenant has the exclusive right of possession of the
home. Thus, people can not enter without special permission or statutory authority to do so.

In California, at least 24 hours notice is required for each intended entry. There is no special notice needed in emergencies. Specifically allowable reasons are needed for each entry. (See California Civil Code 1954 below). The right of entry must not be abused.

There is no general right in California to carry out routine inspections of the rental unit except that a waterbed installation may be inspected.

CIVIL CODE section 1954.

A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:

(a) In case of emergency.

(b) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen or contractors.

(c) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.

(d) Pursuant to court order. Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other
than normal business hours unless the tenant consents at the time of entry.

The landlord shall not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant. Except in cases of emergency, when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises, or if it is impracticable to do so, the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice of his intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary.

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW-DISCRIMINATION
Discrimination is simply the different treatment of individuals based n their membership in a class or based on something unique to them as individuals. Discrimination is not necessarily illegal. Some discrimination is perfectly legal. The basic rule to determine which is legal verses illegal is as follows:

Generally, illegal discrimination is when someone is treated differently simply due to his or her membership in a class based on a protected characteristic. For example, such characteristics includes race, national origin, color, age, gender, religion, family
status, disability etc. These are characteristics, which are either impossible or at least very difficult to control or change.

Now, legal discrimination is where a person is treated differently due to a behavioral characteristic such as credit record, past behavior as a tenant, wealth and job security etc. These are matters essentially within the control of the individual.

Of course, there are exceptions and unique variations within both groups but the rules remain basically applicable. One could argue that certain disabilities are caused by behavior (i.e. illness from smoking) or that certain protected characteristics are easily

changed (i.e. changing religion, family status etc.). This is one reason why discrimination law can be very complex.

Fair Housing Laws cover discrimination in renting. These laws are found in both Federal and State Laws. There are penalties for illegal discrimination in both legal systems (Federal and State). A landlord should not be able to evict a tenant based on an illegal discrimination.

Illegal discrimination is difficult to prove. You must first show some differential treatment for one person as opposed to another based only on the protected characteristic and not some other reason. Some landlords will invent excuses for the differential
treatment so as to try and get away with what was really an improper discrimination. For example, an eviction is filed by a new owner who is of a different race than that of an existing tenant. If questioned, the landlord may say he/she examined the rent payment history of the tenant and feels it is not good enough. What is the true motive? Is it based on the rent or the race?

Beginning on 1/1/2000, the fair housing laws here in California were amended to include protection against discrimination regarding tenants' income. A landlord is prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on their SOURCE OF INCOME (i.e. public assistance, child support etc.) Also, tenants applying for rental MUST BE TREATED AS A GROUP for determining income qualifications. Therefore, a tenant who earns
no money can still qualify as long as his/her co-tenants qualify as a group.

If you feel you are the victim of illegal discrimination you may contact the following for assistance: U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.), for California - California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW-REPAIRS
In California, the law requires a Landlord, in a residential tenancy, to maintain the dwelling so as to keep it in a habitable condition. The Landlord is also generally responsible for other "non-habitability" item repairs. The tenant will be responsible for damages they caused by abuse or misuse of the property.

Habitable, or "Tenantable" means the dwelling is free from substantial defects that affect the health and safety. Cosmetic defects generally do not qualify as habitability items.

Some rental agreements attempt to make the tenant responsible for this maintenance. These provisions are generally not valid although under very limited circumstances, a tenant may accept a rental with certain defects in exchange for compensation.

The general standards for habitability are set out in a law known as Civil Code section 1941.1, which states:

A dwelling shall be deemed untenantable for purposes of Section 1941 if it substantially lacks any of the following affirmative standard characteristics: (a) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors. (b) Plumbing or gas facilities, which conformed to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, maintained in good working order. (c) A water supply approved under applicable law, which is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system which is under the control of the landlord, which produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law. (d) Heating facilities, which conformed to applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order. (e) Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment which conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working
order. (f) Building, grounds and appurtenances at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin, and all areas under control of the landlord kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin. (g) An adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in clean condition and good repair at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, with the landlord providing appropriate serviceable receptacles thereafter, and being responsible for the clean condition and good repair of such receptacles under his control. (h) Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.

In California, when the unit contains substantial defects, the tenant has options, which include:

1. Demand repairs, preferably in writing, and after a reasonable time, if the landlord does not repair the item, repair it and deduct the cost from the rent.

2. Withhold the rent pending repairs.

3. Move out and declare the lease to be terminated.

There are other actions a tenant may take to protect their rights. Call Mr. Radoff's office for assistance (800) 595-2948

The above 3 options should NOT be considered without the specific advice of Mr. Radoff to be sure they apply to any specific situation. An error in analysis by the tenant may result in a swift eviction and a very bad mark on their credit.

When the items in need of repair do not affect habitability, they do not lend themselves to the above type of action. The landlord, however, may still be in breach of contract giving rise to certain rights in favor of the tenant.

More Landlord/Tenant helpful sites: 

Berkeley Rent Control 

Santa Monica Rent Control

LA Rent Stabilization Board

Beverly Hills Rent Control Hotline
455 N Rexford Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 285-1031

 

Phone: (800) 595 2948      Fax: (818) 705 4920


Get Real Advice From A Lawyer With 30+ Years Experience!
CALL NOW!  1-800-595-2948


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Phone: (800) 595 2948
Fax: (818) 705 4920

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