June 2018 Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers

Ted Kimball, Esq.

1.  Question: In our lease agreements we require tenant’s to pay their rent on the first of the month.  If the first falls on a holiday, do you have to give the tenants until midnight on the second to pay the rent or can you still enforce the late fee as of midnight on the first?
Answer: Rent is not “legally late” unless one business day has expired from the date the rent is due.  So if the first is a weekend or holiday, the rent is not late until the next business day has expired.

2.  Question: An applicant came into my office and is clearly pregnant. Do I count the baby to determine whether her household meets our occupancy standards?
Answer:  No. You should not count the baby until it is born.  You should also have a reasonable policy about what happens when the addition of a minor to the household during the tenancy puts the household over occupancy.  A suggested policy would be that the household gets to stay through the end of their lease or a certain number of months, whichever is longer.  Six months or more is recommended.

3.  Question: I own a fourplex.  Unit B has two cars, one is broken down.  What kind of demands can I place on B about the broken down vehicle?
Answer: You can create a lease term requiring all vehicles to be in operable condition or they will be towed.  To put this into place, you need to either serve a thirty day notice of change of terms to a month to month agreement, or wait until the lease expires and have the new condition in the renewal lease.

4.  Question: Can I bill my tenant for excessive water usage if I can prove they neglected to fix two leaky faucets for over three months?
Answer: Most rental agreements and California law require the tenant to maintain the premises in good condition and repair.  Failure to meet their obligations would therefore be a breach of the lease and you should be able to recover all losses suffered, provided you have sufficient proof.

5.  Question: When not renewing a one-year lease, do I have to give the tenants a reason for not extending their lease?
Answer: California law does not require landlords to give their tenants a reason why they are not renewing the lease, unless the property is situated in a “just cause” or rent controlled jurisdiction.

6.  Question: How can you enforce the pool rules where someone continuously leaves underage children in the pool area?
Answer: This is a safety issue and you should be able to address it. However, it needs to be handled carefully in order to avoid potential claims of discrimination based on familial status. If you encounter this type of situation, we recommend that you get specific legal advice from one of the attorneys in our fair housing practice group.

7.  Question: New tenants moved in last month.  The wife now wants me to take her name off the lease because she is moving out and getting a divorce.  They agreed to a one-year lease.  What can I do?
Answer: You are not legally required to release the wife from liability under the lease.  If you do, and the husband is unable to pay or declares bankruptcy, you would not be able to pursue your losses from the wife.

8.  Question: One of our tenants owes us for past due rent, and part of his security deposit.   He has given us a check for the amount of the rent, but I want to first apply it to the deposit and then serve a three-day notice to pay rent or quit for the unpaid balance.  Is that legal?
Answer: Yes, but only if the tenant did not designate where the money was to be applied on his check, or other written correspondence.  You could avoid the issue by applying the payment to rent and then serving a three-day notice to pay the balance of the deposit, or quit.  Failure to pay could lead to a successful eviction.

9.  Question: What can you do about a tenant being cruel to an animal such as keeping a large dog in small quarters outside with the dog crying in the rain, cold and heat?
Answer: You have a right to report any criminal or inhumane acts occurring on the rental property.  If the mistreatment constitutes a crime, you could evict the tenant for carrying on illegal activity on the premises.

10.  Question: Is a phone text an official written notice for a 30-Day Notice?
Answer: No, a 30-Day Notice has to be in writing and physically deliverable to the tenant in person, or by serving another person of suitable age and discretion on their behalf or by posting a copy on the door and mailing a copy.

11.  Question: Is the Removal of Roommate form still valid even if one roommate does not sign?
Answer:  If the landlord allows the current tenants to substitute another person for one of the residents, many landlords use a “removal of roommate” lease amendment form. All adult occupants of the premises should sign the removal of roommate form to avoid potential issues.

This article is for general information purposes only. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. Ted Kimball is a partner with Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP. Our primary practice areas are landlord/tenant, collections, fair housing and business and real estate, with offices throughout California.  Property owner’s and manager’s with questions regarding the contents of this article, please call 800.338.6039.

© 2018 Kimball, Tirey and St. John LLP