May 2018 Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers

Ted Kimball, Esq.

1. Question: I just received a Notice of Filing of Discrimination Complaint from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. What do I do?
Answer: You only have 20 days to respond to a fair housing complaint from either HUD or DFEH. If you do not respond to the complaint in that time frame the agency will proceed with the case without your input which could result in a finding of discrimination against you. You should contact our office right away and also notify your insurance company of the complaint.

2. Question: What are my legal rights regarding maintaining a full deposit on a unit when one roommate moves out and another stays? My understanding is that I am entitled to maintain the full deposit while at least one of the original tenants remain in residency, and it is that remaining person’s responsibility to refund the deposit.
Answer: Unless your lease provides otherwise, you do not have to account for the use of the deposit or do an inspection until you regain possession of the unit. The roommate who vacated is not entitled to a refund or inspection at this time unless your lease specifically requires it.

3. Question: One of our tenants wants her security deposit refund in cash as the other roommate on the lease has moved out of state with no forwarding address. If the missing roommate’s name is on the refund check, the remaining tenant is concerned that she cannot cash the check.
Answer: You can either make the check out to both tenants or have one tenant send you a notarized statement that he/she is relinquishing all rights to the deposit to the other tenant. Otherwise, you face potential liability to the one who did not receive the deposit.

4. Question: Does the acceptance of rent from someone who is not on the lease mean I’ve accepted him as a tenant?
Answer: Accepting a third party check does not by itself necessarily indicate that you have accepted this person as a tenant. It is a good idea to indicate that this is being received on behalf of the tenant and does not indicate any tenancy relationship between you and the check writer.

5. Question: I have a resident who moved in this last month. I have had a lot of noise complaints about him from other residents. I have also issued three warning notices for noise and the cleaning of this patio. He has a one-year lease. What can I do?
Answer: If the disturbances rise to the level of a public or private nuisance (major, continuous disturbances to neighbors), then you could serve a Three-Day Notice to Quit based upon the nuisance.

6. Question: I have tenants who recently divorced. The husband has moved out. Can we take him off the rental agreement?
Answer: It is not in your best interest to take him off the lease as he is still responsible for the lease payments even though he moved out.

7. Question: Is there a smoke detector ordinance that requires an owner to perform an annual smoke detector inspection in each unit? If so, what is the purpose of the smoke detector agreement?
Answer: California state law does not require an annual inspection of a smoke detector inside a rented unit; however, the owner is responsible to maintain and test smoke detectors in common stairwells or other common property of the apartment community. Tenants are required to notify the owner of an inoperable smoke detector in their unit.

8. Question: One of our employees said she believes that a tenant’s rental agreement must be signed in the owner’s or agent’s presence, or notarized, or it will be invalid.
Answer: California rental agreements do not have to be notarized or signed in front of the owner or owner’s agent, but it is a good practice to do so.

9. Question: Can I ban alcohol in the pool area?
Answer: You can control the common areas of the premises so you could ban the use of alcohol in the pool area.

10. Question: Do I have to give a sixty-day notice on a month-to-month tenancy for a rent increase of 10%?
Answer: No, a thirty-day notice is all that is required unless the increase is more than 10% of what the rent was one year ago.


Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. While KTS provides clients with information on legislative changes, our courtesy notifications are not meant to be exhaustive and do not take the place of legislative services or membership in trade associations. Our legal alerts are provided on selected topics and should not be relied upon as a complete report of all new changes of local, state, and federal laws affecting property owners and managers. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. For contact information, please visit our website: For past Legal Alerts, Questions & Answers and Legal Articles, please consult the resource section of our website.


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