November 2017 Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers

Ted Kimball, Esq.

1.  Question:  I have a renter who gave me a thirty-day notice and then left the following week.  Can I re-key the door locks and enter the property?
Answer:  If your resident has clearly vacated the unit and communicated the same to you, you do not have to wait until the thirty-day notice expires before you can relet the unit.  California law requires that you mitigate your potential loss of rent by attempting to rent the property as soon as possible.  The former tenant is liable for any unpaid rent up to the time the premises are relet or the thirty-day notice expires.

2.  Question:  If we personally serve a tenant a notice to enter the unit and we mail them a copy of the notice, how long do I have to wait before entry?
Answer:  California law requires six days if the notice is mailed only. If served personally or posted on the usual entry door of the premises, a twenty-four hour notice of entry is presumed to be a reasonable time.

3.  Question:  Can residents sit outside their front door and drink beer?  Other residents are complaining.
Answer:  If the outside portion where they are drinking beer is part of the common area of the premises, you can restrict that activity as long as it is restricted for all residents.  If it is part of their rented space, you cannot, unless they are causing unreasonable disturbances to other residents.

4.  Question:  I purchased a rental property two years ago and the security deposits need to be increased.  Most of the deposits are $600.00 and need to be increased to $900.00.  What is the best way to do this?
Answer:  If they are on a month-to-month agreement, you can serve a thirty-day notice changing the terms of the tenancy to increase the deposit amount.  You can charge up to twice the amount of the monthly rent if the unit is unfurnished.

5.  Question: Who is responsible for the expense of carpet cleaning and painting when a tenant vacates a unit?  Is its lawful to pass on this expense to the departing tenant?
Answer:  Under California law, the carpet must be left in the same clean condition it was when the tenant first moved in.  Any necessary cleaning is the tenant’s responsibility and the cost may be deducted from his or her security deposit.  Painting may also be charged to the departing tenant if the need to paint arose out of extraordinary wear and tear while the tenant occupied the apartment.

6.  Question:  We rented to three roommates who all moved in at the same time.  One moved out a couple of months ago and the other two moved out last month.  All three were on the rental agreement and one is demanding that we give the entire deposit refund to him because he was the one who paid it.  What should we do?
Answer:  Either require the roommate to produce a written, notarized statement from the other two roommates granting their permission and consent, or give him a check with all three names as the payee.

7.  Question:  I served a three-day notice to pay rent or quit to one of our tenants.  I received a partial payment within the three-day period.  Do I have to serve another notice for the remainder of the rent or is the notice still good?
Answer:  Under California law, a residential landlord who accepts partial payment of rent demanded on a three-day notice is required to serve a new notice for the balance owed.

8.  Question:  How do we get rid of tenants who have filthy units?  They always pay on time.
Answer:  If the condition of a residential tenant’s apartment unit is creating a health or fire hazard, the landlord should take steps to require the hazard be removed, or if necessary, terminate the tenancy and evict.  If the condition does not amount to a health or fire hazard, you may elect to serve a thirty-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, or if the lease is a fixed term, do not renew.  If the tenant could have a disability called “hoarding,” you should seek legal advice before proceeding.

9.  Question:  One of our tenants informed me that residential landlords have to replace carpeting every five years.  Is this true?
Answer:  No. California does not have specific requirements for replacing carpets or any condition of the unit so long as it remains in a habitable condition, which means free from substantial health or safety hazards.

10.  Question:  How long should we retain old leases at our apartment complex?  I have heard two years, is this correct?
Answer:  The statute of limitations (the time one has to bring a lawsuit) for written leases is four years. Therefore, leases should be retained a minimum of four years from the date of the vacancy.

11.  Question:  A tenant wants to move in with a companion dog.  Our property only allows cats as pets.  Can I tell the tenant to get a companion cat instead?
Answer:  No.  You cannot apply pet restrictions to assistive animals.  An assistive animal is not a pet.  You must allow the tenant to get the type of assistive animal that best meets his/her disability-related needs.

12.  Question:  One of our tenants is buying a home and gave us a thirty-day notice.  Now they want to extend escrow fifteen more days beyond the thirty-day period.  They are willing to pay for the additional rent.  Should we require a new thirty-day notice from the tenants?
Answer:  If you are in agreement to the additional fifteen days, agree in writing to extend the thirty-day notice period to expire on midnight on the agreed extension.  Otherwise, the court may believe that you waived your right under the thirty-day notice by allowing the tenant to remain in possession and paying rent beyond the thirty-day notice period.

13.  Question:  We just recently purchased a property with below market rents and intend on raising rents.  Which is preferable: to send out a thirty-day notice to raise the rent first, or to have the residents sign a month-to-month agreement, then send out a thirty-day notice?
Answer:  Legally, when you purchase rental property, you “step into the shoes” of the previous owner and you are bound by whatever lease agreement is in place.  If it is month-to-month, you can serve a thirty-day notice to change the terms, including rent increase. If the rent is increased more than 10% from what it was one year ago, a sixty-day notice must be served.

14.  Question:  I have rented an apartment to an unmarried couple.  The boyfriend’s mom is the co-signor.  The boyfriend is moving out and wants his and his mom’s name taken off the lease.  I don’t care if the boyfriend leaves, but I think his mom is still responsible.  Am I right?
Answer:  Most co-signor agreements, also known as guarantee contracts, provide that the guarantee of performance is through the term of the lease.  If so, the mom would most likely remain responsible, even if her son moves out.

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.

© 2017 Kimball, Tirey and St. John LLP