Last year, I wrote about the massive court consolidation and cutbacks in every county in Southern California. In order to increase your chances on winning once you do get into court, here are some simple guidelines you should practice before you begin an eviction.
What to Do BEFORE You Serve a Three Day Pay or Quit
- Make sure that you inspect your property every six months.
Even if your tenant is not paying rent, you still have the legal obligation to maintain your property. You cannot waive habitability as you are required as a landlord in the State of California to always maintain your property.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are in proper working order.
And check your carbon monoxide detectors. This means you will need to inspect the property to determine if the smoke detectors are in proper working order. In order to do so, be sure to serve a 24 Notice of Intent to Enter for the purpose of inspecting the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Establish a protocol for maintenance requests.
(a) Be sure to require that the tenant submit written work orders to the management.
(b) Make sure that you have a 24 to 48 hour turnaround to get back to the tenant and schedule
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(c) Take before and after pictures of the work needed and the completed repairs.
- Please keep a timeline of all the times that you have posted 24 hour notices to enter on the tenant’s door and have a witness with you when you go to the property. What happens if the tenant will not open the door or cooperate with you to make repairs? If necessary, you can serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit to enforce your right to inspect and make repairs.
- Never lock your tenant out or turn off their utilities or water.
Remember that there is no such thing as self-help evictions! The last thing you want is to give your tenant ammunition to file an affirmative lawsuit against you. The courts look seriously upon a landlord engaging in self-help practices.
- If a tenant falls behind in rent, serve a 24 notice to enter to inspect the property.
If you find something wrong – make those repairs. Then serve your three day notice. If the tenant hasn’t paid you prior to the expiration of the notice to pay rent or quit you will want to immediately proceed with the filing of the eviction. In light of the potential delay that eviction cases are probably going to have in the coming months, I would suggest that there is no time like the present to start the eviction.
When to Serve a Breach of Covenant Notice
Hypothetical Case 1: Tenant moves in but fails to pay the security deposit. What do you do?
Hypothetical Case 2: Tenants continuously to pay rent late. You assess late fees pursuant to your rental agreement. Tenant fails to pay late fees. How you do your enforce the payment of late fees?
Have you ever wondered how you can get your tenant to pay late fees or to pay the balance of the security deposit that they owe? Well the answer is simple… serve your tenant with a breach of covenant notice, [AOA’s Form 104 -Cure the Violation or Move Out] notice.
The caveat to remember here is the work “covenant”. A covenant is a promise to do something and your tenant can only breach a covenant of the lease if that lease is in writing. Therefore, if your tenant orally agreed to pay late fees or a security deposit you are out of luck. You must have a written lease that specifically states what the late fees are and when they kick in as well as a provision in your lease that states what the security deposit is and when it must be paid.
There are also many other breaches that are committed by a tenant where you can use this notice. Below are some examples:
- If your tenant has agreed to not have any pets and gets a dog or cat
- If your tenant has an additional occupant living in the property that is not on the lease, or if they are subletting the property to someone else. (Be careful here if you have a rent controlled property as Los Angeles rent stabilization allows for another occupant born into the tenancy. Further, L.A. rent control only allows you to serve a three day notice for unauthorized occupant as long as you have not waited more than a couple months to serve the notice. If you wait, L.A. rent control claims that you have waived your right to complain about the unauthorized person.)
- If your tenant is either living in a pig pen or is a pack rat! Most every lease has a provision that states that the tenant must maintain the premises in a clean and sanitary manner. As such, if your tenant is not keeping it clean serve him a three day perform covenant or quit notice and if he fails to clean up you can then proceed with an eviction.
- You can also give a three day notice to perform or quit to gain access to your property if the tenant has refused you access. However, I suggest that you substantiate proof before just giving them this notice by documenting all the times that you attempted to go into the property and put that on the notice as well.
Make Sure Forms Are Properly Filled Out
The trick to having a valid three day perform covenant or quit notice is to make sure that you properly fill out the notice. My advice is that it is always best to have an attorney prepare and serve the notice. However, if you do one yourself, remember that you will need dates of the breach, times of the breach and witnesses that are willing to come to court to testify against the tenant in question.
Make sure that you have before and after pictures when you are serving notices for being pack rats or having unauthorized occupants or pets. Also, make sure that you identify the paragraph of the lease that the tenant is violating in the notice.
Attorney Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a bachelor of arts. She then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law. Grayce has been an attorney for 25 years and specializes in Real Estate Law. She’s done landlord/tenant work throughout the state of California with an emphasis on Rent Control law. For more information, call (800) 686-8686, email [email protected] or visit www.fastevictionservice.com