This article was posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016

Question: I am a landlord and do not want to look for new tenants every year. How many years should I make my lease for?
A lease can be beneficial or disastrous for a landlord. It is beneficial to keep a tenant for multiple years so you do not lose rent trying to find a new tenant. However, a fixed term lease could prevent a landlord from taking back possession of their property from a problem tenant.

If you have a tenant that is in a lease, and the tenant becomes a problem a few months into the lease, then you cannot give them a 30 or 60-day notice to quit. You may only evict the tenant if they are clearly breaking a term in the lease. Many landlords choose to execute a lease for one year. This allows the landlord to determine if they would like the tenant to renew a lease or convert the lease to a month-to-month agreement. This also allows the landlord to increase the rent after the original lease term has expired.  

Question: I am a landlord and want my tenants to use email and communicate electronically. Can they sign they’re lease or month-to-month agreement with an electronic signature?
Yes, if your tenant agrees to sign electronically, then you may use an electronic signature on the lease or rental agreement. If you and your tenant prefer to communicate by email only or sign other documents electronically, then you may sign an agreement with your tenant authorizing electronic communications and signatures. If you choose to sign the agreement in this manner, you should choose to use a well-known, verified program such as DocuSign. 

Question: I am a landlord and want to make sure I am entitled to attorney’s fees if I have to evict my tenant. Do I have to make the attorney’s fees clause mutual where the tenant is entitled to fees if they win and I lose?
Yes. You should have a reciprocal attorney’s fees clause. Further, the tenant may be entitled to attorney fees if he/she prevails in a landlord-tenant dispute even if the attorney’s fees clause only allows the landlord to collect attorney fees. However, you may want to cap the amount of attorney’s fees that are to be paid. For example, most contracts will have the prevailing party entitled to attorney fees and costs up to a total amount of $500 to $1,000. The capped amount is dependent on the landlord’s preference. A cap on attorney’s fees may deter lawsuits by the tenant or the tenant’s potential attorney. 

Question: I am filling out the lease for my new tenants and do not want to provide my address for the ‘Service of Notice’ section. Can I leave this section blank?
No, you must provide the tenant with a mailing address where the tenant can serve you with notice. If you are concerned about giving the tenant your personal address, then you may want to get a post office box. This allows you to receive rent and notices from the tenant in the mail without giving the tenant your personal address. 

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Question: I have a lease with a late fee clause that has a penalty that increases on a daily basis.  How much can I charge the tenant per day?
The late fee may not be more than six percent of the monthly rent. If the landlord gives a daily late fee charge that exceeds the maximum late fee permitted, then the tenant is entitled to a refund of the overpayments of late fees. To avoid overcharging, it is best to charge a flat rate late fee equal to or less than six percent of the monthly rent to make this clause of the lease less confusing. For example, if the rent is $1,200 per month, then six percent of $1,200 is $72, therefore the late fee may not exceed $72. If you decide to proceed with the daily late fee, you must be sure that the tenant does not pay more than six percent of the rent per month as a late fee.

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM .-  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: or email [email protected]