Legal Q&A

Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by Attorney Richard Beckman.

 

Question 1: Hello. For a multifamily building of eight units, which forms should be used for a month-to-month rental agreement? Also, in leasing a unit that will be vacant, what kind of restrictions are we allowed to advertise?  For example, can “no pets” or “non-smoking” be in the advertisement or not? 

Answer 1: I would recommend you review the AOA website for lease forms and addendums, including required disclosures, which should provide most if not all of the information you are asking for in that regard.

As to the no pets/no smoking, there’s no prohibition on advertising rental units that do not allow either pets or smoking. A prospective tenant may request a ‘reasonable accommodation’ if that person is disabled and medically authorized to have an ‘emotional support animal’ however, so you should be aware that your ‘no pets’ provision may have to give way to that disability rights law.

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Question 2: Are there any restrictions or special requirements for evictions in Antioch, Contra Costa County at this time? This is based on serving a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit for June as the first step.

Answer 2:  According to the county’s website, most residents of Contra Costa County are no longer protected by an eviction moratorium. Renters must pay rent from April 1, 2022 onwards in order to avoid eviction. This applies to renters living in the cities of Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton, Concord, Danville, Hercules, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, San Pablo, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek as well as all of the unincorporated areas (e.g., Bay Point, El Sobrante, etc.). 

 

Question 3: I have a rental agreement with a tenant named Maria that allows a total of two adults and three children, which I believe is the case, but I don’t know other names. How can I include them in the unlawful detainer complaint?
Answer 3:  You could inquire of the tenant who else is in occupancy, but if not, or no response is provided, you may simply name the people you know, and the others are called ‘Doe’ defendants. As long as your licensed process server serves something called the ‘prejudgment claim of right to possession’ along with your unlawful detainer complaint, everyone at the premises will be included in any judgment for that you receive.

 

Question 4: The tenants provided notice that they intend to breach their lease (bought a house). The lease started 12/11/2021 and ends 12/10/2022. They want to vacate their unit on July 10th, and have us market the unit to be leased on July 15th. We previously discussed having two weeks to get the unit ready (especially with today’s uncertain times). Four business days to get a unit ready is not likely. We want them to be present during showings to avoid any issues with items going missing during showings. We want to approve any marketing that they plan to share on social media with our telephone number and/or address. We market on Craigslist and DO NOT post on any social media or other portals. Are our requests appropriate to meet with mitigating their damages?
Answer 4:  Your question’s details demonstrate a textbook example of working with a tenant who intends to breach a lease by vacating early. You demonstrate an understanding of the concept of ‘mitigation of damages,’ which is the legal concept which requires the ‘injured’ party to take ‘reasonable’ steps to minimize the financial, or other, impacts of one party’s actions that constitute, in this case, a breach of contract.

As to the specifics, it seems you are taking those reasonable steps, which in certain respects has a subjective element (what is ‘reasonable’ is usually in the eye of the beholder, but a basic standard is the word simply means what it says – that of a reasonable person under like circumstances). The details of how to market the property – preferring the tenants are present during showings, approving any marketing materials – all seem reasonable. Whether it’s reasonable to refuse to use ‘social media or other portals’ may be a bit closer to the line, as those outlets are, particularly with younger tenants, possibly their primary link to the information market. 

Finally, while having the unit ready to be re-rented 4-5 days after the current tenants vacate is a laudable goal, you would not be legally bound to it, unless you entered into an agreement with the departing tenants to exchange their uncertain liability for a stipulated, or ‘liquidated’ amount, which is sometimes included in the rental agreement as an ‘early departure fee’ or some similarly worded provision. In such provision, the parties agree in advance that a breach of the lease prior to the last 1-2 months of the term will require the tenant to pay a set amount, such as one- or two-months’ rent, rather than face an open-ended liability for the remaining lease term.

 

Question 5: I will have a granny unit coming up for rent in the unincorporated area in Sonoma County in the near future.  In the past, it was rented under a one-year lease then month-to-month. Here is my question – I am going to try to rent to traveling nursing professionals (fully furnished) who typically work for 90 days which is a typical assignment length at local hospitals instead of a long-term lease. My question is do I handle the short-term rental the same as a long-term rental?  Does the paperwork remain the same for both types or do I have to do things differently?
Answer 5:  Absent some Sonoma ordinance(s) of which I am unaware that may affect your intentions, I believe you would use the same paperwork as you use for regular rentals, other than the time of rental aspect. Such short-term occupancies would not trigger the protections of the state eviction control law AB 1482, which only requires a ‘just cause’ ground to terminate the tenancy for tenants in possession at least one year. Thus, if the visiting nurse failed to vacate (and assuming the current Sonoma eviction moratorium was no longer in force) the tenant would be unlawfully holding over at the expiration of the lease term. Once ‘just cause’ provisions apply, the simple expiration of the lease is no longer grounds to evict the holding-over tenant.

 

Question 6: As a new owner occupant (escrow closed 5/10/22) of a duplex in Oakland, the current tenant’s lease expires on 5/22/22. My intention is to execute a new lease agreement beginning 6/1/22 since they are paid through the end of May 2022. Is it necessary to start the lease on 5/23/22, or is 6/1/22 okay? Regarding a rent increase, can the lease agreement state that in 60 days the new rent will be increased by 6.7% in accordance with the City of Oakland CPI-allowed increase or can the new lease initially reflect the 6.7% increase?
Answer 6: As to the lease, if the unit is subject to the Oakland rent and eviction control laws, imposing new terms on a tenant may prove frustrating as those terms may not be enforceable. As for the start date of the lease, the existing lease will renew as a month-to-month lease, though Oakland has a ‘just cause’ termination ground in the case where a tenant refuses to execute a renewal of an expiring lease on the same terms as the prior lease, but for any permitted rent increase. Also, as a new owner, you have a duty to comply with Civil Code Section 1962, which discusses the information a new owner must provide the tenant.

As for the rent increase, the maximum allowable rent increase for rent-controlled units in the City of Oakland will be 6.7% from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.   However, you should be aware of a possible revision to the allowable Oakland rent increase. Per the rent board’s website at https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/allowable-rent-increasesThe City Council will consider a proposal to modify the annual CPI rate to 30% of the change in CPI, or 3%, whichever is lower. If the Council adopts the ordinance before July 1, the 6.7% increase will not go into effect.  The most recent rent board update does not show when that hearing might take place, though one assumes if the change is made, it will be announced on the rent board’s website.

 

Question 7: Is there any requirement in Oakland that a tenant is entitled to interest on their security deposit? 

Answer 7:  There is no ordinance in Oakland that requires interest to accrue on security deposits. It is worth noting that the rent board office holds a security deposits workshop on occasion, most recently this past May 11, 2022, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. If you are interested in learning more about such workshops, you can reach out to the Oakland Rent Board for future workshops on that, and other landlord-tenant matters.

 

Question 8:  I have an eight unit building in Santa Clara (city and county). Is there a limit to how much rent I can charge a resident manager?
Answer 8:  There is such a limit. AOA’s contributing author Dale Alberstone published an update that is very helpful, and I suggest you review the AOA article for any other questions you might have on that issue. The article can be found here: https://aoausa.com/new-resident-manager-laws-for-2022-by-dale-alberstone/

 

Question 9: I manage a single-family home for an investor. This is his only investment property. We want to raise the rent but didn’t know what the max factor is for rent increase.  The tenant’s last extension was two years ago and the renewal date was August. I was hoping to give 60 days for a rent increase for the maximum allowable. Can you tell me the max increase percentage and if 60-day notice is adequate?
Answer 9:  Assuming the property is a true single-family dwelling, with no ‘in law’ (legal or not), it should be exempt from local or state rent increase limitations, other than perhaps one imposed as a pandemic emergency measure. To exempt a SFD however, requires that the tenant be provided the proper notice of the exemption by a lease term or addendum. But if it remains subject to AB 1482, the revised annual AB 1482 CPI increase amount is now available, and according to AOA, “If you wait until August 1st to make the rent increase effective, you can use the new 2022 CPI of 5%, plus the annual base value of 5% which gives you the total of 10%.” And the notice of increase for any amount 10% or less is only a 30-day notice. Increases above that amount require a 90-day notice.

 

Richard Beckman, of Beckman Feller & Chang P.C., has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 26 years, primarily in rent-controlled jurisdictions such as San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. He represents clients in a broad range of real estate-related disputes, including partition of co-ownership interests, purchase contract disputes, insurance coverage analysis and land use. Mr. Beckman also specializes in all aspects of landlord-tenant issues, representing landlords and tenants in residential and commercial matters. He can be reached at 510-548-7474; email [email protected] or by visiting the website www.bfc-legal.com.