Question 1: We just received a judgment against our former tenants as a result of an Unlawful Detainer.  How do we get this information recorded on their credit report?
Answer 1: Judgments are generally reported automatically on credit reports, as the credit reporting agencies review court records daily for judgments and related court filings and enter judgment debtors to their credit records. The rules under which these agencies can gain access to UD court records are set forth in Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161.2.

Before the rules were changed several years ago, as soon as the unlawful detainer lawsuit was filed, the agencies would locate the names of the defendant tenants and report them as eviction defendants, which would basically ruin the tenant’s chances to be accepted at new rental locations. Now, however, under the revised reporting rules, access to the UD court file is limited for the first 60 days after the case is filed, and only the parties, their attorneys or  persons who can identify the parties and address of the property can access the court file (without obtaining a court order). After 60 days, this “masking” protection is removed and anyone can access the court record, including reporting agencies, unless the case was dismissed or the tenant won the lawsuit. [Oftentimes, however, these judgments are missed!  AOA’s Rental Owner’s Collection Agency will report those debts to the credit reporting agencies for you!  Call your nearest AOA office today!] 

Question 2: Can I deduct from a tenant’s security deposit the cost to repaint his apartment upon his vacating? Since I do all the maintenance, can I charge for painting labor, or just the paint material cost? The apartment was newly painted prior to the tenant moving in.
Answer 2: If the tenant’s occupancy caused the paint to be worse than ‘normal wear and tear,’ then yes, you can deduct the cost of repainting, including the reasonable value of your labor/time. You have to comply with Civil Code Section 1950.5, though, in terms of accounting for the expenses when you deduct from the security deposit. However, you might call a paint store or two and get an estimate of when an interior painting should be redone, on average. In other words,  assume your average paint job, like carpet, has a recognized life span, and unless the tenant’s actions caused the lifespan to be shorter, the ‘decay’ of the newly painted unit would just be ordinary wear and tear, for which you can not charge the tenant. The pertinent part of Civil Code Section 1950.5 regarding charging the tenant for your time and materials is set forth below:

No later than 21 calendar days after the tenant has vacated the premises, the landlord shall furnish the tenant, by personal delivery or by first-class mail, postage prepaid, a copy of an itemized statement indicating the basis for, and the amount of, any security received and the disposition of the security and shall return any remaining portion of the security to the tenant.
Along with the itemized statement, the landlord shall also include copies of documents showing charges incurred and deducted by the landlord to repair or clean the premises, as follows:
(A) If the landlord or landlord’s employee did the work, the itemized statement shall reasonably describe the work performed. The itemized statement shall include the time spent and the reasonable hourly rate charged.
(B) If the landlord or landlord’s employee did not do the work, the landlord shall provide the tenant a copy of the bill, invoice, or receipt supplied by the person or entity performing the work. The itemized statement shall provide the tenant with the name, address, and telephone number of the person or entity, if the bill, invoice, or receipt does not include that information.
(C) If a deduction is made for materials or supplies, the landlord shall provide a copy of the bill, invoice, or receipt. If a particular material or supply item is purchased by the landlord on an ongoing basis, the landlord may document the cost of the item by providing a copy of a bill, invoice, receipt, vendor price list, or other vendor document that reasonably documents the cost of the item used in the repair or cleaning of the unit.

Question 3: Is it legal to obtain a copy of the person’s driver’s license as part of the application process when doing a credit search?
Answer 3: Assuming the applicant does not object, and you take measures to insure that information does not get wrongfully used (such as having the copy be used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized reasons) I don’t know of any law against having that information. Some landlords like to have the license  information in case they need to locate the tenant at some later point, though I’m not sure how helpful the license information would be for that purpose.  As the basis for the background check is to learn the applicant’s financial, residential and employment history and status, the applicant may legitimately wonder why the landlord is requiring the driver’s license information other than to perhaps confirm that the applicant’s current address matches the address on the application and the photo identifies the applicant. However, as long as the same request is made to every applicant (so there are no claims that one applicant was treated differently), there is apparently no restriction on the landlord’s ability to require such information from the applicant, as a condition of considering the application. The applicant is free to maintain the privacy of that information and refuse to provide it, but at the cost of the opportunity to rent the unit. Other jurisdictions treat the request for such information (such as social security, bank account and credit card numbers) as privileged personal financial information which may not be requested as part of a rental application.

Question 4: Our tenant wants the heating ventilation system cleaned. Who is responsible for the cost – the landlord or the tenant??
Answer 4: If the heating system (vents, etc.)  is  presenting a hazard to the tenant’s air quality, then the landlord  would be responsible for the cost. Otherwise, the tenant (assuming you had no objection) would incur the cost. Generally, in these situations, it is often a reasonable compromise to split the cost, since the tenant will be happy to get some contribution, and will enjoy the improved system, and the owner will generally get some benefit as well, from the cleaned vents, to a ‘happier’ tenant (which often means a less troublesome tenant down the road…). However, I would also be sure to explain to the tenant the rule above, and see if the tenant accepts that position, or feels the vents are a hazard that it is your duty to fix. At that point, you may need to have them inspected to find out their condition, and then respond accordingly.

Question 5: The tenant has been in myRichmond property about 10 years and the house is very run down and in need of repairs. I cannot afford to make the repairs so I am considering selling the house. I haven’t told the tenant at this time because in September he stopped paying rent.

  • Do I      just notify him I plan to sell?
  • Move      forward to evict?
  • He has      said he planned to move so I offered some financial assistance if he moved      by November 1 and he did not reject or accept the offer or accept. He just      refuses to discuss the situation.

Answer 5: Since you are inRichmond, which has no eviction control law likeBerkeley orOakland, you are allowed to terminate a month-to-month tenancy for a reason such as selling the property. If the lease is month-to-month then you may terminate it by providing either 30 days notice if the tenant has been there less than a year, or 60 days notice if the tenant has been there over one year (as in your case). You may also have the option to serve 3-day notice for non-payment of rent.  However, a 30-60 notice should be a straightforward basis to conclude the relationship and evict the tenant if he fails to move out at the expiration of the notice, whereas if there are habitability defects, a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit could be defended. On the other hand, you should consult with an attorney on the issue of whether a 60-Day Termination Notice could be considered retaliatory, which the tenant could claim if the notice follows requests by the tenant for repairs, for example.

Question 6: When a one year lease expires, how much notice are we required to give the tenant that we are not going to extend their tenancy (either by lease or month to month)?
Answer 6: Actually, no notice is required. When a lease expires (and absent language to the contrary in the lease itself), the tenant who remains in possession without express permission from the landlord is holding over and subject to eviction proceedings. But if you don’t want them to stay after the lease expires, it is a good idea to provide a courtesy notice before the lease expires that it will not be renewed. I would provide them as much notice as possible so they can plan accordingly. 

Question 7: I have someone who rents a one car garage for storage inOakland.  She is behind two months in rent.  I mailed her the 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, and a Notice of Belief of Abandonment as well.  She uses it to store old furniture such chair, table, lamp etc; she restores them and sell it on Craigslist.  She is not responding to my mail, email or phone calls.  The notices have both expired, and I believe the old furniture is worth nothing or less than $300.00.  Can I safely dispose or donate her stuff to Salvation Army?

Answer 7:  If you reasonably believe the tenant has abandoned the unit, and served the Notice of Belief of Abandonment, and received no response within the allotted time period, you are statutorily allowed to recover possession. However, the value of abandoned property for purposes of disposal or auction is $700 as of January 1, 2013, in case that should make a difference. And once you recover possession, you still need to comply with the requirement that you send the Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property, which allows the tenant 18 days to retrieve any property left behind if they pay the storage cost to you to release it. Once that period passes without any response from the tenant, and assuming the property is worth no more than $700, it may be disposed of any way you like, including by donation.

Richard Beckman, of Beckman Blair, LLP has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 19 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 415-871-0070; email rich@beckmanblairllp.com or by visiting the website www.beckmanblairllp.com.

 

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