Question 1: One of our rental units comes equipped with a dishwasher. The dishwasher is not working properly and the owner does not want to pay to have it replaced or repaired. The tenant states that as she rented it with the dishwasher working, the Owner must replace or repair it no matter the cost. We believe as it is not a necessity the Owner can choose not to address the issue.
Also, in another unit, the tenant’s child was climbing on the couch in their apartment and fell and hit his head on the inside of the window. Now the tenant is requesting the Owner of the unit pay for the window and the medical bills as her child cut his forehead. 
 

Is it the Owner’s responsibility to pay the medical bills? Is it the Owner’s responsibility to pay for the broken window?
Answer 1: As to the first question, if the tenancy is month to month, it can be changed to withdraw the dishwasher as a provided element, or the rent can be increased to cover the cost of the replacement, amortized over time. If the tenant is under a term lease, they are entitled to the items that were provided as part of the original tenancy, including a working dishwasher, until the end of the term.

As to the window incident, unless the window was defective, or there was some other element of the unit that particularly made it more likely a child would injure himself in the manner that occurred, the landlord does not have liability. It is generally the tenant’s responsibility to pay for any damage caused by the tenant, but in this case, under the circumstances, the owner might want to offer to replace the window as a gesture of good will. If the tenant really wants to pursue the matter, they will file a lawsuit, and the landlord’s insurance carrier, presumably, will take over from there. 

Question 2: I use an AOA lease that does not allow subletting. What should I do if I suspect the tenants in my San Francisco building may be “Airbnbing” a downstairs room? Should I remind them in writing subletting is not allowed?
Answer 2: You could give them a friendly reminder of the lease provision, and hope that is enough to discourage further such efforts, or serve a more formal ‘three day notice to cure or quit.’ But note that the San Francisco rent ordinance was amended recently to require that tenants accused of a subletting violation (including ‘airbnbing’) must be provided at least 10 days notice to cure, rather than the state law required three days. So, if you believe the tenant is subletting in violation of the lease (via Airbnb or otherwise), you can serve a formal notice warning them of the lease violation.

But if you serve a formal notice, it must comply with the related notice provisions of the San Francisco Ordinance, including notifying the tenant that information is available from the rent board, and which includes a copy of the new rent board notice required as of November 9. The rent board website summary regarding the new notice requirement copied is below, but it is recommended that you review carefully those new notice requirements before serving any notice to cure or quit.

Effective November 9, 2015, Rent Ordinance Section 37.9(c) was amended to require the landlord to attach to every eviction notice a copy of the new Rent Board Form 1007 (Notice to Tenant Required by Rent Ordinance §37.9(c)). The form is required to state that “a tenant’s failure to timely act in response to a notice to vacate may result in a lawsuit by the landlord to evict the tenant” and that advice regarding the notice to vacate is available from the Rent Board. The single page form includes the “Notice to Tenant” in all 6 required languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Tagalog.

Also effective November 9, 2015, and pursuant to Ordinance Section 37.9(c) as amended, all notices to vacate under the following Rent Ordinance Sections must state in the notice to vacate the lawful rent for the unit at the time the notice to vacate is issued: 37.9(a)(8) (owner/relative move-in); 37.9(a)(9) (sale of condominium); 37.9(a)(10) (demolition/permanent removal of unit from housing use); 37.9(a)(11) (temporary eviction to perform capital improvements); and, 37.9(a)(14) (temporary eviction to perform lead remediation).                       

Question 3: Did San Francisco recently add another amendment to the Ordinance that affects termination notices?
Answer 3: Yes. In addition to the changes effective November 9, described in part in the response to Question 2 above, on February 18 of this year the Mayor signed Ordinance 17-16, which amends the Rent Ordinance to requires the landlord to provide notice to tenants facing eviction about the possible eligibility for City affordable housing programs. However, while the enacting Ordinances indicates that rent Board is to provide the form from information provided by the  Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development regarding eligibility for affordable housing programs, a check of the Rent Board’s website as of March 1 does not show that form being available. The exact language of the new Ordinance is as follows: The Board shall prepare a written form that (1) states that a tenant’s failure to timely act in response to a notice to vacate may result in a lawsuit by the landlord to evict the tenant, and that advice regarding the notice to vacate is available from the Board; and (2) includes information provided by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development regarding eligibility for affordable housing programs. The Board shall prepare the form in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Russian and make the form available to the public on its website and in its office. A landlord shall attach a copy of the form that is in the primary language of the tenant to a notice to vacate before serving the notice, except that if the tenant’s primary language is not English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, or Russian, the landlord shall attach a copy of the form that is in English to the notice. “

Any notice of termination being served should include this referenced form, which should be available from the rent board before the new ordinance takes effect, which should be March 20  (30 days after the Mayor’s signature). 

Question 4: Can you please state the current Smoke Detector laws for California?
Answer 4: Currently, smoke alarms are required to be installed on every floor or level of a multi-story dwelling, (including basements) on which a sleeping room exists, as well as centrally located outside each sleeping area (e.g. the hallway). Take note, however, that effective January 1, 2016, owners of rental units intended for human occupancy will be required to install additional smoke alarms, as needed, to ensure that the devices are located in compliance with local building standards in effect at that time, even if they are more stringent than State standards. Currently, California’s Building Code §310.9 already requires a smoke detector to be installed in each bedroom as well as the hallway outside the bedroom. You might want to check with your local building department to make sure the Emeryville standards are not stricter than the state standards, so you are ‘ahead of the game.’

Also, please note that Senate Bill 745 requires that for all dwelling units, upon the owner’s application on or after January 1, 2014, for a permit for alterations, repairs, or additions, exceeding $1,000, all smoke alarms  and combination carbon monoxide and smoke alarms required for the dwelling unit shall display the date of manufacture on the device, provide a place on the device where the date of installation can be written, incorporate a hush feature, incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced, and, if battery operated, contain a nonreplaceable, nonremovable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for a minimum of 10 years. The law does not apply to hard-wired alarms. 

Question 5:  I am going to sell one of my properties and I’m looking for the appropriate forms to use to notify my tenants of possible purchase and open house. I checked the forms library but can’t seem to find what would work. Can you direct me?
Answer 5: You can simply notify your tenants of your plans to sell, and that they will be contacted by your agent about open houses and showings. Your agent should absolutely know the rules about providing proper notice to the tenants under Civil Code Section 1954 before attempting any entry to a unit. If your agent is not well versed in that rule, you need another agent. As for the form, AOA form 130 may be used. However, that form may be improved shortly, to include the additional provision under Civil Code Section 1954 which allows the owner or the owner’s agent to notify the tenant that because the owner is selling the property, that the owner may enter on 24 hours oral notice for the next 120 days. Again, however, your listing agent should be very familiar with these rules.
 

Question 6: On my seven unit apartment building, some of the rental agreements date back as far as 2003 and some are as recent as 2013, and all are in English. However, I believe most of the tenants are Spanish speaking, and while I’ve been corresponding in English and have provided Spanish translations most of the time, do I need to provide new Agreements and Addendums in English and in Spanish, or just in English?
Answer 6: The lease has to be provided in the language in which the original rental discussions were conducted. If you (or your predecessor or agent) spoke Spanish with the tenants on their introduction to the tenancy, the rental agreement should be in Spanish (and English if possible). Below is a useful excerpt from the Cal. consumer affairs division that should explain the details.
http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/before-rent.shtml. 

TRANSLATION OF PROPOSED RENTAL AGREEMENT

A landlord and a tenant may negotiate primarily in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Korean for the rental, lease, or sublease of a rental unit. In this situation, the landlord must give the tenant a written translation of the proposed lease or rental agreement in the language used in the negotiation before the tenant signs it.63 This rule applies whether the negotiations are oral or in writing. The rule does not apply if the rental agreement is for one month or less.

The landlord must give the tenant the written translation of the lease or rental agreement whether or not the tenant requests it. The translation must include every term and condition in the lease or rental agreement, but may retain elements such as names, addresses, numerals, dollar amounts and dates in English. It is never sufficient for the landlord to give the written translation of the lease or rental agreement to the tenant after the tenant has signed it.

However, the landlord is not required to give the tenant a written translation of the lease or rental agreement if all of the following are true:

  • The Spanish-, Chinese-, Tagalog-, Vietnamese-, or Korean-speaking tenant negotiated the rental agreement through his or her own interpreter; and
  • The tenant’s interpreter is able to speak fluently and read with full understanding English, as well as Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Korean (whichever was used in the negotiation); and
  • The interpreter is not a minor (under 18 years of age); and
  • The interpreter is not employed or made available by or through the landlord.

    If a landlord who is required to provide a written translation of a lease or rental agreement in one of these languages fails to do so, the tenant can rescind (cancel) the agreement.

    Question 7:  At the bottom of the AOA 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for Oakland, there is a blank to fill in the name of the owner and a signature line for the agent. At the top of the form the Plaintiff is referred to as Owner. So here’s the question: Does the plaintiff in an eviction case (unlawful Detainer) have to be the owner or can it be the management company? I know that the 3 day notice and the UD have to follow one another carefully.

    Answer 7:  Normally the issuer of the 3 Day Notice and the plaintiff in the Unlawful Detainer plaintiff are the same, but they do not have to be. The owner can authorize the agent to serve the 3 day notice, and the owner can still be the plaintiff on the UD lawsuit. Some property management agreements authorize the property manager to also be the plaintiff in the UD, which makes sense when the Property Manager has the facts, and the owner only gets reports from the Property Manager about the tenancy. But absent a written agreement, in advance, for the Property Manager to act as the plaintiff, the owner generally is the plaintiff.

    Question 8: One of our rental units comes equipped with a dishwasher. The dishwasher is not working properly and the owner does not want to pay to have it replaced or repaired. The tenant states that as she rented it with the dishwasher working, the Owner must replace or repair it no matter the cost. We believe as it is not a necessity the Owner can choose not to address the issue.
    Also, in another unit, the tenant’s child was climbing on the couch in their apartment and fell and hit his head on the inside of the window. Now the tenant is requesting the Owner of the unit pay for the window and the medical bills as her child cut his forehead.  Is it the Owner’s responsibility to pay the medical bills? Is it the Owner’s responsibility to pay for the broken window?
    Answer 8: As to the first question, if the tenancy is month to month, it can be changed to withdraw the dishwasher as a provided element, or the rent can be increased to cover the cost of the replacement, amortized over time. If the tenant is under a term lease, they are entitled to the items that were provided as part of the original tenancy, including a working dishwasher, until the end of the term.

    As to the window incident, unless the window was defective, or there was some other element of the unit that particularly made it more likely a child would injure himself in the manner that occurred, the landlord does not have liability. It is generally the tenant’s responsibility to pay for any damage caused by the tenant, but in this case, under the circumstances, the owner might want to offer to replace the window as a gesture of good will. If the tenant really wants to pursue the matter, they will file a lawsuit, and the landlord’s insurance carrier, presumably, will take over from there.

    NOTE: In the February edition of the Q&A column, I mentioned that the town of Alameda initiated a temporary rent control and eviction control law, termed a moratorium, for the purpose of putting the brakes on rent increases and evictions until the city council can agree on a more long term plan to address the rising rents and evictions in Alameda. The moratorium extends until March 9, 2016, by which time the town council is expected to take additional action, to either extend the moratorium, allow it to expire or enact rent and eviction control as a permanent law. A fact sheet on the current moratorium can be found at: http://www.alamedahsg.org/hcd/rrac/ordinance_3140_moratorium_FAQ.pdf.

    It is strongly recommended that any Alameda landlord become familiar with the current status of the moratorium before taking any actions to increase rent or change or terminate tenancies.

    Richard Beckman, of Beckman Blair, LLP has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 24 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