Question 1: We recently were approached by one of our tenants to find out if he could have a 220 volt electrical vehicle service equipment plug installed in the garage to charge his new electrical vehicle. Are we under any legal obligation to comply with his request? The property is located in Sunnyvale, CA. and we are on a month to month rental agreement.
Answer 1: Beginning in July 15, 2015, tenants have the right – in certain tenancies and with significant exceptions and restrictions – to install an electric vehicle charging station in the lessor’s parking area. The law applies to both residential and commercial leases signed, renewed or extended on or after July 1, 2015. Both residential and commercial provisions give tenants the right to install electric vehicle charging stations at their home or business if the tenant is willing to pay for the installation and complies with the lease provisions regarding alterations.  The tenant is required to have at least $1,000,000.00 in liability insurance. There are various exceptions to the law, including an exemption for rent controlled housing, and parking areas under six spaces. The law applies to commercial and residential rental properties where off-street parking is provided in the lease, with more than five parking spaces, and where electrical vehicle outlets number less than 10% of the parking spaces. The tenant is required to pay the cost associated with the electric usage of the charging station. The landlord is not required to provide the tenant with an additional parking space in order to comply with this law. This law does not apply: (1) when parking is not included as part of the rental contract; (2) to properties with fewer than five parking spaces; (3) to properties subject to rent control; (4) when 10% or more of existing spaces already have electric vehicle charging stations.

You can find the language of the law here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1947.6.&lawCode=CIV. 

Question 2: I am declining a tenant application based on his credit and negative criminal check. The applicant has requested a copy of the “criminal report”.  Can I give him a copy of the report?
Answer 2: Yes. In fact, you are required to do so once the applicant so requests. Under California law, 1786.2(c), the term “investigative consumer report” means a consumer report in which information on a consumer’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living is obtained through any means. If the report qualifies as an “investigative consumer report,” which it sounds as if it would, then you must provide the applicant a copy upon his or her request within three business days of the date that the report is provided to you.  The notice to request the report may be contained on either the disclosure form, or a separate consent form. The copy of the report shall contain the name, address, and telephone number of the person who issued the report and how to contact them.

Also, if the applicant is rejected (or other ‘adverse action such as requiring a co-signer or increased security deposit) because of information obtained from a credit report or an investigative consumer reporting agency, the user of the investigative consumer report shall so advise the consumer against whom the adverse action has been taken and supply the name and address of the investigative consumer reporting agency making the report. AOA has the proper form of notification, which must be given if you reject the tenant based on the credit report information. In the AOA Forms website, it is called Tenant Rejection Notice #140.

Also, if a landlord processes the credit report and the tenant wants to receive their copy, AOA provides an option called Consumer Version, which can be mailed directly to tenants, or landlords can print a copy through their membership account to send to the applicant. 

Question 3:  We are in the process of seeking new renters for a three-bedroom flat within a four unit building. We received a request from five adults to look at the property. We prefer a family and ideally fewer than five people. We have had problems in the past when one young adult decides to move out from a unit shared with others and then suddenly the remaining tenants cannot pay rent or ask to be released from lease etc. I know that there are laws forbidding discrimination against families with children. I know that the Federal law (in this case, an opinion letter written by the Department of Housing and Urban Development) has established minimum occupancy standards that regulate how low an occupancy can go and still be legal. In general, landlords must allow at least two persons per bedroom. I also know that age discrimination is illegal. What are my legal rights to refuse to show a unit to five young people?  I want to follow the law, but I wonder about ways to legally avoid accepting applications from non-related groups of adults.
Answer 3:  Yours is a very good question, for which there is probably not a very good answer. Federal and state family and age discrimination laws may apply to five young unrelated persons seeking an apartment, but I have never seen a case on those facts. Federal, state, and local laws make it illegal to discriminate in the provision of housing based on a person’s protected class. At the federal level, the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) prohibits discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. In CA, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits housing discrimination on the same basis as the federal law, but also makes it illegal to discriminate based on marital status, ancestry, sexual orientation and source of income.

Several other laws touch on the issue of housing discrimination. In CA, the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by all business establishments based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, disability, marital status, ancestry, sexual orientation, source of income, age and other forms of arbitrary discrimination. The renting of houses and apartments is considered to be a public accommodation for purposes of Unruh and is therefore covered by the Act. “Familial status” means one or more persons under age 18 who reside with a parent, legal guardian, or designee of the parent or legal guardian with the parent’s or legal guardian’s written consent. Familial status also applies to persons who are pregnant or in the process of adopting or otherwise securing legal custody of any individual under 18 years of age.

Since “family” is defined as a having a minor in the household, it would not apply in your case. However, the ‘age’ category, or the catch-all category ‘other forms of arbitrary discrimination’ may apply. For example, that category has been applied to prohibit rejecting an applicant based on the applicant’s type of employment. I simply have no information, from case law or otherwise, on how a court might treat your situation. It is one of the many ‘grey’ areas in providing residential housing.

Also, the HUD rule you refer to is “2 plus 1” meaning for two tenants for each bedroom, plus one to sleep somewhere else. 

Question 4: I have a two-unit building in San Francisco which has been on the market for over a month. I have been showing the unit, but for a lot of applicants it’s difficult for them to commit to a new rental in the middle of the month where they have already paid rent for their current unit and if I start a new tenancy with them in the middle of a month, they’re essentially paying double rent. However, I have three prospective roommates who wish to rent from me effective October 1st. How do I or can I hold the flat for them, and can I charge them (if so, how much) a holding deposit if they don’t perform? I would be basically taking it off the rental market for over three weeks. Thank you for your reply.
Answer 4: While any money paid to the landlord for the rental of the unit beyond actual rent is considered security deposit, which cannot be made ‘non-refundable,’ I believe you can enter into a separate contract with the applicants called an ‘option agreement,’ by which you and the applicants agree that for a certain amount of money, you will hold the unit for them, until a certain date. Whether you then apply that payment to their rent is up to you and them.

You can also simply enter into a lease, that takes effect when signed, but rent will be due starting October 1st. If they then back out, they will be in breach of contract, and their security deposit can be applied to certain losses in rent while you re-rent the unit.  

Question 5:  I am renting my San Francisco house for $2,500.00 with a $3,000.00 security deposit and my tenant wants to have a dog. How much of a pet deposit can I ask for?
Answer 5: If the unit is furnished, you can require up to three month’s rent as security deposit, regardless of what you call it (pet deposit, cleaning deposit, etc.). If unfurnished, the maximum is two months. Please note that while single family homes are generally exempt from local rent control, that is not always the case, and if not, the issue of increasing the security deposit is a bit unclear. However, assuming the lease does not allow pets without the lessor’s consent, then you would be, in effect, mutually amending the lease to allow a pet in exchange for additional security.  If the tenant agrees to the increase, in exchange for the pet, then the increase should be no problem even if subject to rent control.
 

Question 6: All but one of my tenants pays me via an electronic method. One of them refuses to do so and pays by checks. Am I allowed to enforce (with notice, of course) a rule by which I no longer accept personal checks as a form of payment?!
Answer 6: Probably, as long as you will accept some other form of check (e.g. cashier’s check, money order etc.). As to form of payment, I don’t find anything in the applicable statutes that requires accepting personal checks. The most applicable statuate, CivilCode Section 1947.3, below, requires accepting rent from the tenant in at least one method that is not cash or electronic funds transfer. So, requiring payment by cashier’s check would appear to comply. 1947.3.  (a) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a landlord or a landlord’s agent shall allow a tenant to pay rent and deposit of security by at least one form of payment that is neither cash nor

Electronic funds transfer. 

Also worth noting, the landlord normally cannot require the tenant to pay rent in cash. However, the landlord can require the tenant to pay rent in cash if, within the last three months, the tenant paid rent with a check that has been dishonored by the bank. (A dishonored check is one that the bank returns without paying because the tenant stopped payment on it or because the account did not have enough money in it.)

In order to require the tenant to pay rent in cash, the landlord must first give the tenant a written notice stating that his or her check was dishonored and that the tenant must pay cash for the period of time stated by the landlord. This period cannot be more than three months after the check was dishonored. The landlord must attach a copy of the dishonored check to the notice. If the notice changes the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant the required 30 day notice of change of terms of tenancy. (See AOA form 138).

Question 7: We have a Section 8 family that has caused us to replace window screens, and often the frames too, at least three times this year. Each event costs us about $100.00. Can we charge them for screens and frames when it is excessive? Can I send them a warning letter that they will be charged? Do I have to contact Section 8? Thank you for any help in this situation.
Answer 7:       A tenant – Section 8 or otherwise – can be held responsible for damage they cause to the property. If there is a lease provision that applies, the demand for reimbursement can be made through that provision, with failure to pay a basis for a three day notice to cure or quit. If there is no lease provision, there may be a security deposit from which the damages can be deducted, and if the lease so provides, a demand that the tenant replace the used amount of the Security Deposit. Most modern leases (including those used by Section 8 tenants) contain such provisions.

If there are no such written provisions, there is not any ‘tried and true’ method to force the tenant to pay using the unlawful detainer process. You could issue a three day notice that explains the facts of the damage, the tenant’s fault, the cost, and demand the tenant pay the cost pursuant to California Civil Code section 1941.2, which requires the tenant to “Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises, or allow anyone else to do so.” It is possible that CCP 1161(3), which allows a three day notice to cure or quit “after a neglect or failure to perform other conditions or covenants of the lease or agreement under which the property is held…” may apply. However, the court would have to agree that this language includes covenants implied by law (which would thus include 1941.2). I believe this is probably a valid approach but have |not used it or seen it used, so can’t estimate the likelihood of success. There is also the possible option of terminating the tenancy based on nuisance, due to the repeated damage to the property. Finally, there is always small claims court.

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

 

 

If there are no such written provisions, there is not any ‘tried and true’ method to force the tenant to pay using the unlawful detainer process. You could issue a three day notice that explains the facts of the damage, the tenant’s fault, the cost, and demand the tenant pay the cost pursuant to California Civil Code section 1941.2, which requires the tenant to “Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises, or allow anyone else to do so.” It is possible that CCP 1161(3), which allows a three day notice to cure or quit “after a neglect or failure to perform other conditions or covenants of the lease or agreement under which the property is held…” may apply. However, the court would have to agree that this language includes covenants implied by law (which would thus include 1941.2). I believe this is probably a valid approach but have |not used it or seen it used, so can’t estimate the likelihood of success. There is also the possible option of terminating the tenancy based on nuisance, due to the repeated damage to the property. Finally, there is always small claims court.