Question 1: Is there a new bedbug disclosure requirement that just started?
Answer 1: Yes. New Civil Code section 1954.603 provides that on and after July 1, 2017, prior to creating a new tenancy for a dwelling unit, a landlord shall provide a written notice to the prospective tenant with specific information on bedbugs. This notice shall also be provided to all other tenants by January 1, 2018.  [Members may download AOA’s form – #157 “Information About Bed Bugs” by visiting www.aoausa.com.]

The owner must also provide the tenant with a procedure to report suspected infestations to the landlord. The bill would prohibit a landlord from showing, renting, or leasing a vacant dwelling unit that the landlord knows has a bed bug infestation, as specified.

This section does not impose a duty on a landlord to inspect a dwelling unit or the common areas of the premises for bed bugs if the landlord has no notice of a suspected or actual bed bug infestation. If a bed bug infestation is evident on visual inspection, the landlord shall be considered to have notice pursuant to the statute.

Question 2: Can you tell me when can an owner charge for carpet replacement? I thought it was five years for carpet?
Answer 2: There is no hard and fast rule. The answer would depend on the carpet, the treatment by the tenants, the length of the tenancy and so on. A ‘best guess’ is that if the same tenant has been in place for a long period (5-10 years or more) and the carpet needs to be replaced, it would be normal wear and tear and the owner’s expense.

Question 3: The condo complex I manage is about to be tented for termites. The owner of the condo only wants to pay half of the expense to put the tenants up for two nights. The tenants want her to pay the full amount. Is there a legal amount?
Answer 3: If the owner of the rental unit requires the tenant to move out for repairs, then the owner is liable to the tenant for the cost to the tenant of the relocation. Some attorneys might argue that the only amount the owner is responsible for is to waive the rent during the tenant’s absence, but the tenant is entitled to the reasonable costs incurred in being forced to relocate. While each case must be reviewed on its own merits as to the exact expenses the tenant is entitled to receive back from the owner, a decent hotel stay would likely be a minimum amount.

Question 4: If a longtime tenant just got engaged after and her fiancé has just moved in, what do I need to do for paperwork? She is happy with keeping the deposit in her name only. Do I just add his name to the rental agreement? Do I need to run a credit check?
Answer 4: Without knowing the details of your current tenancy (written lease or oral rental agreement, for a term that is still underway or month to month, etc.), it is not possible to answer the question with legal certainty. For example, if the rental agreement contained a provision against subletting without approval, or guests staying more than a certain number of nights per month or year, there would be options to you to require the tenant to provide you certain information before you allowed the fiancé to move in. Under an oral agreement, the tenant has the right to allow anyone she wants to move in with her. Also, certain rent control laws may apply to a tenant’s request to add another person. However, that said, you can probably negotiate with the tenant to reach an agreement regarding the new arrangement, from ignoring the fiancé to having him join the lease (after you run a credit check, if you think that’s necessary).

Question 5: I have a home I live in and would like to rent out a room. I have interviewed and showed it to some people and given applications but have not found anyone I feel would be a ‘good fit.’ can I simply decline them until I find the one that I want?
Answer 5: Probably. Normally, a lessor may not reject applicants for reasons based on the applicant’s various characteristics, such as  the applicants race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income , or disability. California law also prohibits discrimination based on a person’s medical condition or mental or physical disability, personal characteristics, such as a person’s physical appearance or sexual orientation that are not related to the responsibilities of a tenant.

However, under California housing law, if the owner of an owner-occupied, single-family home rents out a room in the home to a roomer or a boarder, and there are no other roomers or boarders living in the household, the owner is not subject to the restrictions of unlawful discrimination. Federal fair housing law also provides an exemption from discrimination laws in the case of a single-family house sold or rented by an owner – provided, that such private individual owner does not own more than three such single-family houses at any one time.

However, confusingly, under the California statutes, the owner cannot make oral or written statements, or use notices or advertisements which indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability. So, you can discriminate in selecting your tenant, but you just can talk about it.

Question 6: Did Pacifica follow up on its recent rent control law effort?
Answer 6:  For now, rent control in Pacifica is on hold. As of May 19, 2017, the City Clerk has received a referendum petition protesting adoption of the Interim Ordinance establishing a temporary moratorium on certain residential rent increases and requiring just cause for tenant evictions (Ordinance No. 814).  Submission of the petition suspends the effective date of the Interim Ordinance which was adopted on May 8, 2017, when the Pacifica City Council called for a Special Election on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, and Submitting to the Electors of the City of Pacifica a proposed Ordinance entitled Pacifica Community Preservation, Rent Stabilization, and Renters’ Rights Act. The ballot measure would put to a community vote whether to extend the Temporary Moratorium on Rent Increases and Requires Just Cause for Tenant Evictions.

Question 7: Is it legal to put the owners P.O. Box address on the 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or move out? The owner wants the tenant to mail the late rent payment.
Answer 7: A mailing address that is a P.O. Box is fine, but the payment will be deemed made on the day it is postmarked, rather than received. The 3-Day to Pay or Quit must comply with CCP 1161, copied below in pertinent part.

Three days’ notice, in writing, requiring its payment, stating the amount which is due, the name, telephone number, and address of the person to whom the rent payment shall be made, and, if payment may be made personally, the usual days and hours that person will be available to receive the payment (provided that, if the address does not allow for personal delivery, then it shall be conclusively presumed that upon the mailing of any rent or notice to the owner by the tenant to the name and address provided, the notice or rent is deemed received by the owner on the date posted, if the tenant can show proof of mailing to the name and address provided by the owner), or the number of an account in a financial institution into which the rental payment may be made, and the name and street address of the institution (provided that the institution is located within five miles of the rental property), or if an electronic funds transfer procedure has been previously established, that payment may be made pursuant to that procedure, or possession of the property, shall have been served upon him or her and if there is a subtenant in actual occupation of the premises, also upon the subtenant. 

Question 8: I rented my single family home in May 2015 and the tenant vacated my house in end of Feb 2017 with a 30-day notice. The security deposit I had was $3,500 plus a $500 pet deposit totaling $4,000. I noticed several damages tenants made to my property – walls damaged with several nails, front and back storm door broken, ceiling fan’s wing broken, cleaning not done in garage and patio, garage door openers not returned and hard wood floor damaged in living room and their dog residues left in backyard and in trash cans.

My wife and I worked more than a week cleaning and repairing the damage. I made deductions for all damages (only 50% of estimation), deducted $1,800 and sent the remaining balance of $2,200 within 21 days to the tenants at the address they provided by certified mail. I recorded all damages by taking photos

After waiting nearly two months, the tenant demanded I refund the balance of $1,800 or they will go to small claims court. Also they did not cash out my checks for $2,200.00. Please advise me what options available to me in order to avoid possible law suit?
Answer 8: If you complied with the requirements of Civil Code Section 1950.5(f) (regarding notice of tenant’s right of inspection) and (g) regarding accounting for the deposit, and providing the tenants with receipts etc. showing costs incurred (all as detailed in that Section), it would seem you should be fine, even if the tenant does file a small claims case. Other than try to convince the former tenants that it would be a waste of everyone’s time to do so, there is not much you can to prevent the tenant from doing so. If the tenant does file, you might try to negotiate something that works for both of you, just to avoid the time value of preparing for and attending the hearing. But from your description, a small claims judge would likely find in your favor.

Question 9: How many days’ notice am I required to give for notice of a rental increase?
Answer 9: Pursuant to Civil Code Section 827, if the increase is 10 percent or less of the rental amount charged to that tenant at any time during the 12 months prior to the effective date of the increase, either in and of itself or when combined with any other rent increases for the 12 months prior to the effective date of the increase, the notice shall be delivered at least 30 days prior to the effective date of the increase, and add five days if served by mail. If over 10%, the notice period is 60 days (plus five if served by mail).

Question 10: I was told that I could use particular wording like “no extensions” on rent payments that are mailed.  The tenant argues that it is the date the rent is mailed that counts.
Answer 10: The rental agreement or lease must state the name and address of the person or entity to whom the tenant must make rent payments. If this address does not accept personal deliveries, the tenant can mail the rent payment to the owner at the stated name and address. If the tenant can show proof that he or she mailed the rent to the stated name and address (for example, a receipt for certified mail), the law assumes that the rent is receivable by the owner on the date of postmark.

The rental agreement or lease must specifically disclose:

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the authorized manager of the rental property and an owner (or an agent of the owner) who is authorized to receive legal notices for the owner. (This information can be posted conspicuously in the building instead of being disclosed in the rental agreement or lease.)
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the person or entity to whom rent payments must be made. If you may make your rent payment in person, the agreement or lease must state the usual days and hours that rent may be paid in person. Or, the document may state the name, street address, and account number of the financial institution where rent payments may be made (if it is within five miles of the unit) or information necessary to establish an electronic funds transfer for paying the rent.
  • The form in which rent payments must be made (for example, by check or money order).

 

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.