Question 1: An existing tenant had a dish antenna installed several years ago on the roof.
The building’s roof will soon be replaced (repaired) which will require the antenna’s removal. Who is responsible for the cost to re-install (re-calibration fee) the antenna? Answer 1: I think that responsibility would the property owner’s. I would have the tenant contact his provider and ask them what their policy in such situations is. If the provider will come out and recalibrate, that should be the end of the story.

If not, I would try to have that effort taken care of by the roofing company, but you may not have much luck there (unless it was pre-negotiated). But, at the ‘end of the day,’ it is likely the owner’s duty to put the dish back to its prior condition

Question 2: When a tenant vacates a unit and does not supply us with a forwarding address for the exit letter, we mail it to their last known address (the rental unit), with a request to forward. Traditionally, this has not worked for us, and we just receive it back at our office. Can we mail to the former tenant’s place of employment?
Answer 2:  I am not sure what communication you are referring to, but some materials (for example, the Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property required by Civil Code Section 1983 – see citation and excerpt below) are required to be sent to the best address known to reach the tenant, so sending a copy to the former tenant’s place of employment is may be a requirement. You should make sure there is nothing on the mailing that could provide any private or sensitive information to any person seeing the envelope.

CC 1983(c) The notice shall be personally delivered to the person to be notified or sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be notified at his or her last known address and, if there is reason to believe that the notice sent to that address will not be received by that person, also to any other address known to the landlord where the person may reasonably be expected to receive the notice.  If the notice is sent by mail to the former tenant, one copy shall be sent to the premises vacated by the tenant.  If the former tenant provided the landlord with the tenant’s email address, the landlord may also send the notice by email. 

Question 3: My San Francisco rent controlled tenant has an original lease signed 3/7/2013.There has been no rent increase since then. With proper notice, can I impose a rent increase of 10.2% (banked increases from March 1, 2013) effective 3/7/2018?
Answer 3: Assuming no other special facts, you are generally entitled to serve a banked rent increase for any year not previously increased. I have not reviewed your math so can’t confirm your addition, but if you use the rent board’s increase chart, and calculate accurately, and follow the rent board rent increase rules about explaining to the tenant in the notice what part of the increase is for the annual and what part is for banked, and properly serve the notice, you should be fine. But please note that any increase over 10% requires a 60 day notice of change of terms of tenancy.

Question 4:  We served a tenant a 60 day Notice of Termination of Tenancy on December 29th. Now, the tenant has found a new residence, and is leaving before the 60 days is up. Does he still need to give a 30 day notice to vacate?
Answer 4: The tenant is responsible for the rent either until the expiration of your 60 day notice, or until the tenant’s 30 day notice (if served on you) expires.

Question 5:  My tenants have asked to end their lease early and submitted a handwritten signed letter stating so. I have granted their request. Now they say they won’t leave early unless I agree, now, that I will return their security deposit in full. I have a lease which states that they may request a walk through no sooner than two weeks prior to vacating. My question, is their letter of early termination legally binding? What if I approve a renter to move in and they don’t leave as stated in their letter? The new renter would be out a place to live, I assume, having given their notice to their previous landlord. I have a single family home with an in-law on the side, which is where I live. I am not sure where I stand at the moment as far as rent control. They are asking for the early release because they are smoking marijuana in the house and on my property although they signed the lease and an additional addendum that clearly stated no smoking of any substance on the property. This has been a source of contention and neither of us are happy with the other. Thank you in advance.
Answer 5: Your situation presents one of the many hurdles for landlords under eviction control laws such as Measure EE in Oakland. While state law provides the owner the right to initiate an eviction action when the tenant gives written notice of termination of the tenancy but then fails then to actually move out, Measure EE does not list that situation as one of the ‘just cause’ grounds to evict. In other words, the tenant can give notice that they are moving out, and then simply not move out.

That puts the landlord in a very tough spot in terms of committing the unit to a new tenant with as little vacancy time as possible. The landlord has to condition any new rental agreement on the existing tenant actually vacating. That leaves the new tenant in limbo. Not a good place, and many such prospective tenants will simply look elsewhere for more certainty. I am not sure there is even a small claims remedy, as the existing tenant has the ‘right’ to revoke their termination notice, so there arguably would be no legal basis to hold them responsible for any impact on you or the prospective tenant.

As for the security deposit, if the tenants are that bad, and you want to do what you can to assure they will move out, then offering to refund their entire deposit WHEN they move out and hand over the keys may be worthwhile, after you conduct a pre-move out inspection to get a look at the place. Just because you return the deposit does not mean you may not seek later to hold them liable for damages and cleaning, but if they appear to have kept the place in good shape, it may be worth letting the security go just to insure they vacate as they state they will. But any agreement should be conditioned on the unit being returned clean and without any damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Question 6: What is a reasonable late fee and holdover fee?
Answer 6: Late fees in rental agreements are not set by statute, so any late fee provision has to be specifically negotiated prior to the lease or as a part of a change of terms. Below is the AOA lease provision regarding late fees.

A hold over rental rate may be whatever you believe to be reasonable, and is should be stated in the rental agreement. However, of course, if the tenancy is subject to ‘rent control, no higher rent may be imposed simply because the tenant’s lease expires and the tenant chooses to remain in possession and pay the last rental amount. In that case, as expressed above, a proper rent increase notice must be served

LATE CHARGE/FEES: The late charge amount noted above, not to exceed 6% of the monthly rent, shall be added to any payment of rent not made on the rental due date or for which a deficient (bounced) check shall have been given.  Tenant shall be liable for $25 each time a check is returned to OWNER because the check was dishonored.  A fee of $50.00 will be incurred each time the OWNER is required to serve a 3-Day Notice to Pay the Rent due to the Tenant’s failure to pay rent on the day rent is due.  RESIDENT acknowledges either late payment of rent or issuance of a returned check may cause OWNER to incur costs and expenses, the exact amounts of which are extremely difficult and impractical to determine. These costs may include, but are not limited to, processing, enforcement and accounting expenses, and late charges imposed on OWNER. RESIDENT and OWNER agree that these late charges represent a fair and reasonable estimate of the costs OWNER may incur by reason of RESIDENT’S late or non-sufficient funds check payment. Any late charge or bounced check fee shall be paid with the current installment of rent. OWNER’S acceptance of any late charge or NSF fee shall not constitute a waiver as to any default of RESIDENT. OWNER’S right to collect late charge or bounced check fee shall not be deemed an extension of the date rent is due under paragraph 2 or prevent OWNER from exercising any other rights and remedies under this Agreement or as provided by law.

Question 7: I have a rent-controlled property in Berkeley. Are landlords required to accept the City of Berkeley Shelter Plus Care Vouchers?
Answer 7: According to the person I spoke with at the City of Berkeley Shelter Plus Care Program (managed by the City’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) operated by Berkeley Food and Housing Project) the program is voluntary for landlords.

For more information contact the City of Berkeley Health, Housing & Community Services Department at (510) 981-5400.

Question 8: How many people would be considered the ‘normal’ allowed in a two-bedroom one bath apartment?
Answer 8: The ‘rule’ regarding the number of persons who may legally inhabit a unit are not set in stone by local state or federal authorities. The final determination is often the local building and housing code which mandates a minimum amount of floor space per adult person (minors may not count, at least in certain counties such as SF). However, the widely adopted informal ‘rule’ is “2 plus 1” which means 2 persons per bedroom plus one additional person.

Seeking to limit the number of occupants, such as by an ad in that regard, could be construed as discrimination based on family. If the applicants are a family, then denying them the tenancy based on number of occupants raises concerns about discrimination based on family size, which is not allowed. If they are not related, the lease may control how many people can occupy the unit as long as it is not discriminatory on its face (‘only one person may occupy’ would on its face prohibit families…).

Question 9: I have a San Jose duplex up for rent and was wondering how I should calculate the security deposit?
Answer 9: It does not matter if your unit is in San Jose or elsewhere in California. Pursuant to Civil Code 1950.5, a landlord may only charge up to twice the monthly rental amount if the unit is unfurnished, and three times that amount if furnished.

 

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 415-871-0070; email rbeckman@bfc-legal.com or by visiting the website www.bfc-legal.com.