Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by Attorney Richard Beckman.
Question 1: Did Oakland pass some sort of rent registration rule lately? What happens if I fail to comply?
Answer 1: Yes, as reported in last month’s edition of this column, that new rule took effect as of July 3rd, and failure to comply will, in addition to incurring financial penalties for late filing, prevent the owner from successfully bringing an unlawful detainer action for any reason other than removal of the unit under the Ellis Act provision. If the owner “failed to substantially comply” with the registration requirement, the tenant can assert that failure as a complete defense to an eviction effort. Information regarding registration, and related FAQs, may be found at the rent board website: https://www.oaklandca.gov/resources/rent-registration-in-oakland-information-and-faqs
Question 2: Are tenants required to provide proof to the property owner that their income was reduced because of Covid-19?
Answer 2: Your question relates to Oakland, so this response is confined to Oakland tenancies subject to the RAP provision of the local rent/eviction control ordinances. There is a new informational packet from the city of Oakland that provides guidance to the tenant, which explains that the tenant is not “required” to provide proof of Covid-19 impact in advance or even on request, but it is a defense to an eviction based on nonpayment of rent. Under Oakland’s Emergency Ordinance, as the rent board information packet states, a ‘property owner cannot require a tenant to provide advance proof that their income is reduced because of Covid-19. Tenants should retain proof and may need to provide this information during a court case if the property owner files an unlawful detainer lawsuit. The RAP encourages property owners and tenants to work together during the moratorium and afterward.’
Thus, this allows a tenant to not provide the documentation that could prevent an unlawful detainer until after an unlawful detainer is filed. Moreover, starting July 15, 2023, there will be new language and form that has to be included.
“As of July 15, 2023, any notice demanding rent or late fees that accrued between March 9, 2020, and July 14, 2023, must be served together with a form developed by the Rent Adjustment Program that, amongst other things, allows the tenant to indicate that the financial hardship defense applies; and it must include the following statement in bold underlined 12-point font: “If you were unable to pay the rent or other fees demanded in this notice due to a substantial reduction in household income or substantial increase in expenses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, you may raise this as a defense to any eviction action based on this notice.”
Question 3: We have a SF duplex, and one of the tenants is buying an electric vehicle and he expects us to put in a charging station, stating we will get a tax credit. We don’t care about a tax credit. The building was built in 1897 and we have electrical concerns. And we informed him of this. He bought the car anyway. Owner requested the tenant buy additional insurance, which he did not. Are there rules or guidelines for this charging situation? He is now plugging his car into the regular house meter.
Answer 3: Your tenant almost certainly may not compel you to install or provide a charger for the new EV, based on the rules set out below. The ‘right’ of a residential tenant to obligate the owner to allow or provide an electric vehicle charging outlet is covered in detail by state law, Civil Code Section 1947.6. “For any lease executed, extended, or renewed on and after July 1, 2015, a lessor of a dwelling shall approve a written request of a lessee to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted for the lessee that meets the requirements of this section and complies with the lessor’s procedural approval process for modification to the property.”
However, this requirement does not apply to residential rental properties where:
- EV vehicle charging stations already exist for lessees in a ratio that is equal to or greater than 10 percent of the designated parking spaces.
- Parking is not provided as part of the lease agreement;
- There are fewer than five parking spaces.
- Where the dwelling is subject to both a residential rent control ordinance and an ordinance, adopted on or before January 1, 2018, that requires the lessor to approve a lessee’s written request to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted to the lessee. (However, my research did not disclose such a SF ordinance, making this exemption inapplicable).
There are other provisions that the owner should be aware of, but for purposes of this response, I would note the following, which place significant burdens on a tenant who wants to install a charging station in the rental building:
(g) A lessee’s written request to make a modification to the property in order to install and use an electric vehicle charging station shall include, but is not limited to, the lessee’s consent to enter into a written agreement that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
(1) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the installation, use, maintenance, and removal of the charging station and installation, use, and maintenance of the infrastructure for the charging station.
(2) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the lessee to provide a complete financial analysis and scope of work regarding the installation of the charging station and its infrastructure.
(3) A written description of how, when, and where the modifications and improvements to the property are proposed to be made consistent with those items specified in the “Permitting Checklist” of the “Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook” published by the Office of Planning and Research.
(4) Obligation of the lessee to pay the lessor all costs associated with the lessor’s installation of the charging station and its infrastructure prior to any modification or improvement being made to the leased property. The costs associated with modifications and improvements shall include, but are not limited to, the cost of permits, supervision, construction, and, solely if required by the contractor, consistent with its past performance of work for the lessor, performance bonds.
(5) Obligation of the lessee to pay as part of rent for the costs associated with the electrical usage of the charging station, and cost for damage, maintenance, repair, removal, and replacement of the charging station, and modifications or improvements made to the property associated with the charging station.
(h) The lessee and each successor lessee shall obtain personal liability coverage, as described in Section 108 of the Insurance Code, in an amount not to exceed 10 times the annual rent changed for the dwelling, covering property damage and personal injury proximately caused by the installation or operation of the electric vehicle charging station. The policy shall be maintained in full force and effect from the time of installation of the electric vehicle charging station until the electric vehicle charging station is removed or the lessee forfeits possession of the dwelling to the lessor.
(i) Notwithstanding subdivision (h), no insurance shall be required of a lessee installing an electric vehicle charging station if both of the following are satisfied:
(1) The electric vehicle charging station has been certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory that is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor.
(2) The electric vehicle charging station and any associated alterations to the dwelling’s electrical system are performed by a licensed electrician.
Question 4: My mother in-law, the owner of a single-family house in Oakland, has passed away. Her house has been rented for the past three years to a Section 8 tenant. The estate is going to sell ASAP. What notice to vacate is legally required? What steps are required to enforce the tenant to vacate?
Answer 4: If the property is subject to the Oakland ‘just cause’ ordinance (Measure EE, OMC 8-22-300 etc), which covers such properties if built before January 1, 1996, selling the home is not one of the reasons that allow for termination of the tenancy. Other than a ‘buyout’, or resorting to the “Ellis Act’, the estate would likely sell the home with the tenant included. Both the buyout and Ellis Act options come with regulations that must be complied with prior to initiating any effort to affect the tenancy.
Question 5: We have read the state of California no longer allows landlords to deduct carpet cleaning from Security Deposits at the time of move out. This is now considered ‘normal wear and tear’. Have you heard this? If this is the case, I am surprised AOA hasn’t distributed this information to the members.
Answer 5: I’m not aware of any such law, so if you have some referral to that law, I would appreciate seeing it. Generally, carpet cleaning comes under the standard security deposit rules, which states that the tenant is responsible for “cleaning of the premises upon termination of the tenancy necessary to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy” and should leave the unit in the same condition they found it, minus ordinary wear and tear. The application of that rule can itself lead to confusion. For example, can a landlord require a tenant to steam clean the carpet before moving out, if it had been steam cleaned prior to the tenancy, and/or the lease requires it? I don’t believe there’s any reported case that deals with that issue.
Thus, that would be up to a small claims judge if the landlord and the tenant cannot resolve that particular dispute otherwise. If I were arguing that issue, for the tenant, I would argue that even though it’s required by the lease, certain lease provisions are unenforceable. For example, if the lease required the tenant to repaint the entire apartment at the tenant’s expense, regardless of its condition, which would be, in my opinion, a completely unenforceable lease provision. While the steam cleaning provision isn’t quite so draconian, I could argue that it falls under the same category of requiring the tenant to do more than the law requires.
Question 6: The tenant in possession is on Section 8 and has not been paying her portion of the rent since May. Can we evict on a 3-day to pay or quit? Or is the process different for a Section 8 tenant?
Answer 6: While Section 8 tenancies have some additional rules related to eviction efforts, the tenants are generally subject to the same obligation to pay their share of the rent as non-Section 8 tenants, and a three-day notice to pay or quit is an appropriate option.
Question 7: This is a 1-bedroom l bath duplex located in Pittsburg, CA. The lease is for two people only and I had been advised in the past that there were additional people living in the unit. Of course, upon inspection, all was tidy with denial of additional tenants. However, now again there have been complaints about two additional men and one child in the unit and perhaps using the garage as a bedroom. I am very concerned, but I don’t know how to go about proving the additional persons living there. Can you give me any advice? Living in the garage is very dangerous and they clean up when I make an appointment for inspections.
Answer 7: It can be tricky trying to establish a lease violation of unapproved subletting, as you are discovering. If there are other units in the building, your other tenants could offer evidence, if they were willing to be involved (which many will not, unless the extra occupants are a bother to them). Another option is a camera that does not intrude on any tenant’s privacy, but can provide a record of who comes and goes, which may be sufficient deterrence to the tenants having extra occupants just by its presence. It can also provide evidence of such extra occupants. If there is sufficient evidence, it may require a three-day notice to cure the alleged violation and let the unlawful detainer process and the right to ‘discovery’ provide a final determination of the issue.
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 510-548-7474; email [email protected] or by visiting the website www.bfc-legal.com.