Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers
Ted Kimball, Esq. August, 2014
Question: My tenant claims that since she moved out on day three of the 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, she is not responsible for any rent. Is that true?
That is false. Your tenant cannot “benefit from her breach.” She is still responsible for the remainder of her lease term or until you re-rent the property, whichever occurs first.
Question: I have three roommates on a lease. One of them moved out. Do I have to refund his portion of the security deposit?
No. The security deposit remains with the apartment. You do not need to provide the security deposit accounting until everyone vacates. You then have 21 days to do so.
Question: One of my resident passed away over the weekend. What happens to the lease now?
If the resident was on a lease, his estate is still liable for the rent until that lease expires or until relet, whichever occurs first. If it was a month-to-month tenancy, then the lease is terminated as of the end of the period last paid for by the tenant.
Question: The guest of one of my residents broke the window of the unit. Our lease states that residents are responsible for damages caused by them and/or their guests. The resident is refusing to pay and said she is not responsible as the damage was caused by her friend. The resident is adamant that I must first attempt to sue/collect against the friend (who I do not have any contact information for) before I can try to come after the resident directly. Is that correct?
The resident is responsible for the conduct of their guests. There is no legal requirement to try to locate or sue the “friend” first.
Question: I rented a unit and forgot to have the resident sign a lease. The resident moved in a pet cat without my consent. I never explicitly told the resident “no pets” but I do not want any pets in the building. What can I do?
Without a written lease which included a “no pet” provision, you cannot immediately require the pet’s removal. However, if the oral tenancy is month-to-month, you can serve a 30-Day Notice of Change of Terms of Tenancy to institute a “no pet” provision. (Note: Many local rent control or other ordinances may prohibit unilateral changes to the tenancy and may restrict a landlord’s ability to pursue this option.)
Question: Can I post a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit on the door of the apartment without knocking first? I would rather avoid seeing the tenant face-to-face?
California Code of Civil Procedure §1162 requires an attempt of personal service at the residence (or place of business, if known) before resorting to alternate methods of service. You should therefore, always knock on the main entry door at the unit before posting and mailing a copy.
Question: If I miss sending a security deposit disposition with 21 days as required by law, must I return the entire deposit rather than deduct amounts owed such as outstanding rent?
The law is silent on this point. As a result, some judges do and some judges do not allow the landlord to make a deduction from the deposit if not property accounted for in accordance with California law. However, this does not mean that the damages to the unit, necessary cleaning and unpaid rent are not owed. In any event, the landlord can pursue any monetary claims they have against the former tenant in small claims court notwithstanding they failed to properly account for the use of the deposit.
Question: I served a 60-Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy last month, now the tenant has not paid rent for this month. Can I serve a 3-Day Pay Rent or Quit without invalidating my 60-Day?
Yes, so long as you do not ask for rent that goes beyond the 60-day notice period.
Question: The resident claims there’s mold in his apartment but now won’t let my maintenance person in to inspect for or make repairs. What can I do?
You can serve the resident with a Notice to Perform Conditions and/or Quit requiring them to provide reasonable dates and times for the entry. If they fail to comply, you can commence an action for unlawful detainer (eviction) and apply for a court order allowing you access to the unit to make necessary repairs before possession of the unit is returned.