Legal Corner

Escrow, Lease Renewal, CO2, Utilities

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Q: I just closed escrow on a small building and I’m trying to figure out who’s who. I received the rental agreements, but the tenant information seems incomplete. The applications, the few that I’ve found so far, are old and outdated. I can’t seem to find any telephone numbers for the residents, and I’m not real sure that the names on the agreements are the same people who actually live in the units. I’ve read your articles before and I know the importance of reviewing the files and doing thorough due diligence before closing escrow, but this deal just happened too fast. Now that I’ve closed escrow, what can I do to clean up the records?

A:
First things first; figure out what you know and what you don’t. Establish individual tenancy files, one per unit. Based on the limited information you have, write down the names and ages of the occupants, the terms of the rental agreement, written or oral, lease or month-to-month, rental rate, deposit on file, date paid through. Compile whatever contact information you have: home phone number, work and cell numbers. Design a “tenant emergency information sheet” that includes spaces for the following: names of all occupants, home and cell phone numbers for each occupant, work phone numbers, email addresses and detailed vehicle information.

Visit the building about dinner time, most residents will be home, and go door to door and meet briefly with the occupants of each apartment. Spend a few minutes confirming the information in your files and gathering any missing information. Ask the residents to complete the “tenant emergency information sheet” while you are there to use in case of emergency. You will find that the vast majority of your residents will cooperate fully and provide the requested information. Residents are generally eager to please, and since the relationship is still new, there should be no animosity or distrust.

This is also a good opportunity to find out the condition of each unit—simply ask the residents if there are any issues that need addressing as it is better to find out now and have an opportunity to address the needed issues than to allow conditions to worsen, and your relationship with the residents as well.

This is also an opportune time to prepare new month-to-month rental agreements for signatures. You don’t know the players yet, so you certainly don’t want to do fixed term leases. The few residents who are less than cooperative will be quickly identified as your “problem residents” and can be handled individually. Names and contact information of the uncooperative ones can generally be gathered from the other residents, or from public records. If the property is non-rent control, and a month-to-month tenancy, the rental rate and term can be set with either a 30- or a 60-day notice of change of terms, depending on the extent of the change.

Q: Some of my leases are coming up for renewal in the next few months. One of these leases is for a resident who has been a thorn in my side since the day he moved in. If I don’t want to renew him, do I need to provide him a reason? Also, do I need to serve any particular type of notice?

A:
Provided your property is not located in a rentor eviction-controlled area, then you do not have to provide a “reason” for non-renewal. Provided your desire is not based upon illegal dis crimination and is not in retaliation for the resident exercising a protected right, then you are free to “not renew” the lease. Generally, a fixed term lease expires on a certain day. Provided there is no language in the lease that “automatically” converts the lease to a month-to-month tenancy, then the resident is required to vacate on or before the lease expiration date. Neither the tenant nor the landlord is required to serve any prior notice. However, most industry lease agreements used by landlords include an auto matic conversion provision that states that the tenancy automatically converts to a month-to-month tenancy unless a written notice of termination was served by either the landlord or the tenant. In this event, a written notice of termination would have to be served to terminate the resident’s tenancy.

Q: I never got around to installing the CO (Carbon Monoxide) detectors in my apartments. I know it is required now, but just didn’t have the time to install. Any rush?

A:
Yes, a violation of the statute is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $200 per offense. Before a fine is levied, the property owner must receive a 30-day notice to comply. The greater risk is in the event a CO poisoning inside your apartments causes a death, or worse, severe brain damage in a child or other resident. Your failure to comply with the statute, negligence per se, will support a very large jury award against you. An intentional noncompliance with the statutory requirement can be very problematic for you and may actually provide grounds for your insurance carrier to deny your coverage. Best to get the required CO detectors installed as soon as possible.

Q: My new tenants just moved in a month and a half ago. The lease requires that the tenant pays for all utilities, and must put the utilities in their own name prior to moving in. Well, I just received the electric bill, and it’s still in my name. I’m thinking about not paying it, just letting it get shut off. Maybe when the lights go out, they’ll take care of it. Can I do that?

A:
No, you can’t let the utilities be shut off. Your tenant’s actions are a breach of the rental agreement and must be addressed in compliance with California law. You should immediately prepare and serve a Notice to Perform or Quit–Breach of Covenant Notice. The notice should identify the specific breaches: the failure to place the electric utility in their own name, and their failure to pay the utility charges incurred since taking possession. The notice should be specific as to how they must cure the breach; namely, they must put the utilities in their name, and reimburse you for the amount of utility charges that have been billed and incurred post tenancy.

Note that some jurisdictions may require that you include a statement identifying a witness who observed the breach, as well as the date and time of the breach. In such jurisdiction, you or your manager would suffice as the witness, and the breach would be considered “ongoing” as it continues to occur. In the event of non-compliance, you would be entitled to file an unlawful detainer action to recover possession of the premises. Rarely though is that necessary, as the vast majority of residents will immediately comply.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

Small Claims, Resident Mgr, Laws

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Q: One of my former tenants took me to small claims court over her security deposit. She claims that I was unreasonable in spending all of it, because she claims she had a cleaning crew come through the place before she moved out. Well, I don’t know if she used a cleaning crew or a wrecking crew, because the place was trashed. Anyway, the judge in the small claims court apparently liked her, and I guess I lost my temper at the hearing. When all the dust settled, the judge ordered me to pay her! Go figure. The little paper says that I have time to appeal this decision if I want to. I basically wanted to know what happens in the event of an appeal, and whether or not I could have a lawyer handle it.

A:
A small claims appeal is a “trial de novo;” that is, the appellate hearing will be a “new trial.” You, as the Defendant, essentially get another chance to prove your case. By and large, the structure of the proceeding is essentially the same. However, on a small claims appeal, as opposed to the initial small claims proceeding, you may have an attorney represent you. In your situation, if you’re afraid that you might lose your temper again, call a lawyer who will talk about the case with you. Of course, there are times when it’s simply more cost effective to “go it alone,” when the amount you’re fighting over is less than the cost of retaining counsel. If this is the case for you, and you really feel that you were not treated fairly in the small claims court, then appeal the decision. Just remember to take a deep breath out in the hallway.

Q: I am a resident manager of a 16-unit complex. I received a telephone call from a person wanting to rent a unit in our small complex. I asked the prospective tenant if she had any children. She got offended and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I could not ask that question. I replied by thanking her for her criticism and hung up the telephone. Is the prospective tenant correct that I cannot ask if she has any children?

A:
Yes. Rather than ask how many children will reside in the unit, a more relevant question would be to ask how many occupants would reside in the unit. Most acts of discrimination in rental housing occur during the resident screening process. For this reason, it is prudent to put your screening procedures in writing and to adhere to them strictly and impartially. All rental units must be available to families with children. Furthermore, rules designed to discourage families from applying to rent may lead to the filing of discrimination complaints. Minimize the pre-screening over the telephone; you never know if the caller is truly a prospective applicant or just a tester from Fair Housing hoping that you will say something actionable.

Q: A young couple responded to a recent advertisement for a two-bedroom apartment. The couple came over to the property and like always, I show everyone the very same unit. I really didn’t think these kids would fit in with my more mature residents, so I told them about the big mega apartment complex down the street. I have recently attended a property management training class put on by the local apartment association and I was told that my conduct was discriminatory. I was looking at the interest of the applicants; I truly didn’t think they would enjoy themselves. Was my conduct in violation of the anti-discriminatory laws?

A:
Yes. You cannot “steer” certain prospective residents to another complex that you think they’d like better. Do not attempt to discourage prospective residents by saying, “You wouldn’t like it here—it’s too noisy” or “there are mostly adults living here, so your children wouldn’t have anyone to play with.” Additionally, be truthful about vacancies. Don’t say that there are no units available when, in fact, there are units available. Clearly, this also applies to the sizes and types of units available. Don’t pretend that there are no two bedroom units available, or no units with other desirable features, if there actually are. Don’t deliberately show certain prospective residents the least desirable vacancies on the property. The key is fairness—it is illegal to show only the units that are dirty, damaged or otherwise unattractive to certain prospective residents, while showing clean, attractive units to others.

Q: I just sent out my annual rent increases to all of my residents. Because times are tough, I delayed sending them out, and I kept the increases minimal. Well, I just got home, checked my messages, and got an earful from one of my more “vocal” residents. She claims that I was retaliating against her, and that the rent increase notice was not valid. Says that she won’t pay it, and that I violated the law by even giving it to her. Something about her deducting $6.50 from her rent three or four months ago for a leaky faucet. I remember that she shorted the rent, but I didn’t really mind, she took care of the dripping faucet herself. What does this mean; what is “retaliation?” Did I do something illegal by serving my annual rent increase notice?

A:
No. Although there are strong protections in place for certain tenant conduct, your resident is confused. A landlord cannot punish a tenant for exercising a “legal right.” The law offers tenants certain protections from retaliatory evictions and retaliatory acts. California law will infer that a landlord has a retaliatory motive if he seeks to evict the tenant or take other retaliatory action within six months after the tenant has exercised certain pro tected rights, including using the repair and deduct remedy, com plaining about the condition of the unit to a public agency, after giving the landlord notice, or after filing a lawsuit based upon the condition of the unit. The tenant must prove that she exercised one of these rights, in the past six months, and that her rent is current.

The landlord may counter the tenant’s claims of retaliatory conduct by establishing that he did not have a retaliatory motive. If the landlord’s actions were based on a valid reason, and not in response to the tenant’s exercise of a protected right, then a court would find that the landlord did not retaliate. If your annual rent increase was consistent with past practices, didn’t solely target this individual tenant, was based upon objective business reasons, and was not meant to “punish” this resident, then your rent increase would most likely not be deemed retaliatory.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

Satellite Dishes, Drop Box, Dogs

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Q. I can’t take it anymore, every time I visit my building, there is another satellite dish bolted to my facia or attached to the roof. It’s not just the satellite dish folks; I’m having the same problem with the cable guys. They spread cable all over my brand-new roof, leave nails and screws scattered all around, and certainly are causing premature wear to the roof by all of their activities up there and, of course, all without my permission. No one should be on my roof! What do I do?

A.
The problem you describe is one that owners have been facing for years. Often it is the tenants who are the cause of the improper installation, but recently we’ve noticed the problems are more often caused by the actual dish or cable provider, by one of their subcontractors or employees. The trans gres sions are many; certainly, the installation by attaching the dish to your building facia or structure, and the stringing of cable on your roof is neither permitted by the rental agreement, nor by law.

More importantly, the entry upon your roof without your permission is an illegal trespass. The damage caused to your roof by directly attaching the dish to facia, or by the scattered nails and other debris working their way into the roofing material causing the roof membrane to leak are certainly unacceptable and are actionable. Don’t be surprised when your roofing contractor seeks to void his warranty due to your failure to prevent persons from abusing the roof, the lack of maintenance by allowing nails, screws and debris to remain on the roof, and the intentional penetrations of the roof membrane by the installers.

Enforcing the terms of the agreement against the tenant is, of course, the obvious choice, but not necessarily the best. In strong rental markets, a notice of default could be served on the tenant requiring the tenant to correct the problem, and if he failed to do so, evict him. Once evicted, the replacement tenant then moves in, calls the dish or cable guys, and the exact same problem happens again, deja vu. Problem solved? No.

In the current rental market, owners want to solve the problem, keep it from re-occurring, and yet maintain the tenancy if at all possible. The best solution in today’s market, assuming the installation was not done by the resident, is to put the resident on notice of the breach, and with the tenant’s cooperation, demand that the dish or cable installer correct the problem, and repair any damage done to the roof. A written demand should be served upon the dish or cable provider, as well as the installer, that you intend to pursue them civilly and will seek damages for their trespass on to your property, the roof, for recovery of the damages you have suffered and will suffer due to the damage to the roof and facia, and for further damages due to their “unfair business practices” of engaging in illegal activity, trespassing and causing damage to property. Provide them a reasonable amount of time (ten days) to contact you to make arrangements to remove the offending equipment and to repair any damage done to your roof. Upon receipt of your letter, or your attorney’s letter, the provider will certainly prefer to correct the situation and will certainly not repeat the transgression on your property.

Q. I’ve been thinking of installing a drop box somewhere on my property so that the residents can put their rent checks in it. I’m thinking I’ll save them a stamp and get the rents sooner. Any problem with doing this?

A.
Many landlords do exactly that, most with absolutely no problems whatsoever. If you are considering the practice, it is very important to install a secure box that cannot be removed or broken into and provide your residents with written procedures regarding the use of the drop box. Specifically, inform the residents that use of the box is optional; that they may use it for their convenience, but that there always is a risk of loss or theft. Rent will not be considered paid until you actually receive their check. And of course, never deposit cash.

Also provide the residents with a physical address where they can personally deliver the rent, not a PO Box, if they prefer not to deposit the rent into the drop box. By not requiring the use of the drop box, the resident will bear the risk of loss, until you actually receive the rent. If you mandate the use of a drop box, and fail to provide a physical address for payment, or require payment to be made to a PO Box, courts will find that the risk of loss transfers to you upon their placement in the drop box, or in the mail.

Q. Most of my rental units are large and many have an enclosed yard. I think that tenants with dogs tend to stay longer because not many buildings accept pets, so I allow my tenants to have pets. I recently received a letter from a resident complaining that another resident’s dog growled and seemed to lunge at her poodle. Now, I like dogs, not necessarily poodles, nervous little creatures, I think that the poodle probably started it, but I don’t know for sure. Anyway, no harm done, no bites, no blood - should I be concerned?

A.
Yes. Although you are not the owner of the dog and would not directly be responsible for any injuries that may result from a vicious dog attack, you may be held responsible based upon the theory that you, as a landowner, allowed a dangerous condition, the vicious dog, to remain on your premises. Once you are on notice of any dangerous propensity, either a bite or even an aggressive growl, you must take action to eliminate the threat of injury. Many juries will extend liability beyond the dog’s owner to the landlord if the landlord knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities yet took no action to eliminate the danger.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

Maintenance Issues, Repairs, Commercial

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Q: I am a very conscientious landlord. I want to ensure that my rentals are well maintained and that any maintenance issues are addressed immediately. Every year, I send a notice to my residents informing them that I will inspect each unit. I have been doing this for years without any problems. This month I received a letter from one of my tenants telling me that I had no right to enter his apartment to look around, that he would not let me in. What do I do? Can I force my way in to do the inspection?

A:
Your policy of doing annual inspections is admirable, and is practiced by responsible landlords throughout California. Most tenants welcome a responsible landlord's actions in ensuring that all is well, and voluntarily cooperate in providing access upon the landlord's reasonable request. It is clearly in the best interest of all to ensure that any maintenance issues are promptly addressed, and that a spirit of communication and co-operation exists between a landlord and his residents.

Trouble is, your resident is right. There is no specific provision in California law requiring a resident to allow the landlord access to merely "inspect" the premises. California law states that a landlord can enter a rental unit only for certain reasons. Those reasons are in an emergency; when the tenant has moved out or abandoned the premises; to make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or other improvements; to show the unit to prospective purchasers, tenants or lenders~ to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit; or to conduct a pre-move out inspection at the end of the tenancy; pursuant to court order; or to inspect the smoke detector or inspect the installation of a waterbed. Conspicuously absent from t his body of law is the unfettered right of a :landlord to just inspect for the pure sake of just making sure everything is all right. You cannot force your tenant to allow access for the purpose of inspection.

Q: My tenants and I seem to be able to work out our differences quite easily, but there are times while we disagree as to just who is responsible for making certain repairs to the apartment. Can you give me some guidelines that will help me decide if the repairs are my responsibility or the responsibility of the tenant?

A:
Residential rental units must be "habitable." In legal terms, "habitable" means the rental unit is fit for persons to live in and that it substantially complies with stale and local building and health codes that materially affect a tenant's health and safety. The law makes both landlords and tenants responsible for certain repairs, but you are ultimately responsible to ensure the unit is habitab1e. You are not responsible under the "implied warranty of habitability" for repairing damage caused by the tenant, his guests or his pets. You are responsible to take care of the habitability items, but your rental agreement can determine who takes care of the minor repairs. California law lists several items that are required to maintain a habitable unit these are effective water proofing and weather protection, including unbroken windows and doors; plumbing in good working order, including hot and cold running water connected to a sewage disposal system; gas facilities, healing, and electrical in good working order; clean and sanitary buildings and grounds; adequate trash receptacles; floors, stairways and railings in good repair. Additionally, each rental unit must have a working toilet, washbasin and a bathtub or shower, operable dead bolts on the main entry doors, window locks, and smoke detectors. A landlord is also responsible for the installation and maintenance of the inside wiring for one telephone jack.

Tenants must take reasonable care of the rental unit and the common areas. Tenants are responsible for repair of all damage resulting from their neglect, abuse or acts by their family, guests or pets. Tenants must do all of the following: keep the premises "clean and sanitary;" use and operate gas, electrical and plumbing fixtures properly; dispose of trash and garbage properly; not destroy, damage or deface t he property; not remove any part of the structure, dwelling, facilities or equipment; must use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for their intended purpose; and notify the landlord when dead bolts and window locks don't operate properly.

Q: Most of my rental properties are residential multifamily, but I have one small retail strip center in Los Angeles that I own as well. I've never had a problem with my commercial tenants, but I have one who hasn't paid rent this month. Can I use the same three-day notice to pay rent or quit that I use for my residential properties?

A:
Commercial and residential landlord tenant laws differ in many ways. One major difference between the two is the ability to accept partial rent payments after service of a notice to pay rent or quit for a commercial property, and not for a residential property. Provided the necessary language is included in the commercial notice, you may accept a partial payment without waiving your notice, and may proceed with an unlawful detainer action without having to reserve a new notice.

For that reason, an commercial notices to pay rent or quit should contain language stating that in the event a partial payment is made. it will not act as a waiver of your right to commence an unlawful detainer action. If you have served a notice that does not contain the proper language, and your tenant tenders a partial payment, you may immediately provide the tenant with a letter acknowledging the partial payment, but also stating that the partial payment will not act as a waiver of your right to proceed with an unlawful detainer action. Other than that, review the cure periods stated in the default portion of your lease. Typically, the cure period for non-payment of rent or other monetary sums due is three days. Failure to provide proof of insurance is typically three days as well. Most commercial leases will allow ten or 30 days to cure a non-monetary breach. Ensure that the forms that you intend to use are consistent with the terms you have negotiated in your lease agreement, as the terms of your lease will control.

Q: I have a tenant who just skipped out last weekend. He's been behind in his rent, but I was working with him and he was catching up. I got an email this morning from him confirming that he was out, and he said he left the keys in the twit. Guess rm kind of glad he's gone so I won't have to go through the eviction process. But now what? He's only six months into a one-year lease, and I don't have any prospects. What is my next step?

A:
First thing is to confirm he's out, pick up the keys and change the locks. Document the condition the unit was left in by taking several pictures of the premises. If there is damage, take detailed pictures of the damage. You will need to provide an accounting of his security deposit within 21 days if the property is residential, 30 days if it is commercial.

Now that you have possession of the premises, you have an obligation to mitigate your damages; that is, to attempt to re-let to minimize the loss that you are sure to incur. Ensure that you maintain a log and document your actions in attempting to re-let the premises. If you retain the services of a broker, ensure that he or she does the same. Your former tenant is responsible for the remaining term of the lease as wen as any costs that you will incur in re-letting the unit. These additional costs might include advertising fees, signage, broker's commissions, tenant improvements for the replacement tenant, and the difference in rent for the remainder of the term in the event the replacement rent schedule is less than your existing rent schedule.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

Rent Due, Commercial Leases, Troubled Former Tenants

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Q: Is it true that even though my rental agreement says rent is due on the first, there are times when the due date actually slips a day or two?

A:
Yes, when the first of the month falls on a weekend or a holiday, the actual “due” date will slip to the next business day. Just last month, in September, the first fell on a Saturday. Since the first was a weekend and the following Monday was Labor Day, the rent due date rolled until the next business day, Tuesday, September 4. This means that rent that was normally due on the first, was actually “due” on Tuesday, September 4, and would be considered late on September 5. This is important to know because in the event you served a three-day notice to pay rent or quit demanding September rent prior to Wednesday, September 5, 2018, then the notice was defective, as it was served prior to the rent actually being “late.”

Q: I am about to enter into a five-year term lease for an industrial unit in Southern California. The unit has been vacant several months and I don’t want to lose this deal as it seems like good tenants are kind of few and far between lately. We’ve agreed on just about all of the deal points except a couple. At the last minute the tenant requested the lease be prepared with a subsidiary of his company rather than the parent company, saying it is for “tax reasons.” Additionally, he wants to make the use provision extremely broad rather than specific, allowing him to do just about anything in the premises without having to get my permission. He knows I need to lease the space, but I’m not sure I want to give in on these points. What are my options?

A:
Negotiating commercial leases involves a bit of horse trading. Often, terms that are very important to your tenant may not be so important to you, and vice versa. Knowing the pros and cons of each deal point allows you to knowingly accept or reject certain risks when considering certain requests.

Generally, parties meet somewhere in the middle of a request, allowing certain concessions, but protecting the interests of the Lessor. The tenant’s last-minute request to substitute a subsidiary in its stead is an attempt to shift the risk away from the financially stable parent company, and obligate a less financially qualified entity, often times a mere shell, with relatively few assets.

Screen the proposed replacement tenant as you would any proposed tenant to determine if it meets your rental criteria. Is it an existing concern or a new entity recently formed solely for the purpose of signing this lease? Is it an independent business concern generating its own revenue stream? With its own assets? Or merely a subsidiary of the parent with no independent means of sustainability. There are many options to offer that would allow the tenant to satisfy his “tax reason” while still protecting the Lessor’s interests. You may allow the replacement tenant, but require the parent company to guaranty the lease. The guaranty can range from an unconditional full-term guaranty to a limited guaranty based either on a certain period of time, or a certain maximum exposure. An increased security deposit adds protection as well. Options such as an irrevocable declining letter of credit issued by a reputable financial institution allow parties to salvage deals that might otherwise fail.

Use provisions are important for a number of reasons. It is important that the tenant’s use does not overburden the facility, or interfere with the neighbors. Certain unacceptable tenant uses may involve high levels of noise, or the use of corrosive or carcinogenic materials, or other toxic byproducts. As your facility is an industrial complex, parking is no doubt limited. It is important that the approved uses do not over-burden the limited available parking. Rather than approving a very broad undefined use, it is better to identify the allowed use, but allow the tenant to request approval for a change of use in the event its operations change in the future.

Q: I’ve been reviewing my tenancy files and realize that most of the information is outdated. The phone numbers, job info and vehicle information is all from when the tenants first moved in, some many years ago. I’m not even sure who lives in each unit, as many have changed roommates. What is the best way to correct this mess?

A:
Many landlords find themselves in exactly your situation. As you surely realize it is very important to actively manage your units and keep your records up to date. It is good business practice to update resident contact information at least once a year. Rather than just circulate a blank rental application and ask your residents to complete it, prepare a specific request for specific information that you’d like from your residents. The type of information you should have, and maintain current is a list of all occupants, email and telephone contact information for each, and both evening and day phone numbers for every occupant. Periodically make photocopies of your tenants rent checks to gather bank account information for your files in the event you ever need to collect from them. Note license plate numbers for vehicles and keep abreast of changes in employment throughout the tenancy, as best you can.

Q: I was recently called by another landlord requesting reference information on one of my past residents. This particular resident was a genuine pain in the rear, and the day she moved was one of the happiest days of my life. I also know that this particular ex-tenant is no stranger to the courthouse. She seems to have her own personal lawyer with way too much time on his hands, who likes to sue anyone and everyone she has a bad experience with. Now that she’s gone, I really don’t want to have anything to do with her ever again. I am afraid that if I say anything against the tenant, and the new landlord rejects her, then she might sue me. If I give her a glowing recommendation, and the new landlord relies upon my statements, what happens when he finds out the truth, that she really is the tenant from hell?

A:
A former landlord who is asked to provide a reference for an ex-tenant must be careful to provide accurate and truthful information. If a former landlord misleadingly gives a good recommendation about a problem tenant, the landlord may be liable to the new landlord who relies on the information and is damaged. It is the policy of many landlords to not respond to subjective inquiries; that is, questions such as “Was she a good tenant?” or “Would you rent to her again?” Many landlords enact policies to provide neither good nor bad references, and only confirm specific objective information such as rental rate, and dates of occupancy.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

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