Listed below are several questions and answers to problems that renters often confront. It is important to understand that the information provided here is made available to educate San Diego tenants using some common questions I regularly encounter. Every situation is unique, and what may be the right solution for some will not be right for others. For this reason, I encourage every tenant that is struggling through a dispute with his or her landlord to seek out and speak with an attorney that specializes in landlord tenant law, and can give you the specific attention your case deserves.
A: Start by demanding repairs in writing from the property manager or landlord. If the landlord does not fix the problem, contact the City’s Code Enforcement Division at (619) 236-5500. An inspector should arrange for an inspection, after which the city should send a notice of violations to the landlord with a deadline for repairs to be completed. Landlords who do not comply with the City’s notice are asking for trouble. Not only can the city fine these landlords, but tenants can sue for breach of the warranty of habitability.
There is also a state law, Civil Code 1942.4, which makes it illegal for the landlord to continue collecting rent where certain conditions remain unabated for more than 35 days after the landlord is cited by a city inspector.
A: The landlord can only enter your home under certain circumstances. A landlord can enter to deal with an emergency (e.g., if a pipe bursts). The landlord can also enter, after providing 24 hours written notice, to make repairs or show the apartment. See Civil Code Section 1954 for more details. If your landlord insists on entering over your objection in violation of these rules, you can call the police.
A: In San Diego, if you have lived within the City limits for more than 2 years at the same residence, then your landlord must provide a reason why he or she is terminating your tenancy. Click here to see an explanation of the San Diego Tenants’ Right to Know City Ordinance. There are number of reasons why a landlord is permitted to terminate a tenancy under the statute, however, the notice must include one of these permitted reasons.
If you are a tenant who lives outside of the City of San Diego, or if you have lived within San Diego for less than a year, you may still protected against arbitrary eviction. California State law requires landlords to have good cause to evict most tenants who have lived in there homes for more than a year (Civil Code §1946.2).
The Just Cause protections do not apply to all landlords, however, so it is important to speak with an attorney if you have received a notice to terminate. Click here to learn more about Just Cause Protections.
The rules are different for Section 8 and other subsidized tenancies. Most subsidized leases include protections against arbitrary terminations, but each program differs.
A: No. Verbal eviction notice is invalid in California. Until you receive a written notice to terminate your tenancy that complies with California law, you do not need to move in response to the landlord’s verbal demands.
A: Not if you are within the term of a fixed-term rental agreement. In other words, if you are six months into a one-year agreement that specifies a $700 rent, the landlord cannot raise the rent until the agreement expires.
If you are a month-to-month tenant, then most landlords can only raise your rent by a certain percentage each year in California (see Civil Code §1947.12). The amount of rent increase allowed will depend upon the rent you are already paying and the amount of inflation within the geographic area you live in during the preceiding year.
Just like the Just Cause protections, caps on rent increases do not apply to all landlords and all properties. So, if your rent is increased it is important that you speak with a lawyer before agreeing to pay the increase.
If the increase is given in retaliation for a tenant exercising his or her rights, then it is also invalid.
The landlord must still provide 30 days’ advance written notice of the rent increase, or 60 days’ notice if the rent increase is more than 10%.
The rules are different for Section 8 and other subsidized tenancies.
A: No. If the bank wants you to move out, it will need to serve a written notice telling you to move out. In most cases, the new owner has to give you a 90-day termination notice, and if you have a rental agreement for a fixed term, like a one-year lease, you may be able to stay until it expires. There are some exceptions. If you entered into the lease knowing that the property was already in the process of being foreclosed, or if you pay a rate of rent that is substantially below what would be a normal market rate, then the bank may argue to the court that you are not a “bona fide” tenant under the federal statute and may try to terminate you with a notice that is less than 90 days.
A: The landlord is required to return the deposit, or document legitimate deductions, within 21 days after the tenant vacates. The landlord can deduct for unpaid rent, costs to repair damages caused by tenant or tenants’ guests, cleaning of the unit to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy and other limited bases. Click here for more info on security deposit law under Civil Code 1950.5. The landlord cannot deduct for ordinary wear and tear. If your landlord fails to return the deposit, write a letter to the landlord demanding the deposit back. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can sue. The landlord may be liable not just for the amount of the deposit but for up to two times the amount of the deposit as a penalty for withholding the deposit in bad faith. Usually, security deposit cases are filed in small claims court where you can seek up to $7,500.
A: The California Department of Consumer Affairs has tenant rights information on its Web site, www.dca.ca.gov. Nolo Press puts out a book called California Tenants’ Rights. Tenants Together provides a free copy of the Nolo book to members who donate at least $25 to the organization. You can also look at Tenants Together’s Web site, www.tenantstogether.org, for more information about your rights as a tenant.
If you have a problem or concern that requires more than just information, please don’t hesitate to contact us to let us know what you are looking for.
If you know that you need legal assistance to assert your tenant rights effectively, then don’t wait any longer. Click below to meet with your tenants rights attorney.
If you are still uncertain whether you need an attorney to defend against eviction, then call us today to discuss your case, or fill out the form below in order to explain how we can help, and we will reply to you.
If you have a situation that is more than a question, and are already having a dispute with your landlord, then information alone is often not enough to settle the matter to your advantage. What most renters need, but seldom have, is an attorney who knows the law, and the landlord’s duties under the law, and is not afraid to advocate for tenants.
Even the most informed tenants can find the court system overwhelming. Defending against eviction on your own is more than just challenging. Fort the unprepared and unrepresented it is an ordeal filled with traps. Tenants who go to court without an attorney frequently enter into bad agreements and suffer humiliation at the hands of the landlord’s lawyers. Having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference.
If your situation is not a lawsuit in court, but rather a question, or a curiosity about what the law says, there are many places where you can find educational materials, and every tenant should become familiar with the legal protections for tenants in California law.
Many times the answer to tenants’ legal questions are more complicated than they may first appear. It’s important to be careful, and not to rely upon every piece of information posted online, or simply accept the advice of friends and neighbors. Make sure the source of your legal advice is reliable and up to date.
Look around the website and see if we have information to help you. If you have a question and you can’t find an answer, click here to send us a comment. An attorney that specializes in advocating for tenants will reply, and can direct you to the resources you need.
Written notices demanding the payment of rent, notices that threaten the termination of your lease, accusations of illegal activity, and notices of changes in terms and conditions of a lease from a landlord or property manager are often the prelude to legal action. They must be taken seriously. It is critical for tenants to respond to notice from a landlord intelligently and prudently.
Before you agree to excessive rent increases, or allow the oppressive actions of the owner or management intimidate you, meet with a professional.
Information, early in time, is the key to success. Often times becoming informed can help you to avoid being on defense. If you are not able to avoid litigation, then consult with an attorney who stands with tenants and defends their rights.
When a tenant has a legal conflict with the landlord, there is often only a short period of time to act. Under California law, landlords are usually required to give notice to tenants before they resort to legal action. However, most of these legally required notices give a tenant only three days to act. When a tenant fails to act within the three days then the landlord can proceed to court.
Once an action to evict (also called unlawful detainer) is filed against a tenant in court, it can move very quickly. Landlords enjoy a unique legal procedure, which is known as a summary proceeding. Once a tenant is sued in court, and then served with an unlawful detainer summons, then he or she has only five days to respond.
If your landlord has sued you or is threatening to sue you, then you must act quickly. Hesitation and uncertainty can lead to a loss of money, loss of security and the loss of your home. Don’t wait. Schedule an appointment for a consultation immediately to discuss your case.