Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do tenants have a right to keep the landlord from entering their home?

The answer to the question is yes, but... you need to know the details. Tenants often wonder what to do when the landlord demands to be let into the house without advance notice and without cause. 

In those cases, generally speaking, the landlord has no right of entry. If he wants in, then he must make the request correctly. California law requires that landlords and their agents give the correct notice before attempting to enter into a rental property. When they give notice, they must follow specific procedures.

The Notice must be in writing.

Any landlord or property manager that wants to get into the rental must give advance written notice at least 24 hours before the attempted entry. The notice must be served at the property.

The Notice must explain why the entry is needed.

The landlord, and the agents working on his or her behalf, cannot simply ask to come into your home because they feel like it, or based upon unfounded suspicions.

These requirements are explained in detail in California Civil Code Section 1954. The full text of the statute section is as follows:

California Civil Code Section 1954
(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees,tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.
(b) Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other than normal business hours unless the tenant consents to an entry during other than normal business hours at the time of entry.
(c) The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.
(d) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (e), or as provided in paragraph (2) or (3), the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable age and discretion at the premises, or, left on, near, or under the usual entry door of the premises in a manner in which a reasonable person would discover the notice. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice may be mailed to the tenant. Mailing of the notice at least six days prior to an intended entry is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
    (2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above. Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.
   (3) The tenant and the landlord may agree orally to an entry to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services. The agreement shall include the date and approximate time of the entry, which shall be within one week of the agreement. In this case, the landlord is not required to provide the tenant a written notice.
(e) No notice of entry is required under this section: (1) To respond to an emergency. (2) If the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry. (3) After the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit.

As is the case with most statutes, there is a lot of exceptions to the general rule requiring notice. Unfortunately, many landlords, property managers and real estate agents attempt to take advantage of these exceptions in ways that can quickly become overbearing and harassing. That's why it pays to know your rights as a tenant and to speak with an attorney that can help you to assert those rights. Most tenants are unaware that their lease agreement has a number of implied promises between the tenant and landlord. These promises are common law rights known as covenants. Covenants predate California statutes, but they are still good law that landlords must observe. One of the most important of these covenants is known as the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Simply put, it means that you as the tenant have the exclusive right to possession of the property you rent. Your landlord cannot take this covenant away.

If your landlord is acting in a way that deprives you the full use and benefit of your rental property, then he or she is likely violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

To learn more about your privacy rights as a tenant, you should contact an attorney that specializes in helping renters to assert their rights. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What to do when your landlord's negligence leads to injury.

I am often contacted by tenants that have been injured because of problems with the house or apartment they rent that the landlord refuses to fix.  Sometimes the problem is one that the landlord has known about for a long time, and other times the situation comes about suddenly.  In either case, when a tenant suffers injury because of something that the landlord should have fixed, then the landlord is responsible for damages that are suffered.

As always, the details of the individual situation matter a great deal.  As a general principle, in order for a landlord to be held responsible for your injury under the law, the cause of the injury must be something that the landlord, or his property manager, had a duty to take care of.  If a tenant is injured walking on a shared stairway leading to a second story apartment when it collapses, then this would certainly be something that the landlord has a responsibility to take care of.  If the tenant slips on a piece of bacon in her kitchen, then the landlord can't be held responsible for that because he has no duty to keep your kitchen floor clean.

Many times the situation is not so clear as the example given above.  An important question will always be who had control over the part of the property where the injury resulted, and did the landlord know about the situation.  If the landlord didn't know about the dangerous situation, then is it something he or she should have known about?  Some things are always going to be the landlord's responsibility to fix.  These include things like plumbing, electrical wiring and public areas shared by multiple tenants.  Other things might be the landlord's responsibility, but the tenant has an obligation to tell the landlord about the problem when he or she finds out about it.

Think about the example of a bee hive in the attic.  It is an infestation that the landlord should take action to resolve, but if the occupants living in the house know about the bee hive, and don't tell the landlord, then it is much harder to assign responsibility to the landlord when someone suffers bee stings when the hive falls into the living room.  For this reason,it is important to make your problems with the property known to the landlord when you discover them.  Don't assume that the landlord knows about plumbing under the bathroom sink that constantly leaks, or that it is your responsibility to deal with the situation.  It is a much better idea to tell your landlord about the leak right when you notice it.

Many times tenants are injured because of something that neither they nor the landlord knew about.  Like when an interior ceiling collapses.  In these situation, the landlord will be held responsible, if the tenant takes the correct course of action!  

If you are injured as a result of problem with the apartment or house that you rent, follow these general principles.

  • If the accident results in physical injury, seek medical attention appropriate to the situation.  
  • Take pictures of what happened right away.  Take good quality photos with a digital camera that has removable storage and back them up.
  • Get witnesses to the event.  If there are no witnesses, then make sure to invite someone to watch you taking your photographs. 
  • Make sure that you inform your landlord or property manager about the accident that caused the injury, but be careful to stick to the facts.
  • Do not talk to any insurance agents, or give a recorded statement to any third party
  • Contact a lawyer to discuss what happened and find out what your rights you have.  Beware of attorneys that promise great results in their advertisements, but who won't talk to you directly.  
This blog is produced by just such a lawyer that would be happy to talk to you when you have suffered an injury due to your landlord's negligence.  

Please feel free to contact me directly by clicking on the link below

 If I cannot help you with your case, then I will let you know right away without wasting your time, and I may be able to point you in the right direction.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What needs to be in an answer to an unlawful detainer complaint?

Click on the link below to see guidelines about filling out an answer to a residential unlawful detainer.


The post lays out the information about what should be contained in each section of a tenant's answer and includes a link to the judicial council form answer that you can download.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What rights does a tenant have when the landlord cuts off utility services?

The primary legal protection for residential tenants in California who have had their utilities shut off by a landlord is found in Civil Code Section 789.3. This code section prohibits a landlord from cutting off utility services to a residential tenant for the purpose of terminating a tenancy. Landlords who violate this Section are liable to the tenant for damages in the amount of $100.00 per day for every day the tenant goes without utility service, plus actual damages caused by the loss of utility service, and the tenant's attorney's fees. While the fine of $100.00 per day may not seem like much, it can add up quickly, and this fine does not include actual damages caused by the utility shut off such as the price of eating out when there is no gas or electricity to cook with, food spoiled from lack of refrigeration, the cost of being forced to pay for access to bathing and laundry facilities, and all other costs that a tenant may incur as a result of losing his or her utility access to water and electricity.

It is important that a tenant make a demand that the landlord restore utility service as soon as the water or electricity has been shut off. It is best to make this demand in writing. The letter to the landlord demanding the restoration of utility services should be direct and concise. It is a good idea to contact Legal Aid Society, a community service organization, or an attorney that represents tenants to assist in writing this letter. If a tenant does not qualify for Legal Aid assistance, and cannot get a private attorney, then he or she should remember a few key points when writing the letter to the landlord demanding restoration of utility services. 
 1). Make sure that the letter is dated and addressed to the landlord or the landlord's designated agent. 
 2). The letter must clearly identify the address where the effected tenant lives. 
 3). The letter must clearly state what utility service has been lost and when the loss of service began. 
 4). The letter should state the tenant's belief that the loss of service was caused by the landlord for the purpose of terminating the tenancy. 
 5). The letter should demand that the landlord take all required action to investigate and resolve the problem. 
 6). The letter should state that if the landlord fails to take action to restore utility services within a reasonable period of time, then the tenant reserves the right to withhold the payment of rent. 
 7). The letter should request that the landlord respond to the tenant in writing. 

Make sure that you keep a copy of the signed letter for your records and send it to the landlord via certified mail, so that you can show he or she actually received the letter.  The tenant should not make any threats, nor say anything that he or she would not want to repeat in public. If the tenant is forced to bring a lawsuit, in order to have the utility services restored, then the letter may very well become evidence. It is not helpful in court to have a letter that is filled with personal attacks on the landlord, or otherwise shows the tenant in an unfavorable light.

It is my experience that many tenants do not feel comfortable asserting their rights by writing a letter, and often feel some responsibility for the situation. It is important to remember that under the law, there is no reason that justifies a landlord shutting off a tenant's access to utility services. Even if a tenant is behind on the payment of rent, or the utilities, or even if the tenant has had a checkered past in his or her time in residence, a landlord cannot terminate services in an attempt to force the tenant to move. Any tenant who has had utility services cut off by a malicious landlord should not hesitate to contact an attorney right away.   

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Debt Collectors and Their Unlawful Practices

Debt Collection Calls - Tracking Suspicious Phone Calls from Debt Collectors

Under federal law, debt collectors cannot call you on your cell phone.  If you are receiving harassing phone calls from someone demanding that you pay them on a debt, you have a right to make them stop.  Unfortunately, even after you tell them that are calling a mobile phone and that they don't have your permission to call you, many debt collectors simply ignore you and keep calling anyway.

If you are receiving unwanted calls from debt collectors, click on the link above, and place the number into their search engine to find out which debt collector is calling.  Then, give us a call to discuss your legal options.   Take a look at our website to get our contact information.  http://www.tenantdefenders.com/Contact_Us.html