Showing posts in category: Renters legal resources

San Diego Renters Rights 101

I have included below a list of questions and answers to problems that renters often confront.  It is important to understand that the information provided here is made available to educate tenants about their legal rights, and applies to tenants living within the City limits of San Diego.  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.

Q: My landlord refuses to make repairs. What can I do?

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.

Q: My landlord shows up and demands access to my home. What are my rights?

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.

Q: I’m a month-to-month tenant. My landlord is evicting me for no reason at all. Can he do this?

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.

Most tenants that live outside of the City limits of San Diego can be terminated without a reason.  If a tenant has lived in a residence for more than one year, then they are still entitled to a written notice of 60 days, but it doesn’t have to include any reason for the termination.

The rules are different for Section 8 and other subsidized tenancies.  Most subsidized leases include protections against arbitrary terminations, but each program differs.

Q: My landlord verbally ordered me to move out of my place. Do I need to move?

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.

Q: The landlord is raising my rent. Can she do this?

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. But if you are a month-to-month tenant, the landlord can raise your rent any amount, as long as the increase is not in retaliation for your exercise of your rights as a tenant. The landlord must provide 30 days’ 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.

Q: My landlord lost the property in foreclosure. Can the bank that acquired the place at the foreclosure sale make me leave right away?

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.

Q: I moved, and my landlord won’t return my security deposit. What can I do?

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.

Q: I want to know about my rights as a tenant. Where should I begin?

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,

contact an attorney by telling us about your situation

 

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When a tenant needs a lawyer

Prepare yourself with knowledge,

but

Defend yourself with expertise.

Most people want to avoid court. Especially when the dispute carries the risk of eviction. In an ideal world, everyone would work through their disputes by listening carefully and treating our neighbors as we would want to be treated. Unfortunately, Southern California is not an ideal world, and hundreds of people across the State are evicted every day. Many people could avoid being evicted if they understand that if you are a defendant in an unlawful detainer, then you need a lawyer.

My name is Marc Whitham, and I am devoted to serving tenants and consumers in defending against eviction and unlawful collections.  I offer consultations to help tenants gain the upper hand in disputes with the landlord, and I have represented hundreds of tenants at trial.  If you are in need of representation because you are facing eviction or your landlord has locked you out illegally, or is making illegal threats, or has even broken into your home without your permission, then call Tenant Defenders today.

Evictions are Civil Lawsuits.
They are not small claims court!

Rules of Evidence will apply.

Default will enter against tenants that don’t show up.

Your landlord will most likely have an attorney.

Money judgments are entered if you lose.

Find out how representation will make a difference.

Don’t be mistaken – A rental agreement is a contract; not a friendship.

I have encountered countless tenants throughout my career who are shocked and dismayed to find themselves in a difficult dispute with their landlord. The truth is landlords are not in the business of leasing for love of humanity.  They are in it for the business – pure and simple. Your landlord may act like he’s your buddy, but when it comes down to the brass tacks, what you have is not a friendship, but a contract.

When the relationship breaks down because a tenant begins to assert his or her rights, or the landlord isn’t willing to live up to his obligations, then many landlords won’t hesitate to make threats, harass, and then call their lawyers.  Many tenants think that if only they could make the landlord understand their situation, they could avoid trouble.

What the landlord often understands is that filing a lawsuit to evict a tenant (also called an unlawful detainer) can usually resolve his or her “problem” more quickly and more cheaply with the assistance of his attorney than listening and working through the dispute with you. Many tenants are surprised to find that the same is equally true for them.

Even if you aren’t defending a suit in court, it’s important to understand that landlord/tenant disputes almost always involve legal questions of rights and obligations.

Standing upon your legal rights as a tenant does not make you a troublemaker. To the contrary, it can help you and your landlord to have a clearer understanding and a better relationship in the long run.

Avoiding the problem you face with your landlord will seldom bring about a positive result, and will usually end up costing you more in the long run. Whether it is trouble making the rent payment, or the landlord’s refusal to fix the problems with the plumbing it is better to take the situation in hand.  Getting the assistance of a lawyer early on can save you in the long run in a variety of ways.

Tenant Defenders offers affordable legal assistance throughout San Diego & Southern California.

Tenants who do not take the situation in hand right away often suffer unnecessary hardships.

Sometimes a lawyer can help to resolve your problem with a consultation, or by communicating on a tenant’s behalf directly with the landlord.  Many times my clients need someone who can help to get the landlord’s attention.

If your landlord or property manager refuses to listen, and continues to make unlawful demands, or refuses to live up to his or her responsibilities, then we can advise you about what is the most prudent and effective course of action to pursue.  When you need a forceful voice to speak to your concerns, then I’m there for that too.

If your landlord has already broken the law, or is trying to use the legal system to take away your rights, then call right away.  Sometimes even when you try to avoid problems with your landlord, trouble finds you. Unfortunately, many landlords and property managers mistake flexibility and cooperation as an excuse to take advantage of those who rent from them.

I am available to speak with you directly, today, without any further obligation.  I strive to give my clients the very best counsel and advice, by providing legal services personalized to meet your needs.

Don’t hesitate to call 619-573-9582 today to speak directly with an attorney 

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California tenants right to privacy – Civil Code Section 1954

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

The answer to that question is yes, but… you need to know the details.  California tenants right to privacy in the properties they rent is subject to a landlord’s right of entry.  However, landlords cannot just walk into your home whenever they feel like it.  For a landlord, or property manager, to lawfully enter into a tenant’s residence they must observe certain requirements.

Tenants often contact me wondering 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 a property owner wants in, then California law requires that they make the request correctly.

California law requires that landlords and their agents give the correct written notice before attempting to enter into a residential 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  Civil Code 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 tenants right to privacy.

To learn more about your rights as a tenant, contact an attorney that specializes in helping renters to assert their rights. Fill out the form below with the information requested and an attorney from Tenant Defenders will follow up to see what kind of help we can offer..

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Welcome to Tenant Defenders

Tenant Lawyer – Marc D. Whitham

Represents Tenants and Consumers Throughout San Diego.


San Diego Tenants' Rights Attorney

 

My name is Marc D. Whitham and I’m pleased to welcome you to Tenant Defenders.  I am a tenants’ rights attorney that specializes in defending against wrongful evictions.  I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me directly to see if I can help you with your situation. Whether you are facing eviction, or need to know how to assert your rights as a renter, I am available to speak with you.

Many tenants mistakenly believe that they have no options when they run into a dispute with the landlord, or that they cannot afford a good lawyer.

Legal representation does make a difference, and while I cannot offer free consultations, I am happy to speak with you before you to commit to paying any fees.  If you are working with a limited budget, then let me know what you can afford.

Don’t despair.  Assistance is available and it will make a difference.  I am an experienced litigator who is not afraid to take aggressive action against landlords attempting to abuse the court system, or who refuse to live up to their obligations under the law.

Often times, a good tenant lawyer will help his clients to avoid facing a confrontation in court, and eliminate the risk of facing eviction. I have counseled thousands of tenants regarding their housing rights, and defended hundreds of renters facing trial.

Even if you are not facing a wrongful eviction, but simply need your landlord to take action and obey the law, you will benefit from the experience of an attorney who specializes in tenants rights.   When necessary, I will not hesitate to bring legal action against negligent and abusive landlords for damages.

Please take a look around the website.

If you would like to speak with a lawyer directly,

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