Showing posts with tag: Eviction Defense

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.

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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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