Tag Archives: Chico Attorneys

What to do When a Tenant Abandons a Rental Property

Even the best of Chico landlords deal with nightmare tenants. Besides landlord-tenant disputes and resident enew_apartment_housevictions, another headache that can come with the job is resident abandonment. What do you do when a resident abandons the property without notice? Before you clean out the unit and list it for rent, it’s important to follow the correct legal procedure for dealing with property abandonment.

Give notice before entering:

Even if multiple neighbors tell you they saw the resident move out weeks ago, you still need to give the tenant advance notice before entering the property. Send a written notice, contact the resident numerous times, and give them the appropriate advance notice required by your state’s laws. As always, double check your state and local rental laws before moving forward.

Document the inspection:

Be very careful when you enter the unit. Legally, you don’t have possession of the property yet. The resident could be out of town or in the process of moving. Bring a witness with you for the inspection and use a camera or videotape to document the condition of the unit. Photographic evidence will show what was abandoned and the value of the belongings in case a claim is brought against you by the tenant for disposing of their belongings. Check that the resident didn’t leave any dangerous or hazardous conditions when they left the unit. Look for signs of abandonment, such as missing furniture or expensive electronics.

Don’t throw anything out:

Your first reflex may be to clear the unit of all the tenant’s personal belongings, but not so fast. When a resident abandons a unit, the law requires you to care for the personal property and return it to the tenant. Disposing of items prematurely could result in a claim from the tenant that you owe them for the items they left behind, leaving you with a hefty replacement fee (especially if you haven’t documented the items that were abandoned). Check how long your state law requires you to hold the belongings.

Decide on the best course of action

Once you’ve confirmed that the resident has abandoned the unit, the best course of action will probably be to go forward with your state’s procedure for abandonment. This usually involves holding the tenant’s property for up to one month and letting them know where their belongings are being held and where they can be claimed. Depending on the situation, evicting the resident or having them sign a release of rights of possession (if they can be reached) is also an option. Consult professional legal advice to find out the best way to proceed in your situation.

Resident abandonment puts landlords in a tricky situation. Do your research on state and local laws concerning abandonment and follow them closely to protect yourself from legal trouble.

Landlord Guide to Written Notice Letters

you've been servedBeing a Chico landlord means you’ll have to communicate with your tenants frequently about a range of topics, from repairs to rent notices. While phone calls may be easier, you’re leaving yourself open to disputes unless you communicate in writing.

When you must communicate something serious to your tenants, like a pay or quit notice or lease termination notice, not only must it be written properly, but you must deliver it by the appropriate process outlined by your state.

Create Written Notices to Tenants

Written documentation is critical when you are communicating with tenants about terminating a lease or starting the eviction process. State laws require these notices to be done in writing, with variations from state to state on the details of the process. Landlords can lose disputes in court simply for failing to follow their state’s laws that outline the landlord/tenant communication process.

It’s also in your best interest to keep written documentation of other types of communication besides notices, such as conversations about landlord repairs, notices to enter the rental property and follow ups on lease violations. If you end up with a tenant dispute that goes to court, such as over a repair or a security deposit, your written notices are evidence showing your side of the story. Written notices also confirm dates, times and situations that may be hard to remember several weeks, months or years after the fact.

Proper Delivery of Written Tenant Notices

In most states, there are three ways that you can officially leave written notice with a tenant.

1. Personal Delivery

You can hand the written communication to the tenant, either at the rental property or at the tenant’s workplace. Even if the tenant refuses to take the letter, you can leave it near him, such as on the front step or on his desk at work. Make a note of the delivery time and date on your copy of the notice

2. Substitute and Mail

You can leave the written communication with someone who lives with the tenant, such as another adult or an older teenager. Make a note of the deliver time and date on your copy of the notice, as well as the full name of who you left it with. That same day, you must send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Note the day on your copy.

3. Nail and Mail

If the previous methods don’t work, you can affix the written notice to the door of the property. That same day, send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Record all the steps on your copy of the notice.

Storing Tenant Notices

If your written communication has to do with evictions, repairs, leases or disputes, it’s wise to keep copies in a folder in your office. Start a file for each one of your tenants and add to it as needed. You may never need the correspondence, but if you do, having written documentation of a tenant episode may just make things easier for you, in or out of court.

Frequently Asked Questions About Security Deposits and California Law

security_depositMost Chico residential leases and rental agreements in California require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month’s rent, that’s intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of California landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.

Q: Does California law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?

A: Yes. Under California landlord-tenant laws, a landlord may charge a renter the equivalent of two months’ rent for the security deposit if the residence is unfurnished, and three months’ rent if the residence is furnished. California landlords can also add an extra one-half month’s rent if the tenant has a waterbed. Landlords may not charge nonrefundable fees in California.

Q: What about when a renter moves out? What is the deadline in California for returning a security deposit?

A: Under California law, a landlord must return the renter’s security deposit, with an itemized statement of deductions, within 21 days after the renter has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property).

Q: Is there additional information that California landlords must provide to renters when it comes to security deposits in California?

A: Yes. In addition to complying with California laws on security deposit limits and how (and when) the deposit must be returned to tenants, landlords in California must provide renters with advance notice before taking any deductions out of the security deposit, such as for the cost of repairs for damage to the property.

Q: Where can I look up California law on security deposits?

A: If you want to go right to the source and look up the California laws on security deposits — or if you’re writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law — the relevant statute(s) can be found at California Civil Code  1950.5 and 1940.5(g). Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in California, especially if your rental property is covered by rent control.

Check out our blog on repair costs and security deposits for more information!

 

Some Alternatives to Eviction in Butte County

evictionsEviction is a lengthy and complicated process, and probably a solution you’re reluctant to jump to when a resident is missing rent payments or violating the lease. Instead of beginning a long legal process to get renters out of your unit, there are alternative strategies you can use (that are not self-help evictions) to try take care of the situation before resorting to the eviction procedure. Double check what the necessary process for eviction is in your state to make sure you are in compliance with local Chico and Butte County laws. In our experience, evictions usually take 45-60 days, not to mention the time that passes before you start the eviction process. Here are a few more tools in our tool belt.

Talk With Your Residents First
How severe is the problem? Why do you feel they should move out or are breaching the lease agreement? If the issue is something besides missed rent payments, try to work out a solution with your resident. Plan to meet in a neutral location, and calmly explain the issue. Meeting in a neutral, public location makes it less likely for emotions to boil over or for one party to have the upper hand. Sometimes, residents may not realize how they’re violating the lease or damaging the home. If they’re understanding of the situation, try to come to an agreement about the situation and solve the problem.

Send a Legal Notice or Official 3 Day to Pay Rent or Quit
When multiple written warnings just aren’t spurring your residents into action, sometimes a legal notice from a local Chico attorney will do the trick to ‘scare’ them into good behavior. We have recommendations if you need a few names. The letter should explain the issue, how it’s in violation of the lease agreement, and the legal actions that could follow if there is no compliance. A legal notice, if effective, can prevent you from having to initiate an actual eviction.

Work Towards Finding an Alternative to Eviction
Perhaps your resident is unable to pay the rent because they’ve lost their job, owe medical bills, or can’t afford to move. Do you have a smaller, cheaper unit they could move into, or are you willing to lower the rent if they help you with maintenance tasks on your property? Approaching your resident with these solutions shows that you’re understanding of their situation, and they may be more willing to cooperate with you as a result. Include an addendum to your lease to reflect the agreement. Work out a payment plan, but be careful if you accept anything less than full rent, it may make eviction even longer if you do decided to go that route.

Paying them to leave aka Cash for Keys
If worst comes to worst, and you really want to prevent eviction if you can help it, a solution is to pay your resident to move out. If a renter can’t afford to move, or flat out refuses to move despite neglecting rent payments, offer a sum of money or forgive one month’s rent in exchange for an agreement to move out. Make sure you inspect the unit before the move-out, and get the agreement signed by your resident before the money is exchanged.

For specific advice or to schedule your own no obligation property consultation, drop us a note.