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Rent Watch

All Dogs Have Fleas . . . Maybe

April 21, 1996

QUESTION: I own a small apartment complex and allow pets. I collect a pet deposit and I always tell my potential tenants that they will be charged for defleaing when they vacate.

I now have a prospective tenant who disagrees with the defleaing charge and says I can't do it. Is he right?

ANSWER: According to California Civil Code 1950.5, you cannot collect deposits at the beginning of a tenancy that are designated as "nonrefundable," However, defleaing is considered a legitimate charge against a deposit, should the apartment need this service at the time the tenant leaves. You cannot predict with absolute certainty how the unit may be returned to you, and you must give the tenant full opportunity to fix the problem first.

As a solution, instead of collecting a separate pet deposit, you may want to collect a higher security deposit and use this deposit for expenses allowed by Civil Code 1950.5, as well as for any pet expenses if they do occur, such as property damage or defleaing costs. Be sure the deposit amount does not exceed twice the monthly rent if the unit is unfurnished or three times the monthly rent if the unit is furnished.

Must Notice Be Signed by Person Receiving It?

Q: The gentleman who rents a room in my home is quite unhappy with most of the house rules. I've tried to make the living conditions as pleasant as possible, but he is impossible to please and is a constant complainer. Therefore, I personally gave him a 30-day termination notice. He says that since he didn't sign the notice, it is invalid. Does a 30-day notice have to be signed by the receiving party?

A: No. The only signature required on a 30-day termination notice is that of the person issuing the notice. In fact, none of the notices served by a landlord need to be signed by the receiving party. Be sure that any notice you serve is properly completed and contains all necessary information. Also, be sure to keep a copy for your records.

Landlord Thinks Receipt Is a Hassle

Q: For several months, my tenant's rent checks have bounced. I gave her a 30-day notice requiring future rent payments to be either cash, cashier's check or money order. To avoid the expense of a cashier's check or money order, she elected to pay in cash, but requests a receipt. This is an inconvenience and I don't really want to do it. What do you think?

A: The receipt issue is covered by California Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure. Section 1499 of the Civil Code states that "a debtor has a right to require from his creditor a written receipt for any property delivered in performance of his obligation." Section 2075 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that "whoever pays money, or delivers an instrument or property, is entitled to a receipt therefore from the person to whom the payment or delivery is made, and may demand a proper signature to such receipt as a condition of the payment or delivery." In other words, you do need to provide your tenant with a receipt.

In any case, whenever any cash transaction occurs--be it for rent, utility bill, or loan payment--it makes good business sense for both parties to use a receipt as a record of the transaction.

Day Care Operator Uses Rented Home

Q: I recently opened a licensed family day care business in my rented home. When the landlord discovered that I was operating the day care, he informed me that I was in violation of the rental agreement by using the home as a business, and if I continued in this activity, he would evict my family. Can he do this?

A: No. California law (Health and Safety Code section 1597.550) states that any attempt, verbal or written, to prohibit the use of property as a licensed family day care home is void. This means that your owner cannot prevent you from starting a licensed family day care home or order you to stop operating one. Even if your lease specifies that businesses or day care homes are prohibited, that section of the lease has no legal effect. Although nothing can prevent your owner from filing an eviction action against you, this law protects you from being forced out solely because you operate a family day care.

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