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RENT WATCH

Best Way to Evict Noisy Tenant

May 09, 1999

From Project Sentinel

Question: I am new at being a landlord and I have a tenant who is causing me a lot of problems. He seemed like a nice guy when I rented to him, but I would now like him to move. Trouble is, he is on a lease that doesn't end for 10 more months.

Among the problems is his lifestyle. He plays the TV or stereo too loud, and he has many late-night parties. I have warned him and pointed out the section of his rental agreement that prohibits this behavior. He promises to change, but he doesn't. Now other tenants are complaining about his activities.

A friend says I should give him a Three-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit, or an unconditional notice. What is the difference and which one do you recommend?

Answer: The unconditional Three Day Notice to Quit is generally used when there are serious breaches--drug dealing, improper subletting or serious damage to the property--that cannot be corrected.

The unconditional notice requires the tenant to move within three days and allows no other option. It is used when the problem cannot be corrected. He is to be out, and if he isn't, the owner can start legal action for eviction at the end of the notice period.

As you describe your problem, this notice is not appropriate in this situation because the tenant may be able to change his behavior.

A Three-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit must specifically set forth the breach (the behavior in question) on which the notice is based, so that the tenant has an opportunity to remedy the breach.

If the tenant does not correct the problem within the three-day notice period, the property owner may start legal action for evicting the tenant.

In using the Three-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit, be sure you give your tenant the option of staying if he modifies his behavior. In this case he must turn down the volume on the TV and stereo and control his guests.

You may want to consult a lawyer for an individual assessment of the particulars of these two types of notice or request help from your local mediation service.

A mediation would allow you and your tenant to discuss the problems in a calm, non-adversarial environment with the expectation that you would reach a final agreement of your own making.

30-Day Notice Needed to End Agreement

Q: Six months ago, when I couldn't find suitable housing, I sublet a room from a friend. My friend listed me as an "occupant," not a "tenant," on our rental agreement. She now wants me to move out next week, and says that since I am not a "tenant," she doesn't have to give me a 30-day notice to move. Is this correct?

A: Regardless of the terminology used in the rental agreement, since you have been living in this room and paying rent for several months, you have established tenancy.

Your friend, who is acting as the prime tenant, has to give you a 30-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy if she wants you to move.

To make things easier for your friend, who helped you out when you needed housing, you may try to move out as soon as possible. If you cannot do it sooner than 30 days, you should explain the legal requirements for terminating a tenancy to your friend and note that you need the full 30 days to find new housing.

You may also call your local housing program and ask about setting up a mediation for the two of you to work out a solution that benefits everyone.

Standard Paint Fee Is Not Permitted

Q: I pride myself on maintaining my properties in excellent condition. My policy is that when a tenant moves out, the unit will be professionally cleaned and, regardless of the length of the tenancy, repainted. I have a standard painting charge of $700 for a one-bedroom unit and $900 for a two-bedroom unit.

A former tenant now says the painting charge is not legal and that if I insist on that charge, he will take me to Small Claims Court.

Even though my rental agreements spell out this charge--so he knew before he moved in--he still disagrees. I would like to avoid court, but I don't want to give in. What do you think?

A: Your policy of charging, regardless of the condition of the walls, seems like a nonrefundable deposit, which is prohibited by California Civil Code 1950.5.

Standard charges, such as painting an apartment whether it is needed or not, regularly refurbishing kitchen counters or a standard cleaning charge (draperies, for example) are not permitted.

To avoid going to court, you may try to involve your local mediation service, which could arrange a meeting between you and your former tenant facilitated by a mediator. Such a meeting could allow both of you to voice your concerns and could well result in an amicable agreement.

Manager Must Give Notice Before Entering

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