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Tenant can't just cancel his decision to move out

A renter gave written notice that he would vacate, then changed his mind. What are the landlord's rights?

January 22, 2012|By Martin Eichner

Question: I own a four-plex in an area where rental rates have recently begun to increase. I had not raised the rents on my property in several years, so I recently gave a 30-day notice of an 8% increase to my tenants. One told me he could not afford the increase and gave me a written 30-day notice that he was vacating. About a week later he told me he changed his mind and decided to stay and accept the increase.

This tenant has been occasionally late paying his rent in the past, and I am worried that he really won't be able to afford the additional rental rate. Now that he has canceled his notice of termination, what are my options? I am thinking about requiring him to agree to a new credit check so I can tell whether he will be able to pay the new rental amount. Can I do that?

Answer: When a tenant serves a written notice of termination, that notice is binding on the tenant. The tenant does not have a right to unilaterally revoke the termination. A tenant who gives notice and remains in the property beyond the time frame of the 30-day notice is no longer a lawful tenant and can be named in an unlawful detainer eviction case on the 31st day.

Of course, you always can agree to allow your tenant to revoke his notice, but that means you have the right to place conditions on your agreement to allow the tenant to remain. A new credit check is a reasonable condition, and it would not violate the tenant's right to privacy because you essentially would be creating a new tenancy and you have a reasonable concern about his financial stability.

Based on the concept that he is re-applying to become a tenant, you can charge the customary fee for a credit check, and you can deny his request to continue his tenancy if the check raises red flags. All of these points should be set out in a written agreement with this tenant, setting the terms of your offer to allow him to stay. That way, both sides understand the conditions and the options available to them as you process your final decision.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to http://www.housing.org.

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