Call Police to Deal with Drug Activity
Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
This column on issues confronting renters and
landlords is written by Counselor of Real Estate and
Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real
Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (10 a.m.
Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet
and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the
Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law
firm representing landlords.
Q: My son and his wife are renting a duplex in El Cajon; they have
two small children. The renters in the other unit are causing a lot of disturbance and I am concerned about the safety of my grandchildren.
There is known drug activity and violence going on in the other complex and
the police have been called on several occasions. My son has repeatedly reported these complaints to the owner/landlord of the property.
Although the owner has said he will take care of the problem, he has not.
Is there any legal recourse my son can take? Is the owner/landlord responsible to provide rental property that is safe and drug-free?
A: Griswold: There are legal requirements for owners to provide your son
and his family with "quiet enjoyment" of their rental unit.
There are also state laws that allow city officials (usually the code enforcement
department will take the lead role) to declare the rental building a
public nuisance and the city can condemn the building and take it away from the
owner if the owner fails to abate the nuisance (drug dealing, for
El Cajon has a strong code enforcement program. I suggest your son
contact the city of El Cajon Building Code Enforcement Office at (619) 441-1726
and file a complaint anonymously. He should also call the police again, but
this time contact the Community Policing Team as they will connect your
son directly with the officers responsible for the neighborhood where your
The typical call to the police often results in the first available
officer(s) responding to calls whereas the Community Policing Team specifically focuses on all activity in a specific geographic area. The
El Cajon Community Policing Team is headed by Lt. Dan Moody who can be
reached at (619) 441-5522.
In Oakland, several tenant groups encouraged tenants to file
small-claims court actions against the owners of crime-ridden rental properties. The
small-claims suit asked for $5,000 in damages for failure to provide
quiet enjoyment and was generally successful.
Q: When I moved from my apartment, I asked the landlord to perform a walkthrough as you suggest. While they didn't give us anything in
writing, we were advised that everything was fine and nothing was mentioned about
any damage or deductions. Unfortunately, our security deposit refund
check was short by over $300. While there was a general accounting, there was
no detailed explanation. We have called but get no response. What should we
A: Kellman: Doing a walkthrough with the landlord is an excellent opportunity to discuss possible expenses for damages or cleaning and
For example, there may be a damaged item that was there when you moved i
n or maybe an item broke in normal use. This is the time to explain all
that needs to be explained.
Unfortunately, you could leave your meeting convinced that all has been handled and you will receive a full deposit refund for being a good
tenant until you get surprised with unexpected deductions. How can that happen?
Remember, a landlord has 21 days to claim deductions from your deposit. They must also give you an itemization of those deductions. Perhaps your
landlord intended to keep some of your money with improper deductions regardless of any walkthrough. Your landlord may have led you to believe
that all was well simply to avoid the deposit refund discussion.
The fact that you got no response to your calls and that you did not receive an explanation for keeping $300 makes those deductions very
suspicious. If they were legitimate, why avoid discussing them? Also,
why not give an explanation for the $300 as required by law?
If you believe the deductions were improper, file your case in the small
claims court where your landlord will finally respond, to the judge.
A: Smith: Come on, Steve, get real. We both know that the landlord is allowed a full 21 days after departure to account to the tenant for the
security deposit. There is no law requiring California landlords to "commit" to agree upon deductions at the time of a
walkthrough. There is nothing suspicious about the landlord's failure to immediately account
to the tenant.
The legal reality is that so long as the landlord serves the proper
written accounting of the security deposit within the time limit, then he or she
shall been entitled to any lawful deductions. It is wrong to assume that
the landlord will arbitrarily withhold $300. What's more likely is that
the $300 represents damages and cleaning above ordinary wear and tear. If
the tenant drags the landlord into small claims court, the judge will be
about the deductions, which I'm sure were lawful.
Rent Increase Blues
Q: Our landlord recently served a notice to me and four other month-to-month tenants regarding a rent increase. The letter states that
effective in 30 days all new and continuing leasing will be written for $1150. All the apartments are the same so everyone is paying the same,
$900. The letter also states that if we did not sign a lease, consider this letter your 30-day notice. My neighbor also got an increase and he
suggested we get everyone together in the building and write the
signed letter stating that if he wants market price he needs to repair
things. Then last night, the landlord came by with the lease for us to sign.
I told him I wanted to review it with an attorney before signing it. He
was very upset and said he would be back again today. If we agreed on a
lease and now he is backing out of it, what are my rights? Should I sit on the
lease till the first of the month and then sign it?
A: Griswold: Unfortunately, you do not have any long-term rights when on
a month-to-month agreement other than the owner must give you at least a
30-day notice of change in terms or termination in writing. The landlord
also can withdraw the proposed lease or change any of the terms as the lease is not binding until both parties have signed.
As far as the idea of the letter, it is risky. The owner is required to correct habitability items, but not cosmetic items. For example, a faded
hallway carpet or fuchsia colored wallpaper may be unappealing, but the owner is under no obligation unless the carpet were frayed or ripped and
created a health and safety hazard.
Again, as far as sitting on the lease until the first -- again this is risky as the offer could be rescinded at any time and you would then be
forced to move on very short notice.
It is a difficult rental market and you may need more time to find
another place. Try talking to the owner in a nonthreatening way and ask if some
of the more serious items can be repaired or replaced.
YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to
answer your questions in this column, although letters
cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental
Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O.
Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail
them at email@example.com
2000 Rental Roundtable
Robert Griswold and the Real Estate
Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and
state fair housing laws. As a reminder to all owners and managers of real
estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair
Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference,
limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex,
physical disability, or familial status, or intention to make any such
preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local
fair housing laws may also apply. Be sure to inform all persons that all
dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.
Revised and Updated -
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM,
PCAM, GRI, ARM
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161
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