Landlord's Threats May be Over the
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 landlord comes in unannounced and without prior notice (witnessed
or "caught" by me and my neighbor) and comes to my door
unannounced to discuss rental issues even though I have asked him on
several occasions to call prior to coming over.
When I asked to have 24-hour notice he responds with verbal threats.
Please let me know if he has crossed any legal lines. I am tired of his
abusive threats, and I would like to get my deposit back now that my
lease is coming up.
A: Griswold -- It sounds like the owner has crossed several legal lines.
As you may know, your rights are spelled out in California Civil Code
Section 1954. The owner should not be entering your unit as you
Further, depending on the timing and frequency of the visits, the owner
may also be violating your rights to quiet enjoyment of the property
although they may be able to fabricate some legitimate reason to knock
on your door.
Since the owner seems to have a negative reaction to you pointing out
your legal rights, you may want to seriously consider moving when your
Smith -- I will take the landlord's side on this, and have to disagree
Robert. I don't believe that your landlord has unreasonably crossed any
lines. He has not entered the premises and has committed no crime.
Your landlord has every legal right to stand at your doorway and request
that you comply with the rental agreement. His visits to the property do
not require advance notice, since he is not "entering."
There is no evidence that his mere presence is an "abusive
threat." While I am sure that Steve will disagree with me, I
believe you have no lawsuit
until your landlord wrongfully enters the premises without the proper
24-hour notice required by law.
If you are unhappy with your landlord, then you have every right to
the premises upon expiration of your lease. You may not get your deposit
back before you vacate the premises. Your landlord has a full 21-day
period after departure within which to return it to you.
Kellman -- Your landlord appears to have indeed crossed some important
legal lines with his conduct despite Ted's opinion to the contrary. Both
federal and state law provide for a right of privacy.
Also, California has a specific law governing the right of a landlord to
enter the rented premises. A landlord may enter the dwelling with
reasonable notice, of at least 24 hours (except for emergencies), and
specific permissible reasons only.
That law prohibits a landlord's abuse of their right of entry. Once you
told your landlord not to just show up at your home for an intended
he should have respected that request.
His continued surprise appearances at the door after your request
constituted an abuse of his rights and thus a violation of your rights.
repeated appearances could be deemed a breach of contract, trespass or
harassment (especially with his "verbal threats").
You could file a case in the small claims court for your damages
by such conduct. As to the deposit, Ted is right about having to wait up
21 days for your deposit refund. To best protect your rights to the
refund, leave the rental unit like you found it, less normal wear and
and in a clean condition.
It's a family affair
Q: My fiancee and I will be getting married in July and moving into the
condo she is presently renting. I have two teen-age boys and the condo
is a three-bedroom, three-bath unit.
The landlord's response was cordial but confusing. They responded by
saying they had not planned on renting to that many people though
nowhere in the lease is it specified.
They also wrote that there would be a rent increase because the number
people would be increasing and it would cause more wear and tear on the
I could see an increase in a security deposit for possible increased
and tear but a rent increase sounds discriminatory. Could you respond to
the legality of raising rent due to the number living in a single-family
A: Griswold -- The real issue is whether the landlord is being
discriminatory and seeking to deter renters with children or larger
families. In California, the typical occupancy standard guideline (but
the law) would allow up to seven occupants in a standard-size three
bedroom unit (based on the "two per bedroom + one guideline"
as stated by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing).
However, the landlord can deviate from that guideline if they can
demonstrate a legitimate business reason. Likewise, they may also be
to reasonably adjust the rent along the same grounds.
In your case, the landlord may very well have a legitimate business
for raising the rent based on the additional three occupants.
If the landlord must pay for water/sewer or any other similar charges,
their costs will go up and they can reasonably pass those costs on to
As long as the rent increase is reasonable then they have the right to
increase the rent.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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