Tenants With Lease May Find Ways Out of a Cat-astrophe
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: I lease a house with a couple of roommates. One of them recently
got a cat, a violation of the lease. Apparently, our landlord has seen
but didn't say anything.
I have spoken to the roommate who owns the cat and urged her to
contact the landlord for permission or get rid of the cat. She prefers
the "don't ask,
don't tell" philosophy.
I am tempted to call the landlord and spill the beans even if it means
forfeiting our security deposit or paying additional penalties in
breaking the lease or even being evicted. What are the risks in
contacting the landlord and what do you think I should do?
A: Smith -- As the landlord's attorney, let me caution you that
"don't ask, don't tell" won't work. All roommates are at
risk for eviction based on just one having a cat. Roommates are
jointly and severally responsible for the behavior of other roommates.
I always encourage tenants to be upfront with their landlords.
It is possible that the landlord could agree to accept the cat with an
additional deposit if it's housebroken and complies with the rules and
regulations, but your landlord is not required to take the cat, and
the offending roommate may have to get rid of it.
The landlord may serve a three-day notice to either remove the cat or
vacate the house. If a legal notice is served, make sure that you
comply -- that way, you will avoid further eviction proceedings.
Kellman -- Clearly, you should avoid violating your lease. This
includes having pets when the lease specifically excludes them.
However, the lease may simply be a form lease which the landlord is
using for convenience without particular attention to each provision.
Since your landlord has already seen the cat and did not complain
about it, having this pet may be OK. You should try to get legal
permission for this cat. One way is to simply ask the landlord for
written permission; another is to openly keep the cat, admitting to
the landlord that you have it.
If your landlord then fails to take any action over a reasonable
period of time, he/she may then have waived that lease restriction
thus allowing that pet.
For some tenants, a cat may be permitted by law if they can prove they
disabled and the cat is emotionally therapeutic for their disability.
If these methods do not work, the landlord may demand the removal of
the animal within three days or you may face the wrath of Ted in an
eviction proceeding for all roommates.
Where's my line?
Q: I moved into my new apartment community two weeks ago. The
telephone here does not work, because there are not enough telephone
lines in the vicinity. The phone company has given me a tentative
connection date which is more than a week away.
Ironically, I was told by the rental agent that they have six phone
jacks in every apartment. Is it legal to rent out apartments when the
landlords know that there are problems getting telephone connections?
My neighbors tell me they've experienced the same problems. Shouldn't
the landlord have informed me of the scarcity of telephone lines in
A: Griswold -- The landlord is required to provide one working
telephone jack per California Civil code section 1941.4. I do not
believe that the landlord has violated their legal obligations if the
phone company cannot provide the phone line.
As a courtesy, if they are aware of the situation, then they should
let you and other potential tenants know about the lack of phone
service. Luckily your unfortunate situation is not very common.
Tenant from hell
Q: We are renting out our condo. Three months ago our former tenant
moved out and recommended our new tenant. The new tenant was up front
and told us her credit was bad. Since our former tenant (who was
great) referred her we took her in for a one-year lease that has over
nine months remaining.
However, this tenant has been a nightmare. Her rent is due on the
fifth and even though it is not considered late until the 10th, she is
consistently late. Then last week she notified us that she lost her
job. We want to cut our losses and sell the condo since the market is
Can we give her a 30-day notice -- even if we have a one-year lease?
What are our rights as a landlord? Is it true that a tenant can stay
at our place up to three months without paying rent and we cannot kick
A: Smith -- You should have been more careful here. Relying on a
to qualify a prospective resident is not good property management.
Resident screening includes credit, income, and rental history
analysis. You are stuck with the new resident for the one-year lease,
provided she complies by paying the rent on time. Sure, you may sell
your condominium, but the buyer will be saddled with the lease for the
balance of the lease term.
The 30-day notice to terminate tenancy is not available to you -- it's
for month-to-month rental agreements only. No job means no income and
a likely problem with paying rent. If she fails to pay rent, do not
wait. Serve a three-day notice to pay rent or quit immediately. If she
fails to comply, start the unlawful detainer process to recover
possession of the rental.
Although jurisdictions vary, on average, California's eviction process
take between a month to six weeks to complete. Once evicted, the lease
will be terminated and you will have the right to sell the property
free and clear from any lease.
Kellman -- While it is true that you are bound by this lease, you are
not restricted from pursuing your plans. If your tenant lost her job,
she may be as concerned about the rent as you are. Perhaps moving to a
lower rent situation at this time is the best thing for her. Since you
want to sell your condo, her moving out may be the best thing for you,
This may therefore be a golden opportunity for you both to achieve
mutual goals. You should consider making it easier for her to move out
including giving her some financial incentives to terminate the lease
and vacate your
unit fairly quickly.
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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