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Real Estate Today

Drug paraphernalia Doesn't Qualify as an Automatic Out for Tenant

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
2-September-2001 Sunday

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 at, and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

QUESTION: I'm a landlord. Recently, I checked on a plumbing problem at a unit I own. I saw what I thought was drug paraphernalia sitting in the open. Can I kick these tenants out?

ANSWER: Smith: You need to be careful. A fine line exists between your tenants' right of privacy and your desire to operate a drug- and crime-free building. You can take some comfort in knowing that California landlords are not required to prove the existence of drugs in the rental in order to justify an eviction or other legal proceeding.

It would be helpful to know exactly what you saw rather than obliquely describing it as "drug paraphernalia." Still, if it is a month-to-month tenancy and you wish to kick them out, a 30-day notice is the notice of choice since you are not required to prove drugs or any other material violation of the rental agreement. If the students in this question are on a lease, the eviction will be more difficult since you will be required to prove some violation of the lease agreement to justify the eviction.

If you have substantial credible evidence of drug possession and/ or dealing in the premises, you should follow up and take appropriate action. If you don't, California's drug abatement laws could charge you with operating a drug house, with resulting fines and, in some cases, seizure of the premises.

IF 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

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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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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