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Real Estate Today

Problem With Banner Political or Cosmetic?

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
21-October-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 have been a landlord for many years. Every now and then, someone displays a banner from a window espousing a political cause. Can I ask them to remove the sign, especially if I'm not in agreement?

ANSWER: Smith: As a rental owner's attorney, let me first tell you that your personal beliefs have no place in the business of landlording. Letting your personal political agenda affect your decisions in these matters will get you into trouble.

That being said, you have a right to have your tenants keep the unit free and clear from all clutter, debris and alterations, including any unauthorized window coverings. A carefully worded rental agreement which includes rules and regulations forbidding the installation of window coverings could effectively prohibit the display of any banner.

Further, continuing violations could subject the tenants to legal proceedings, including giving them the boot with an unlawful detainer lawsuit.

Kellman: Freedom of speech is a pretty important right. I agree with Ted that your interference with the tenant's exercise of that right could cause some problems. You should not be concerned with the content of a political message unless it is obscene or otherwise unlawful. You should, however, be concerned if displaying such messages causes a material impact on the appearance or maintenance of the building.

The displaying of political representations, banners, pictures, etc., could get out of hand if taken too far. Clearly a building of wall-to-wall banners could be a problem.

It may be better to allow the use of certain limited areas for the displaying of such things. In this way, the tenants could feel they have an avenue of expression while you will retain a level of control over the amount (not content) of that expression.

A check point

If I cash my refunded security deposit check, even though I dispute the deductions that were made, do I waive my right to sue for the disputed amount?

Kellman: It depends on the check and any documents that were sent along with the check. If the check was simply the return of deposit money, then cashing it does not waive any rights to sue for additional money you feel is owed.

The result may be different if the check, or a letter is sent with the check, has language on it that indicates acceptance of the check somehow constitutes payment in full of the deposit refund. In that case, you may very well be giving up your rights to sue if you cash that check.

There is a law that says you can probably just cross out the "payment in full" language and cash it anyway without losing your rights but the safer route is to return the check and demand the proper amount.

A landlord who puts this language on a partial deposit refund is certainly taking a chance. Such a check is really an offer to settle a disputed deposit refund. The landlord is not supposed to be negotiating with the deposit hoping you will settle for a lower amount. He/she is obligated to simply return the deposit, less lawful deductions, within 21 days of moving out, or face the consequences of violating the deposit laws.

Dog days

I rent a space in an R.V. park. The rules state that all spaces must be neat and orderly at all times. Also, people with pets must keep space cleaned up after their pets.

The people who moved next door had a dog that did its messes in my yard, and other neighbors' yards, and the man would not clean it up. I started complaining to the landlady two months ago.

The man got rid of the dog, but not the messes. He raked them up into piles and left them in his yard, along with some junk and garbage. Nothing has been done. What are my rights?

Smith: R.V. park residents -- just like apartment dwellers -- are entitled to quiet enjoyment while living in the park. Rules and regulations promulgated by park management are designed for the safety and welfare of all residents in possession.

The dog mess left by the offending resident constitutes a violation of park rules. Management should take action to avoid further problems. Failure to maintain the premises in clean, orderly and sanitary condition also could constitute a violation of local ordinances. Your next step should be to call the local authorities.

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


2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996 Robert S. Griswold.  All Rights Reserved.