What's the Smartest Way to Find
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 (9 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.
QUESTION: I want to buy my first rental property --
preferably a house or condo that will be easy to rent and will be
profitable as soon as possible. I am looking throughout the county,
but I feel that most real estate agents would just try to sell me
something in their territory whether that area is good for rental
properties or not. How can I get unbiased information?
ANSWER: Griswold: The best due diligence
information would be from local sources such as the chamber of
commerce and economic development agencies. Check the neighborhood for
"For Rent" signs and call the owners and ask them about
rents, frequency of tenant turnover and length of vacancies. Also,
talking to a variety of brokers would also give you a diverse
cross-section and allow you to reach a general consensus. I suggest
that you buy in an area that you know and is close to where you live.
I am interested in bidding on a residential rental
property that is currently in the middle of a foreclosure action. The
auction is on the courthouse steps in a couple of weeks. Where do I
Griswold: You need to thoroughly check out
the property so you know as much as possible about what you are
buying. Buying foreclosure properties in San Diego is a very
competitive process fraught with pitfalls. I seriously suggest only
the savvy and experienced real estate investor with the ability to
absorb some bad purchases get into this area.
In general terms, you want to look for recorded and
unrecorded liens and physical problems with the property. You should
also read some books on foreclosures to understand the process as it
is too complicated to fully answer your question in this format.
For the past year, I have been leasing an office
typically used only four days a week. I informed the landlord that a
professional and friend of mine was interested in using my office the
one day a week that I am not there.
The landlord said he would need to raise my rent
since the office would be used more and there would be increased use
of electricity. Is this legal? If I'm paying full rent, it shouldn't
be any of his concern whether I'm using it one day a week or seven.
Griswold: If you have a lease, then the
terms cannot be changed unless the lease specifically limits the use
or there is language indicating that the rent will be adjusted if an
additional co- tenant is added. If the lease is silent on this
situation then the owner must wait until the end of the lease to
change the terms.
Of course, at that time, the landlord can raise the
rent to whatever level he wants and you can choose to leave if he is
unreasonable. Try to work out something fair. For example, if the
space is individually metered offer to pay the increase in the average
monthly utility bill. If the building is not sub-metered, try to agree
on a reasonable rent increase that approximates the increased use of
electricity. An additional one day per week would only be a 20 percent
increase, thus if your landlord says that your utility usage of the
office space runs $50 per month then the co- tenant would add about
$10 per month to the landlord's costs.
You may want to consider offering a higher amount
(even $25-$50 per month) as long as you get a new lease with an
extension so that you lock in your office space for the long run.
Recently my apartment manager gave my phone number
to a person who was a stranger to me and is continuously calling and
harassing me. I wrote a letter to the management company over a month
ago but have not heard anything back. Was this legal and what can I do
Kellman: The California Constitution
declares that your rights to privacy are protected by law. Your
personal information obtained by a landlord must be protected from
being given out to other persons without your consent or for purposes
not essential in the management of the property.
For example, giving your home number out to a
plumber, who is a stranger to you, but needs to come in for an
emergency repair would probably be OK. However, giving the number out
to other persons without your permission and without a compelling
reason to do so would probably be a violation of your privacy rights.
The landlord could be held legally responsible for
wrongfully giving out any piece of personal information you gave to
them in the course of your tenancy. This liability would extend to and
cover all damages you suffered as a consequence of violating those
rights including the cost and inconvenience of having your home phone
You should consider sending a letter to your
landlord directing that no further information of yours be given out
without your consent or other good legal grounds to do so.
You have the right to file a claim for the
harassment you endured even if your letter stops further incidents. As
long as the damages are not too severe, you can use the Small Claims
Smith: I caution my landlord clients and
their managers to keep in mind that the tenant's rental file is
private information between landlord and tenant. Generally speaking,
others should not be given information from the file, including the
tenant's phone number. There are exceptions. Certain government
agencies may legally obtain information from the file.
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
2002 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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