Rental Roundtable
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Real Estate Today

Get Rental Agreement in Writing

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01-Mar-1998 Sunday

This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written by Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of "Real Estate Today!" (KOGO Radio, AM 600, 1 p.m. Saturdays) and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

Q: My mother wants to help my aunt rent her house to my cousin until he gets back on his feet. I know this is not a good idea, but I am hoping that I can at least get the agreement in a formal legal document. Where can I get a rental agreement or lease form?

A: Griswold: I strongly suggest that you get a rental agreement or lease form from either your local Board of Realtors or the San Diego County Apartment Association.

While slightly different, forms from either group will offer your aunt many benefits. To avoid misunderstandings, and possible grief later, make sure that she has the agreement in writing before your cousin takes possession of the home.

The San Diego Association of Realtors is located at 4845 Ronson Court in Kearny Mesa (619-715-8000) and has a great bookstore with forms, publications and supplies. Their rental agreements, leases and other forms are printed by the California Association of Realtors. Hours Monday are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The San Diego County Apartment Association also has forms available for purchase by the public. These forms are prepared by the California Apartment Association. The SDCAA offices are located in Mission Valley at 2727 Camino del Rio South, Suite 327 (619-297-1000). Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Q: I have a problem with a tenant who moved out after we had agreed that his 12-month lease could be broken if a 90-day notice were given.

Everything was fine until March 1, 1997, when the tenant gave the 90-day notice, saying he would be returning to Germany as of June 1, 1997.

Following advice from a real estate broker, I sent the tenant a letter stating he was responsible for advertising the rental and a broker's commission and for any time the unit was unrented before the lease expired on Sept. 30, 1997.

The tenant responded by letter, saying that he would not agree to any of the proposed charges and that he would not pay the June rent and I should deduct it from his security deposit. He also stated that he expects the remainder of the security deposit back, even though I spent nearly $900 repairing damage after he vacated on May 12.

Can I sue the tenant for non-payment of rent from May 1 through May 12, for rent I missed while finding a new tenant, for the costs of advertising the rental, the broker's commission and for the damages?

A: Smith: First, the good news: Damages and cleaning costs caused by tenants can be charged to them. The security deposit can be used for these amounts. If there were damages in excess of the deposit, you can take your tenant to court for the difference.

Now let's take a look at the lease. You had a lease for one year, but you agreed to a right to cancel with a 90-day notice.

When he gave you notice March 1, that effectively terminated the tenant's rental responsibilities under the lease effective June 1. Even though the unit was vacated on May 12, I believe you could charge for all of May's rent.

After that, you let him off the hook.

Griswold: The information given to you by the real estate broker was wrong. While there are many excellent real estate brokers around who are knowledgeable about property management, be wary of those offering legal advice when they do not specialize in rentals.

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 191, San Diego, CA, 92112. 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.