Rental Roundtable
Data and Info.

Real Estate Today

What's the Smartest Way to Find Rental Property?

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
19-May-2002 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 (9 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 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.

Auction action

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 start?

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.

Week excuse

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.

Wrong number

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 about it?

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 number changed.

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 Court.

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.

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.