Renter Get his Credit Record Cleared Up?
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 was served an unlawful detainer two
years ago from my current landlord. It went to court and was resolved
by settlement agreement but it's on my credit report and I'm now
looking for a new place to live.
I've written to the reporting agency to have the
record removed from my record but it will take about 30 days to
correct the information.
In the meantime, what's the best way to explain to
potential landlords what happened? I have the court papers that I can
include in my application and I can verbally explain the situation as
well. Is this sufficient enough action to take until it's taken off my
record? I have excellent credit, as well as a glowing reference from
my previous landlord.
ANSWER: Kellman: Unfortunately, even though
your case was dismissed with a settlement, you still face a landlord
prejudice. This is a belief shared by many landlords that any eviction
action filed was due to the tenant's fault and that, if a tenant has
an eviction filing on their record, that tenant was guilty of
This belief is reinforced by the relative high rate
of "convictions" of tenants in eviction court. Most of those
tenants lost in court because they did not defend their rights
properly. They believe that all landlords are good people and none of
them would file an eviction when they had no case against a tenant.
Many evictions are filed when the landlord has no
case at all. Some filings are the result of simple errors or
misunderstandings while others are landlords trying to get away with a
For those tenants who properly defend their cases,
many are settled to the mutual satisfaction of the landlord and tenant
and result in a dismissal. These cases even include ones where the
tenant could have won in court but settled instead.
The idea of blacklisting tenants who have a case on
their record is not fair or reasonable. The landlord should look into
the facts of that eviction situation before making a decision about an
application to rent.
The Unlawful Detainer Registry should either remove
the dismissal from your record or at least place an explanation about
the settlement. Until they act (if they act), you will need to show
any new landlord the settlement agreement to explain that the matter
was resolved to everyone's satisfaction and hope this landlord does
not share the above prejudices.
I live in a small "in-law" cottage behind
a larger main house. The property sold, and three days after the new
owner moved into the house, my rent was due. He demanded a 60 percent
rent increase and gave no notice, written or verbal.
He's supposed to give me a written notice, and I
informed him of this. The situation rapidly became uncomfortable, so I
just paid him, as we had not yet signed a new lease and I was afraid
he would raise the rent even more. I am not even sure if he was the
legal owner yet.
At what point does he have the right to demand an
increase, and isn't it true that I must be given written notice? If he
wasn't the legal owner of the property, did he even have a right to
increase the rent?
Also, I can't get an accounting of my last month's
rent and deposit paid to the old landlord. I sent them a registered
letter asking for an accounting of these funds but have heard nothing
back, and it's been nearly a month.
Griswold: You have an interesting situation
in which the purchaser of the property already has moved onsite
pending the close of escrow. While this individual may indeed soon be
your new landlord, he does not have any authority or legal standing to
modify the terms of your current lease or rental agreement until he
becomes the legal owner of the property.
In all likelihood the ownership has not yet
changed, since the escrow is still pending. However, you can verify
the ownership status by contacting the tax assessor or county recorder
to determine who the current owner is at this time.
Once the property does change ownership, know that
if you are on a lease they cannot change the terms until the lease
expires. If you are on a month-to-month rental agreement, then the new
landlord can give you a written Notice of Change in Terms of Tenancy
indicating that the rental rate has increased.
Since the property has not changed ownership the
security deposit remains with the current landlord. The proper
procedure once the property is sold is for the selling landlord to
either return your security deposit to you or (more typical) send you
a letter indicating the amount of your security deposit and the name,
address and phone number of the new landlord that now has your
If they fail to follow the legal requirements for
transferring your security deposit to the new landlord, then the
selling or former landlord is still responsible for your security
Based on your brief experience with this new
landlord, I think it is time to look for a new rental.
No water, just pets
Is it legal for a landlord to require a tenant to
carry renters' insurance even if the tenant does not have a water bed
or any liquid- filled furniture? If not, how about if they have pets?
Griswold: Yes, you can require renter's
insurance as a condition to rent as long as you apply that policy to
all renters. I believe that it is an excellent policy to require
renter's insurance from all tenants regardless of whether the tenant
has a water bed or pets or any other specific issue that raises a
Unfortunately, recent insurance industry surveys
indicate that less than 30 percent of all renters have a renter's
Renters with a renter's insurance policy who suffer
a loss are less likely to sue their landlords. Of course, if the
landlord is ultimately found to be negligent, then the renter's
insurance carrier will subrogate or seek reimbursement from the
The bottom line, though, is that the renter will be
able to quickly settle their claim and then the insurance companies
can work out the details, thus minimizing the hassle, tension and even
finger- pointing that can occur when there is a loss and the renter's
only recourse is to pursue a claim against the landlord directly.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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