Coincides with Inspection
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: For 21 years, I have always returned
tenants' security deposits well within the legal time limit (now 21
days). But I have a major 3 1/2 -week European trip coming up soon,
and a tenant just gave me notice that he will give up his apartment
the day after I depart.
I will not be able to check the apartment and
return his security deposit within 21 days and I'm not confident in
any of my friends to check the unit carefully in my absence, or
provide the accounting of any charges. Is there any provision in the
law that can help me this one time?
ANSWER: Smith: As the landlord's attorney, I
completely understand your dilemma. The security deposit law states
that the accounting and refund, if any, must be given within 21 days
from the tenant's date of departure from the premises.
Unfortunately, however, there is no exception to
the law that would grant you an extension under these circumstances.
Why don't you have a trusted friend inspect the apartment and arrange
for the repairs and cleaning? Keep all receipts for materials and
labor. Take photographs. Before proceeding with the disposition
statement as required by law, have your friend give you a call. Talk
about it for a few minutes and discuss what deductions you are going
to make from the deposit.
Together, you should be able to work it out. Your
friend can then mail the accounting statement and the deposit balance
to the last known address by normal mail within the 21-day deadline.
If the tenant has a problem with your deductions,
you'll be back from vacation and able to deal with it at that time.
Kellman: The law requires the accounting
and/or refund of the deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out.
Ted correctly points out that there are no extensions allowed based on
vacations. I also agree with Ted that you could certainly get a friend
to handle the matter, but that could create some big problems for you,
your friend and the tenant.
If your friend is not knowledgeable in property
management laws, he/she could make costly mistakes that you will be
liable for. This may be a good time to try out the services of a
professional property manager, at least for this situation.
You can pay a manager for time and effort handling
this move. Also, they could get the place rerented before you return.
That should be worth more than the fee they would charge. Coming home
to a newly rented unit and with the prior tenants matter resolved
beats coming home to a small claims lawsuit anytime.
Give the friend the boot
Question: I have a month-to-month rental agreement,
but I also have a roommate who constantly has violent fights with her
boyfriend. We called the police on him a couple of times and she put a
restraining order on him as well.
At about 1:30 a.m. today, I saw him go through the
window to her bedroom and leave the same way at about 8:30 a.m.
I don't have any written agreement with my roommate
and I am the only tenant on the rental agreement. I want to give her
three-day eviction notice, if that is legal. I haven't had peace of
mind since she became my roommate.
Griswold: Unfortunately, you do not have the
same options as a landlord does when it comes to getting rid of a bad
tenant. In your case you only have a verbal agreement with a problem
roommate so you need to work with them to get them to move
Since you are on a month-to-month tenancy, you
could give your landlord your 30-day notice to vacate and just move
out and find another place to live. Since your roommate is not on the
rental agreement they would have a difficult time avoiding an eviction
if they attempted to stay after you leave.
You could also explain the situation to your
landlord and actually request the landlord to serve you with a 30-day
notice. The landlord may be willing to cooperate or they may tell you
that it is your problem and insist that you fulfill the terms of your
rental agreement or terminate the rental agreement on your own.
How often is enough?
Question: I have managed hundreds of houses over
the past decade and have for the most part had no problem agreeing
with my tenants how much of their security deposit we should use for
cleaning and repairs, if any. But the one disagreement that comes up
the most is painting the interior.
The Fair Housing Web site says if the tenancy has
been two years or longer, the tenant is not responsible for any
painting. I feel this is ridiculous. If you lived in a house for 10
years, would you expect to have to paint five times?
If a tenant lives in the house for only one year, I
feel it should not need painting. I have always used five years as a
painting life and have prorated based on that number.
Smith: As a landlord attorney, I understand
your frustration. California's statement of law on the issue is too
general and not much help. Determining "ordinary wear and
tear" or "reasonable" cleaning in a given case can be
I advise clients to let common sense be the guide.
I can tell you that your five-year average life is a reasonable
proposal and that there is no state law which, generally speaking,
denies landlords painting charges after two years.
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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