When Six-month Lease Expires, Can Landlord Raise the Rent?
Robert S. Griswold, Steven R. Kellman and Ted Smith
This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written by Certified Property Manager Robert S. Griswold, host of KSDO Radio's "Real Estate Management Today" and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing rental owners.
Q: Our six-month lease expired last year and has rolled over to a month-to-month agreement. Is our landlord required to give us advance notice if she plans on raising our rent? Is there a legal limit (in dollars or percentage terms) that our rent can be raised?
A: Smith: Since the six-month lease has now become a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord may change one or more of the terms of the tenancy. A written 30-day notice of any change is required, including a raise in the rent. In the absence of a rent control jurisdiction or other specific or subsidized housing, there is no legal limit on the amount or frequency of rental increases on regular month-to-month tenancies. Savvy landlords, though, carefully evaluate how much and when to raise rent.
Kellman: Unless you are renting under subsidized housing or in certain mobile home parks, there is no rent control in San Diego County. This means the landlord is free to raise the rent at any given time and for any amount, unless the rent raise is made illegally by certain conduct or intentions for the landlord. For example, a landlord may not raise the rent in retaliation for the tenant lawfully and peacefully exercising his or her rights. If a rent raise was a legal one in a month-to-month tenancy, a 30-day notice for the raise must be properly given to the tenant before the raise may take effect.
Q: We have rented a home for two years and we want to have our carpets cleaned. Who is responsible?
A: Kellman: Generally, the tenant is responsible for cleaning the carpets in a rental whether the tenant was there two months or two years. The problem arises when the carpet is so old and worn that it is difficult to clean. In this case, much time and expense may be wasted by the tenant in trying to get the carpet clean or to keep it clean. In this situation, the landlord should replace the old carpet at the landlord's expense. The law does not hold the tenant responsible for a carpet that wore out over time and by normal wear and tear.
Q: I am renting my former home to a very nice couple on a month-to-month basis. For financial reasons, I need to sell this rental home in the next few months. What arrangements should I make with the tenants?
A: Griswold: First, contact your renters and explain your need to sell along with your best estimate on the timing of a sale. I would suggest that you determine their interest in purchasing the property. They obviously like the property as they chose to live there, plus you may be able to offer them a lower price since you potentially could save on real estate brokerage commissions and close quicker without any lost rent. You also may be able to be more flexible with the financing. If you need to sell to a third party, be sure to offer your renters a monthly rent reduction and even a generous "bonus" or moving allowance as an enticement for their cooperation and support. There clearly will be an inconvenience created by the frequent showing of the home and you should have a separate written agreement that spells out the rights and responsibilities and the rental discount and/or "bonus" upon close of escrow. You want to financially motivate your renters so that they are on your side as you offer your home for sale.
Smith: The legal relationship with your tenants is merely on a month-to-month basis and may be terminated by either of you with proper 30-day written notice. They're a nice couple, but you have good financial reasons for needing them to vacate. Try to give them as much advance notice as possible so they can arrange for a smooth transition into other housing.
Q: Recently I signed a one-year lease for a large house along with my sister and two roommates I just met. We have a great landlord and I really like the place. Unfortunately, one of the roommates wants to violate the lease by bringing a dog into the house. I have protested to no avail and think that it is best for me to move even though I don't want to leave. Another thought was to see if we could dissolve the lease so that the landlord and I can sign a new lease and I would find some new roommates that wouldn't violate the lease terms. If I choose to move, is the landlord legally obligated to continue renting the house to my roommates? Can we just start over and sign a new lease?
A: Smith: For better or for worse, you are bound by the existing lease. The dog may have to go as the landlord doesn't have to deviate from the original lease. Even if you move, you will still be liable for the lease if your roommates violate the lease or leave before the end of the term. If the landlord agrees, the two of you could dissolve the lease. Sit down with the landlord and try to negotiate a new lease to everybody's satisfaction. Hopefully, this will avoid legal proceedings.
Griswold: Communication is the key to most tenant/landlord issues. In this regard, it seems that you have good lines of communication with your landlord but not necessarily with your roommates. Clearly explain the potentially negative legal ramifications for you and your roommates to the one roommate that wants the dog. Point out to the other roommates that each of you has a vested interest in the other complying with the terms of the lease. This is a "one for all and all for one" situation. Hopefully, this will solve the problem. If not, maybe you could just replace the roommate that wants the dog with someone that will abide by the rules and be financially responsible.
Q: When it was time to move into our rental condo, we found it filthy. We were unable to contact the owner and with the movers standing by, we had no choice but to quickly clean the condo ourselves and go forward with the move in. What kind of cleaning is required of the landlord? What is our responsibility when we move out? Also, how can we avoid this problem in the future?
A: Kellman: The landlord is clearly responsible to clean the unit prior to new tenants moving in. The amount of cleaning is based on a reasonableness standard taking into account the area of the rental, the type of unit, the rent amount and the expectations of the parties. Regardless of those guidelines, there is a minimum level of cleaning that all units must have for a new tenant and this unit, being "filthy," will not meet the standard. Here the tenant may claim from the landlord the costs of doing the landlord's job of cleaning the unit when they moved in. Even though you moved in to a filthy unit, you should clean the unit upon moving out. Leaving the unit filthy only compounds the problem and makes the tenants just as wrong as the landlords. To avoid this problem, try to ensure that the unit is already cleaned and ready to move in before completing the commitment to rent the unit. If this is not possible, get the landlord to make a commitment, in writing, to have the unit ready before the move-in date.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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
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