Legal Questions October

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP
Questions & Answers
Ted Kimball, Esq.

1. Question:

I rent out a three-bedroom home with a covered patio that I have turned into a fourth bedroom.
There are four individual people renting. My question is, can I call it renting rooms or am I
renting a house to four different people?

Answer:

It is better if you rent the house to all four under one lease with each tenant being “jointly and
severally” liable, meaning they are individually responsible for the lease, as well as collectively.

2. Question:

We have a policy of allowing prospective tenants who have poor credit to qualify if they have a
qualified guarantor sign the lease. We want to change that policy. Do we have to do anything
legally speaking to modify our policy?

Answer:

Be sure to document the details of the new screening policy in your files and the effective date
that it will be implemented. That way, if someone claims they were given different screening
criteria than someone else, you have documentation to show when the new policy came into
effect.

3. Question:

In order to screen prospective tenants, I want to establish a standard of income/debt vs. rent. Is
this legal in California?

Answer:

Many landlords use a formula to determine qualification of residents based upon their financial
stability. This type of screening is desired because of its objectivity. Non-discriminatory point
systems can also work well to provide objective selection standards.

4. Question:

The previous owner of an apartment building I recently purchased allowed the tenants to pay
half a month’s rent on the first and the other half on the fifteenth of the month. The lease,
however, says it is all due on the first and I want to enforce the lease. What, if any legal
problems do I face?

Answer:

California judges may find that there has been a modification of the payment terms of the
agreement by “mutual consent and execution” of the new payment terms. Many leases have a
provision which states that one waiver of strict enforcement of the terms does not constitute a
continuous waiver for subsequent breaches. If the agreement contains this clause, the court
should rule that the rent is all due on the first of the month.

5. Question:

One of our tenants is complaining about the carpet and says it is California law that the
carpeting must be changed every seven years. Have you heard of any law on this subject?

Answer:

California law does not require landlord to replace carpeting, unless the condition of the carpet
creates a health hazard or risk of injury.

6. Question:

When tenants give notice that they will be vacating the residence, is it permissible for me to give
them a notice stating that I will be advertising the vacancy and will be showing their apartment?

Answer:

Unless the tenant agrees to another arrangement, you would be required to give reasonable
notice (24 hours) in writing for every entry.

7. Question:

I have a “Guarantee of Rental Agreement” from the mother of a tenant. The tenant is twelve
days late with the rent. Do I have an obligation to notify the mother and give her the chance to
pay? What is my recourse against her if she refuses to live up to the guarantee agreement?

Answer:

Notifying the guarantor may be a requirement depending upon the language of the guarantee
agreement. You may want to advise the guarantor in any event and send her a courtesy copy
of the three-day notice before taking action.

8. Question:

Is it necessary that a notice to perform or quit be for three days, or can I choose to give an
otherwise good tenant more time to solve the problem?

Answer:

You can give the tenant more time to respond to a breach, but it should end with a three-day
notice. You could write the tenant that you are going to allow them to cure the breach by a
certain date and if not cured by then, a three-day notice to perform will be served.

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