Legal Questions March 2013- Part 2

6. Question: Is there a clear definition of what constitutes “ordinary wear and tear”? My
husband and I are spending day and night trying to clean and repair our once beautiful home we
rented out and need to know how much to charge back to our tenants.

Answer: There are not many legal guidelines on this issue so many judges use what they
consider a common sense approach. We advise landlords to seek an opinion from the
manufacturer of drapes, carpets, and appliances as to their expected lifetime assuming ordinary
wear and tear. If the item needs replacing before that time, you can use this as a guideline to
determine the pro rata amount to charge back to the tenant.

7. Question: One of my residents recently had her phone line repaired. The telephone
company charged her $60.00. She did not notify us of the problem before ordering the repair.
We could have made the repair ourselves at much less cost. The tenant wants me to pay the
bill. What do you think?

Answer: California law deems owners of rental property responsible for the inside wiring to the
property. However, tenants must first give landlords notice of a needed repair and provide a
reasonable time to make the repair before undertaking a self-help action. You shouldn’t have to
pay more than what it would have cost for you to make the repair.

8. Question: Must 3-day notices to pay rent or quit be served to all delinquent tenants at the
same time? We manage a large apartment community and sometimes have a multiple of
notices to serve.

Answer: California law does not require that you serve 3-day notices to all delinquent residents
at the same time. It is a good idea to do so, however, in order to avoid the appearance of
favoritism or discriminatory conduct.

9. Question: Our tenants have a one-year lease. They gave me a 30-day notice of intent to
vacate two months short of the one-year lease expiration. What should I do?

Answer: You should let them know in writing that a 30-day notice has no legal effect on their
obligations under the lease and they remain liable for the rent until the lease expires or the date
you are able to relet the premises, (you have to use due diligence to relet), whichever comes
first.

10. Question: Our tenant’s children put a 6-inch hole in a plaster wall of the house they are
renting. The tenant readily admitted that the children “might have been punching the wall a
little.”

Answer: You can serve a 3-day notice to perform conditions and covenants or quit to require
the tenant to pay for the repairs to the wall. If they do not comply with the notice, you should
prevail in an eviction.

This article is for general information purposes only. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice.
Ted Kimball is a partner with Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP. The law firm specializes in landlord/tenant,
collections, fair housing and business and real estate, with offices throughout California. Property
owner’s and manager’s with questions regarding the contents of this article, please call 800.338.6039.

© 2013 Kimball, Tirey and St. John LLP

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