Question I just received a very strange letter. Seems my local police department has identified one of my residents as an undesirable; they say he’s suspected of being a gang banger and is dealing drugs and tagging the neighborhood. They say that if I don’t evict him, the police will prosecute me for allowing a criminal to operate on my property. I may even lose my property! The family has been there for several years, other than a couple bounced checks they have been model tenants. This is the first I’ve heard of this, no one has ever complained before, no complaints, no drugs, no graffiti or tagging around my building, Help! I can’t afford a vacancy right now, and I think that the police might be wrong, what do I do?
Answer In this upside down and crazy world we live in today, this actually is a growing trend in law enforcement. With a judicial system acting more like a ‘catch and release’ fishing excursion than one that metes out consequences for truly bad behavior, law enforcement is focusing on the easier prey, landlords, in controlling crime in their jurisdictions. Rather than prosecute the criminal, many law enforcement agencies are taking the lazy way out and threatening the law abiding landlord, forcing them to evict the resident. Rather than locking up the bad guys, seems like the current trend is to simply shuffle them off to another community. If the police are certain he is dealing drugs and tagging, seems like the right thing to do would be to arrest him, prosecute him fully and send him off to the “gray bar hotel.” If the letter you received is inconsistent with your experience with your resident, follow up with the police department by asking for documentation supporting their claim. Ask them to provide specific incidents, dates and times of wrongdoing. Have there been arrests on the property? Have illegal drugs been found there? Ask the office to identify any witnesses that would be willing to testify in court, if necessary. Ask other residents in the building, gather independent information. If the information you gather supports your resident’s involvement in criminal activity, take action immediately. Consult your attorney to determine if you have enough facts to support a three day nuisance notice, or if a thirty day or a sixty day notice is appropriate. Remember, a letter from the police department is not sufficient evidence in court to base a nuisance notice on; testimony from percipient witnesses will be required in the event the resident contests the unlawful detainer action.
Can’t take it anymore, every time I visit my building, there is another satellite dish bolted to my building facia or attached to the roof. It’s not just the satellite dish folks; I’m having the same problem with the cable guys. They spread cable all over my brand new roof; leave nails and screws scattered all around, and certainly are causing premature wear to the roof by all of their activities up there, and of course, all without my permission. No one should be on my roof! What do I do?
The problem you describe is one that owners have been facing for years. Often it is the tenants who are the cause of the improper installation, but recently we’ve noticed the problems are more often caused by the actual dish or cable provider, by one of their subcontractors or employees. The transgressions are many; certainly the installation by attaching the dish to your building facia or structure, and the stringing of cable on your roof is neither permitted by the rental agreement, nor by law. More importantly, the entry upon your roof without your permission is an illegal trespass. The damage caused to your roof by directly attaching the dish to facia, or by the scattered nails and other debris working their way into the roofing material causing the roof membrane to leak is certainly unacceptable and is actionable. Don’t be surprised when your roofing contractor seeks to void his warranty due to your failure to prevent persons from abusing the roof, the lack of maintenance by allowing nails, screws and debris to remain on the roof, and the intentional penetrations of the roof membrane by the installers. Enforcing the terms of the agreement against the tenant is of course the obvious choice, but not necessarily the best. The fix has become a bit more complicated given the current climate of increasing vacancy and declining rents. In strong rental markets, a notice of default could be served on the tenant requiring the tenant to correct the problem, and if he failed to do so, evict him. Once evicted, the replacement tenant then moves in, calls the dish or cable guys, and the exact same problem happens again, déjà vu. Problem solved? No. In the current rental market, owners want to solve the problem, keep it from re-occurring, and yet maintain the tenancy if at all possible. The best solution in today’s market, assuming the installation was not done by the resident, is to put the resident on notice of the breach, and with the tenant’s co-operation, demand that the dish or cable installer correct the problem, and repair any damage done to the roof. A written demand should be served upon the dish or cable provider, as well as the installer, that you intend to pursue them civilly and will seek damages for their trespass on to your property, the roof, for recovery of the damages you have suffered and will suffer due to the damage to the roof and facia, and for further damages due to their ‘unfair business practices’ of engaging in illegal activity, trespassing and causing damage to property. Provide them a reasonable amount of time, ten days, to contact you to make arrangements to remove the offending equipment and to repair any damage done to your roof. Upon receipt of your letter, or your attorney’s letter, the provider will certainly prefer to correct the situation and will certainly not repeat the transgression on your property.
Question I’m getting conflicting advice about whether or not I must rent to some one that does not have a valid social security or tax identification number, or an official government issued picture ID. Seems like most of the attorneys and the Fair Housing guys say I ‘cannot discriminate’ and that I must rent to all, regardless of whether or not the prospect can prove who he is, or verify his tenancy history, or his ability to pay the rent. I have been following that advice for years, and now have a building full of undocumented people, that I could never find in a million years if I ever had to collect from them. The rent usually gets paid, but the building and the neighborhood, look like hell. I want to take my building back and only rent to persons that qualify, that have verifiable identities and credit, and are good credit risks. What are my rights?
Answer The dirty little secret is that our industry has passively allowed this erosion to occur over many years. Many landlords have looked the other way, in favor of the quick rental, the cash payments, the full building, the reduced confrontation; we’ve taken the easy way out. Landlords have been wary of lawsuits claiming discrimination, and have believed the bullying taunts and threats from the tenant and immigrant rights activists, that we have just taken the easier and less confrontational course of allowing it to happen. We blame our government for not addressing the illegal immigration issue; one side of the aisle wanting cheap labor, the other wanting cheap votes. We blame employers for hiring, and our ‘welfare state’ for creating the magnet that keeps drawing. Landlords are part of the problem as well. By succumbing to the short term temptation of the quick rental to the unverified, the undocumented, we are contributing to the problem. Many landlords are realizing that rather than just complaining, they can be a part of the solution. Landlords have absolutely no obligation whatsoever to rent to an individual who is unable to independently verify his identity, his past tenant history, and his ability to comply with the terms of the rental agreement, including his financial ability to pay the rent. Our system of society is built around a numeric social security or tax ID number. Our life history, good and bad, is reported more often than not, into a data base that is organized by, and sorted by the social security number. Names are common, but social security numbers are unique. No two people should share the same number. Credit as well as criminal convictions are reported similarly. These very basic requirements should be applied uniformly to all applicants, regardless of race, national origin or ethnicity. It is just good business sense. With average rents over $1,200.00 a month, landlord investment of $175,000 or more per rental unit, and a litigation climate that is out of control, landlords must know who their residents are, must reduce their risk of financial loss and must know how to recover from a breaching resident.
Question I’ve been thinking of installing a drop box somewhere on my property so that the residents can put their rent checks in it. I’m thinking I’ll save them a stamp and get the rents sooner. Any problem with doing this?
Answer Many landlords do exactly that, most with absolutely no problems whatsoever. If you are considering the practice, it is very important to install a secure box that cannot be removed or broken into, and provide your residents with written procedures regarding the use of the drop box. Specifically, inform the residents that use of the box is optional; that they may use it for their convenience, but that there always is a risk of loss or theft. Rent will not be considered paid until you actually receive their check. And of course, never deposit cash. Also provide the residents with a physical address where they can personally deliver the rent, not a PO Box, if they prefer not to deposit the rent into the drop box. By not requiring the use of the drop box, the resident will bear the risk of loss, until you actually receive the rent. If you mandate the use of a drop box, and fail to provide a physical address for payment, or require payment to be made to a PO Box, courts will find that the risk of loss transfers to you upon their placement in the drop box, or in the mail.
The foregoing is presented in a general nature to address general legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. The Duringer Law Group, PLC is one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms, specializing in evictions and in the collection of debt, representing landlords throughout Southern California. The firm may be reached at 714.279.1100 or 800.829.6994 or 877.387.4643. Visit our website at www.DuringerLaw.com for copies of our legal publications “Eviction and Debt Collection, a Landlord’s Guide,” and “Asset Preservation Strategies.”