Deposits, 3-Day Notice and more

“Your policy of doing annual inspections is admirable and is practiced by responsible housing providers throughout California.”

Q: Any changes to the security deposit laws for 2020?

A: Yes. Existing law regulates the terms and conditions of residential tenancies, and prohibits a housing provider from demanding or receiving security for a rental agreement for residential property, however denominated, in an amount or value in excess of two months’ rent in the case of unfurnished residential property, or three months’ rent in the case of furnished residential property.

Senate Bill 644 changed those limits as they relate to active duty service members. SB 644 prohibits a housing provider from demanding or receiving security from an active duty service member who rents residential property in which the active duty service member will reside in an amount or value in excess of one month’s rent in the case of unfurnished residential property, or two months’ rent if furnished. The bill would also prohibit a housing provider from refusing to enter into a rental agreement for residential property with a prospective tenant who is a service member because of this limitation.

Q: When filling out the three-day notice to pay rent or quit, I noticed that there is space where I am supposed to insert the name of the person authorized to accept rent. I don’t really care who they pay it to, I just want my tenants to pay it. Can I just write “resident manager” or put the name of the apartment community in that space?

A: No, CCP 1161(2) requires that the notice must include “…the name, telephone number, and address of the person to whom rent payment shall be made…” A corporation is a “person” as defined by California law; however, the same is not true for a partnership, a fictitious business name or an LLC. Judges in Los Angeles courts have been strictly enforcing this requirement for a while now. Orange County and other courts are beginning to follow suit. To avoid a problem when you go to trial, make sure that you include the name of a person who is authorized to accept rent on behalf of the housing provider.

Q: A prospective resident recently applied for one of my rentals. He seems nice and all, but when he filled out the application, he left a blank where his Social Security Number should go; he said he didn’t have one. He had a California driver’s license, and something called a Matricular Consular card. He seemed a bit combative when we discussed this issue, said that his attorney said I had to rent to him, that I couldn’t discriminate against him, as long as he could afford the rent. Must I rent to him? How do I verify any of his information?

A: Proper tenant screening results from the proper use of a variety of tools. Credit reports and eviction reports are two of the best tools available to predict the ability of the prospective tenant to perform his obligations. Qualification of a resident goes far beyond ensuring that “he makes enough money” to pay the rent. Verification of past rental history, tenant stability, and verification of his ability to honor his credit obligations, as well as determining the likelihood of his continued employment, are all fair game in evaluating a prospect. Like it or not, our country’s system of storing information on each of its citizens uses a person’s Social Security Number as the primary identifier.

A Matricular Consular card is merely an identification card issued by a foreign country and is not valid for identification in the United States. In order to work in the United States legally, one must have a Social Security or a Taxpayer Identification Number. It is illegal for an employer to hire an individual without a valid Social Security or a Taxpayer Identification Number. Identity theft is rampant in California, and it is incumbent upon all credit providers, including landlords, to ensure that the person that fills out the credit application truly is who he says he is. Many tenant’s rights advo cates, and that is exactly what they are, advocates, advancing the rights of tenants at the expense of landlords, insist that it is discriminatory to require a Social Security Number or a Taxpayer Identi fication Number when evaluating a prospect.

You as a housing provider have a legitimate business purpose in determining the credit worthi ness of a proposed resident, and not only to predict his ability to timely meet his rental obligations, but you must determine his ability to continue to meet those in the future. Further, in the event you had to pursue this individual in the future due to a breach of the agreement, you must assess the risk in searching for and locating this individual should you need to collect a past due amount. You should accept the application from the prospective resident, apply your screening criteria to the information provided. Absent a Social Security or a Taxpayer Identification Number, it will be impossible for you to determine his or her credit worthiness. You have no obligation to rent to a prospect that you are unable to properly screen and do not meet your tenant screening criteria.

Q: I am a very conscientious housing provider. I want to ensure that my rentals are well maintained and that any maintenance issues are addressed immediately. Every year, I send a notice to my residents informing them that I will inspect each unit. I have been doing this for years without any problems. This month I received a letter from one of my tenants telling me that I had no right to enter his apartment to look around, that he would not let me in. What do I do? Can I force my way in to do the inspection?

A: Your policy of doing annual inspections is admirable and is practiced by responsible housing providers throughout California. Most tenants welcome a responsible housing provider’s actions in ensuring that all is well, and voluntarily cooperate in providing access upon your reason able request. It is clearly in the best interest of all to ensure that any maintenance issues are prompt ly addressed, and that a spirit of communication and cooperation exists between a housing provider and his residents. Trouble is, your resident is right. There is no specific provision in California law requiring a resident to allow the housing provider access to merely “inspect” the premises.

California law states that a housing provider can enter a rental unit only for certain reasons. Those reasons are in an emergency, when the tenant has moved out or abandoned the premises, to make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or other improvements, to show the unit to prospective purchasers, tenants, or lenders, to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit, or to conduct a pre-move out inspection at the end of the tenancy, pursuant to court order, or to inspect the smoke detector or inspect the installation of a waterbed. Con spicuously absent from this body of law is the unfettered right of a housing provider to just inspect for the pure sake of just making sure everything is alright. You cannot force your tenant to allow access for the purpose of inspection.

 

 

This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 285,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California and has collected over $200,000,000 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.