Records, Forms, FIrst to Qualify, Parking

“From the pool of applicants, you may select the best and most qualified applicant, without regard to timing of receipt of the application.”

Q: I just closed escrow on a small building and I’m trying to figure out who’s who. I received the rental agreements, but the tenant information seems incomplete. The applications, the few that I’ve found so far, are old and outdated. I can’t seem to find any telephone numbers for the residents, and I’m not real sure that the names on the agreements are the same people who actually live in the units. I’ve read your articles before and I know the importance of reviewing the files and doing thorough due diligence before closing escrow, but this deal just happened too fast. Now that I’ve closed escrow, what can I do to clean up the records?

A: First things first. Figure out what you know and what you don’t. Establish individual tenancy files, one per unit. Based on the limited information you have, write down the names and ages of the occupants, the terms of the rental agreement, written or oral, lease or month-to-month, rental rate, deposit on file, date paid through. Compile whatever contact information you have: home phone number, work and cell number. Design a “tenant emergency information sheet” that includes spaces for the following: names of all occupants, home and cell phone numbers for each occupant, work phone numbers, email addresses and detailed vehicle information.

Visit the building around dinner time, most residents will be home, and go door to door and meet briefly with the occupants of each apartment. Spend a few minutes confirming the information in your files, and gathering any missing information. Ask the residents to complete the “tenant emergency information sheet” while you are there to be used in case of emergency. You will find that the vast majority of your residents will cooperate fully and provide the requested information. Residents are generally eager to please, and since the relationship is still new, there should be no animosity or distrust.

This is also a good opportunity to find out the condition of each unit. Simply ask the residents if there are any issues that need addressing; better to find out now and have an opportunity to address the needed issues than to allow conditions to worsen, and your relationship with the residents as well. This is also an opportune time to prepare new month-to-month rental agreements for signatures.

You don’t know the players yet, so you certainly don’t want to do fixed-term leases. The few residents who are less than cooperative will be quickly identified as your “problem residents” and can be handled individually. Names and contact information of the uncooperative ones can generally be gathered from the other residents or from public records. If the property is non-rent control, and a month-to-month tenancy, the rental rate and term can be set with either a 30- or a 60-day notice of change of terms, depending on the extent of the change.

Q: It seems like my rental forms are getting longer and more complex. I’ve read in your previous articles of several disclosure forms that should be given to my residents. Can you summarize these forms for me so that I can be sure I’m doing it right?

A: Sure, remember this is California, the most litigious state in the country, so the following list is not static, it will change and no doubt expand over time. If the rental unit was built prior to 1978, the housing provider must disclose the presence of known lead based paint and lead based paint hazards in the dwelling before the prospective tenant signs the rental agreement. You must also give the prospect a copy of the federal government’s pamphlet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.” The pamphlet is available through your apartment association. Housing providers must also provide a copy of the notice received from their pest control provider detailing the pesticides to be used in an initial or periodic maintenance program.

Residential properties built prior to 1981 may contain asbestos. Although not specifically required, unless you have ten or more employees, it is strongly recommended that housing providers advise their residents of the presence of asbestos and further inform them of the proper care of asbestos material. All housing providers with ten or more employees must disclose the existence of carcinogenic materials to prospective tenants. The owner of a dwelling who knows that an illegal controlled substance, such as methamphetamine, LSD or its components, has been spilled or dumped on or beneath the dwel ling must give a prospective tenant written notice prior to him signing a rental agreement.

The owner of a dwelling who has applied for a permit to demolish the dwelling must give written notice of this to the prospect, and it must state the earliest possible date that the tenancy will end.

Additionally, if your rental unit is located within one mile of a closed military base in which ammunition or explosives were used, you must give written notice prior to signing the rental agreement. Additionally, your rental agreement must contain certain specific language informing your new resident of the availability of the statewide database of registered sex offenders. As of July 1, 2020, all new rental agreements must contain statutory language as to whether or not the premises are exempt from the new rent limitations and just cause requirements. If you are not a member of your local apartment association, you should certainly consider it, use the association’s forms, keeping up with all of these laws and requirements will boggle the mind!

Q: I expect a vacancy to be coming up at the end of the month. I started advertising the unit and I put a sign in the window. Luckily, I’ve already received quite a few applicants. There are a few that sort of qualify, and I guess I could rent to one if I had to, but I’d like to continue with the ad and get a few more prospects to choose from. The thing is, this one applicant is getting pushy. She calls me several times a day, says that she knows she is qualified, that I have to rent to her because the unit is still available and she was the first to apply. Truth is, she probably does qualify, but I’m just not sure. I haven’t actually denied her nor have I accepted her, I just need more time. Do I have to rent to her because she was first to qualify?

A: No, there is no requirement to rent to the first person to meet your criteria. Yet. There are misguided efforts to require us to do just that, fortunately, they have not yet become law here in California. You are free to continue and accept additional applications from other candidates. From the pool of applicants, you may select the best and most qualified applicant, without regard to timing of receipt of the application. Often an owner will have a single vacancy and have many qualified applicants to choose from. A thoughtful review of all applicants and their qualifications will allow you to select the most qualified tenant. Don’t let the pushy prospect bully you into making a premature decision.

Q: Street parking spaces are few and far between near my building. My apartment complex has just enough parking spaces for my residents to each have one space. If a resident has more than one car, they must try to park it on the street. It has been working out fine for years but now I have this one tenant who refuses to follow the rules. He is constantly parking his second car in someone else’s assigned spot. I’ve told him several times but he just ignores me. What do I do?

A: Your community rules and regulations should specify your parking rules, specifically stating that only one vehicle may be parked on the premises, and that all parking is assigned. Ensure that you have the proper signage at the entrances to the parking area. Most cities require the sign to contain certain restrictive parking language, plus the local police department telephone number, and the California Vehicle Code section that provides for towing of unauthorized vehicles. Contact your local police department for their specific requirements, as they vary from city to city.

Next if you know the offender, then provide a written warning of the violation. Attempt to serve it at his residence, post it on his door if he’s not in, and also put the warning on the windshield of his car. If practical, take and save a photograph of the warning on the vehicle windshield, because the offender will always claim that you did not give prior notice before towing. If he fails to remove the offending vehicle, the car may be towed.

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.