Room Rental, ADA, Subsidies, Late Rent

“The tenant, not the landlord, must pay for the modifications. ”

Q: My kids are finally grown, on their own and out of the house. It seemed a shame to let their old room just sit idle, so I rented it out to what I thought was a quiet, hard-working grad student. I thought the company would do me good and I could sure use the extra income. Well this quiet, hard-working grad student wasn’t really quiet, hard working or a grad student! I can’t say for sure what he does, but he doesn’t go to school, work or go anywhere for that matter. He hasn’t left the house in weeks; he just sits around and listens to his stereo and television. He pays his rent but he is getting on my nerves! Just last night he told me not to even think of asking him to leave because he knew the eviction laws and said he could stay in my house for months, maybe even a year! Is this true, how long must I endure this nightmare?

A: In the case of a single lodger in a house where there are no other lodgers, the owner of the house can remove the lodger without using the formal eviction procedures. You may give your unwanted lodger written notice that he cannot continue to use the premises. The amount of notice will be the same as the number of days between rent payments. That is, if the lodger pays rent weekly, then you may give him seven days’ notice; if monthly, then 30. When the notice expires, the lodger has no further right to remain in the owner’s house and he may be removed as a trespasser.

Q: One of my elderly residents recently fell and broke her hip, and it looks like she won’t be getting around very well ever again. She has been living in our building for many years and I would hate to see her move; everyone loves her. Her daughter asked if I would install grab bars in the shower and in the bathroom, and kind of implied that I must do it at my expense because of the ADA requirements, whatever they are. Now this resident is very sweet, but I just cannot afford to spend the money, my husband and I are barely making it as it is. Do I have to allow my resident to install the grab bars and do I have to pay for the cost?

A: A landlord must allow a disabled tenant to make reasonable modifications to the rental unit to the extent necessary to allow the tenant full enjoyment of the premises. The tenant, not the landlord, must pay for the modifications. As a condition of making the modifications, you may require the tenant to enter into an agreement to restore the premises to their original condition upon termination of the tenancy. You cannot require an additional security deposit in this situation, but you can require the tenant to pay a reasonable estimate of the restoration cost into an escrow account.

Q: Since I relocated to the west coast, I have served as the onsite manager for a 24-unit building. After a number of evictions for nonpayment of rent, the owner and I have come to the conclusion that individuals on federal or state subsidy are less than stellar residents. I understand that someone may fall on hard times, but we have never had a good experience with a resident that received government assistance. The owner has asked me to refuse renting to individuals receiving federal or state subsidies. Can I do this?

A: No. Owners typically select residents on the basis of their ability to pay the rent. As you know, the purpose of income qualification is to ensure that the tenant will be able to pay the rent.

However, the source of the tenant’s income may not be used as part of the selection process, and the income qualification policy must be applied equally to all residents. Although the source of the income may not be used to disqualify a prospect, provided it is legal, the prospect must meet all of your other criteria in order to qualify.

Q: My tenant and I have been on good terms for the last five years. The tenant has failed to pay this month’s rent. It is now the 20th of the month, and I haven’t seen my tenant or the rent.

Actually, it’s been a while since he showed his face around these parts. I’m pretty sure he left the premises, but he hasn’t returned the keys. Since I have not seen him and he owes me money, can I change the locks and re-rent the premises?

A: No. Under most circumstances, California law requires that a landlord can only retake possession of a property following the voluntary surrender by the resident, pursuant to a judgment for possession, and enforcement of that judgment can only be accomplished through the Sheriff, or by compliance with the Belief of Abandonment of Real Property procedural requirements.

Initially, if a tenant surrenders keys to the premises, you may legally re-enter and change the locks. However, when a landlord has a reasonable belief that the tenant has vacated, and the tenant’s outstanding rent has been due and unpaid for at least 14 days, then the landlord may post a Notice of Belief of Abandonment of Real Property. Once the Notice of Abandonment of Real Property has been posted and mailed to the tenant, and 18 days have expired, the landlord may retake possession of the property without resorting to the courts.


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 for more information.