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Legal Q & A by – Richard Beckman, Attorney

Posted on 01. Oct, 2019 by in all

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Question 1: Can you review any new landlord-tenant laws for 2019?
Answer 1: Yes. There were several new state-wide laws affecting landlord tenant relations, but the one that may make the most impact is Assembly Bill No. 2343, which removes weekends and court holidays from the calculation of when a three day notice to cure or quit expires, and does the same for the period a tenant is given to respond to an unlawful detainer lawsuit. Thus, under the old law, a three day notice served on the tenant on Friday expired the following Monday. AB 2343 took effect  on September 1, 2019, which means the notice would not expire until the following Wednesday. 

Similarly, an old law says a tenant/defendant who is served personally with the UD summons on a Friday has until the following Wednesday to file her response. AB 2343 changed that time period by excluding weekends and judicial holidays. Thus, a tenant personally served the summons on Friday will have until the Monday of the following week to file a response, rather than only until the following Wednesday. In cases where the tenant is ‘sub-served’, (summons served on someone at the premises other than the named tenant/defendant), the extra days can extend the response deadline by several days.

Question 2: Do I have to accept rent from someone who is not my tenant?
Answer 2: Under certain circumstances, yes. Many landlords have refused to accept rent from anyone not their actual tenant, mostly out of concern that to do so would create a landlord-tenant relationship with the third party. However, another new law clarifies that the landlord can (and in some cases must) accept such rent payments without creating any possibility of a tenancy relationship with the person offering the rent payment.

Effective January 1, 2019, AB 2219 provides that: “Subject to the limitations below, a landlord or a landlord’s agent shall allow a tenant to pay rent through a third party.

(A) A landlord or landlord’s agent is not required to accept the rent payment tendered by a third party unless the third party has provided to the landlord or landlord’s agent a signed acknowledgment stating that they are not currently a tenant of the premises for which the rent payment is being made and that acceptance of the rent payment does not create a new tenancy with the third party.

(B) Failure by a third party to provide the signed acknowledgment to the landlord or landlord’s agent shall void the obligation of a landlord or landlord’s agent to accept a tenant’s rent tendered by a third party.

(C) The landlord or landlord’s agent may, but is not required to, provide a form acknowledgment to be used by third parties, as provided for in subparagraph (A), provided however that a landlord shall accept as sufficient for compliance with subparagraph (A) an acknowledgment in substantially the following form: I, [insert name of third party], state as follows: I am not currently a tenant of the premises located at [insert address of premises].

I acknowledge that acceptance of the rent payment I am offering for the premises does not create a new tenancy.

(Signature of third party) _________    (Date) ________

Question 3: Are there any changes to the electric car charging parking rules?

Answer 3:  I’m glad you asked. The old law allowed a tenant who has parking as part of his or her tenancy to install an electric charging station at the parking space, as long as the tenant complies with the owner’s reasonable requirements regarding design, construction, permits and insurance covering the tenant and the landlord. It did not apply to complexes having less than five parking spaces, or already had a certain number of charging station spaced. Also, tenants in cities that have rent control laws were not covered by this state law, meaning rent controlled tenants in cities such as San Francisco or Oakland could not compel the landlord to allow the tenant to add a charging station (unless local law so provided). AB 1796, which took effect January 1, 2019, removes the exemption, and continues the prior provisions regarding the tenant’s right to pay to have a charging station installed, subject to the conditions and limitations set out below in the statute itself copied in part.

 Section 1947.6 of the Civil Code is amended to read:

(a) a lessor of a dwelling shall approve a written request of a lessee to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted for the lessee that meets the requirements of this section and complies with the lessor’s procedural approval process for modification to the property.

(b) This section does not apply to residential rental properties where:

(1) Electric vehicle charging stations already exist for lessees in a ratio that is equal to or greater than 10 percent of the designated parking spaces.

(2) Parking is not provided as part of the lease agreement.

(3) There are fewer than five parking spaces.

(d) A lessor shall not be obligated to provide an additional parking space to a lessee in order to accommodate an electric vehicle charging station.

(e) If the electric vehicle charging station has the effect of providing the lessee with a reserved parking space, the lessor may charge a monthly rental amount for that parking space.

(f) An electric vehicle charging station and all modifications and improvements to the property shall comply with federal, state, and local law, and all applicable zoning requirements, land use requirements, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions.

(g) A lessee’s written request to make a modification to the property in order to install and use an electric vehicle charging station shall include, but is not limited to, the lessee’s consent to enter into a written agreement that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(1) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the installation, use, maintenance, and removal of the charging station and installation, use, and maintenance of the infrastructure for the charging station.

(2) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the lessee to provide a complete financial analysis and scope of work regarding the installation of the charging station and its infrastructure.

(3) A written description of how, when, and where the modifications and improvements to the property are proposed to be made consistent with those items specified in the “Permitting Checklist” of the “Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook” published by the Office of Planning and Research.

(4) Obligation of the lessee to pay the lessor all costs associated with the lessor’s installation of the charging station and its infrastructure prior to any modification or improvement being made to the leased property. The costs associated with modifications and improvements shall include, but are not limited to, the cost of permits, supervision, construction, and, solely if required by the contractor, consistent with its past performance of work for the lessor, performance bonds.

(5) Obligation of the lessee to pay as part of rent for the costs associated with the electrical usage of the charging station, and cost for damage, maintenance, repair, removal, and replacement of the charging station, and modifications or improvements made to the property associated with the charging station.

(h) The lessee shall maintain in full force and effect a lessee’s general liability insurance policy in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000) and shall name the lessor as a named additional insured under the policy commencing with the date of approval of construction until the lessee forfeits possession of the dwelling to the lessor.

Question 4: Have there been any changes to commercial tenant laws for 2019?

Answer 4: Yes, there were two relatively modest changes, both of which took effect January 1, 2019.

Prior law allowed a landlord, who believed the commercial (or residential) tenant had abandoned the property, to avoid the choices of a self-help style recovery off possession (basically, going into the unit and changing the locks, which runs the risk of an allegation of wrongful eviction) and the sometimes cumbersome unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit process (which while cumbersome provides the owner with near-assurance that the tenant cannot later claim wrongful eviction). The prior law required the rent to be unpaid for at least 14 days, and if the owner reasonably believed the tenant had vacated the property, the owner should serve a Notice of belief of Abandonment, and if the tenant failed to respond within the 15-18 day notice period, the owner could recover possession of the unit. The process is unchanged for residential rental units

But AB 2847 authorizes a Notice of Belief of Abandonment of commercial property to be given where rent on the property has been due and unpaid for as little as three days, or, if the lease provides differently, the number of days required for the lessor to declare a rent default under the terms of the lease.

The second change to commercial tenants involves the disposition of property abandoned by the tenant when it vacates the rental property. The old law authorized a landlord to dispose of a commercial tenant’s personal property at the end of a commercial lease term and after specific notice has been given to the tenant. The property must be sold at public sale except if the landlord reasonably believes that the total resale value of the personal property is the lesser of $750.00 or $1 per square foot of the premises occupied by the tenant. In that case the landlord is authorized to retain the property for his or her own use or dispose of it in any manner.

This new law increases the threshold calculation of the total resale value of the personal property from $750.00 to either $2,500.00 or an amount equal to one month’s rent for the premises the tenant occupied, whichever is greater.

Question 5: I have a single family home in San Lorenzo that my family would like to live in. The tenants have been living there for more than three years and are on a month to month now. I am planning to use the AOA 60 day notice to quit. My question is do I have to worry about any special laws in San Lorenzo? Do I owe the tenants money beside return of their security deposit?
Answer 5: San Lorenzo does not have an eviction control measure such that you need a ‘just cause’ to terminate the tenancy, though ‘owner move in’ routinely qualifies as such in cities that do require just cause. Thus, it appears a ‘basic’ 60 day notice of termination of tenancy will be sufficient to terminate a month to month tenancy that is over one year, as you indicate is your situation. I also do not see any provision for a relocation payment to a tenant whose tenancy is being terminated for the owner’s occupancy.

Question 6: I have recently taken over a 23-unit building. I was informed by the on-site manager that he has a camera on the exterior of the building facing his front door. He said, “it is there for my security”. The camera is located in a tree. The on-site called me when he saw the owners speaking with the gardener and was concerned they may trim the tree. I am concerned……is this legal and should other tenants be informed? Would a general sign stating “Video Surveillance” be enough? Please advise.
Answer 6:  I have had this question before, but have never found a completely satisfactory response despite research. But the basic rule that seems to emerge is mostly related to a tenant’s reasonable expectation of privacy, such that they should not be exposed to the camera while in their unit. Common areas, particularly with a sign warning of camera surveillance, do not seem to be an issue. But the key may be to have proper signage that warns the public the area is under video surveillance.

Question 7: How often can tenant ask to have the apartment painted? Do I have to agree to the request, have it painted, or just offer them cost of paint? I am not sure about rent control, but the unit is in a six-unit in Oakland. Thanks!
Answer 7: No, you don’t have to agree to repaint a unit just because a tenant requests it. Unless the paint falls below the level where it is a hazard, it is optional to agree to such a request. If there’s a question about the paint, either party can request the city inspect and issue its opinion on whether the unit NEEDS repainting, in which case you would be obliged to do so. Of course, you can always agree to the tenant’s request, which might include offering to provide the tenant the paint if the tenant wants to repaint, assuming you trust their abilities etc. However, it should be clearly expressed in writing that the tenant is providing his or her labor solely at the tenant’s choice and no rent credit or other compensation is included in the painting effort.

Question 8: I had a person co-sign for an apartment rental for his sister-in-law. Her son and granddaughter (age 14) moved in afterwards, after they lost their home in foreclosure. The sister-in-law will be moving out within the month. She’s agreeing to pay two months’ rent for her son. Thereafter, I don’t know if the son will move or not, as we will request. He’s broke, unemployed, bankrupt, foreclosure, etc. If he refuses to vacate, what remedy do I have to go after the co-signer?
Answer 8: Normally, co-signors are responsble for the tenant’s obligations for the term of the lease. But there is a statute most landlords probably don’t know about, which may allow the co-signor to assert that he is in fact not bound by the lease terms. According to Civil Code § 1812.643 – Notice to joint signers of rental-purchase agreement –  the landlord is required to provide a co-signor the notice set forth below. Failure to provide the required notice, either in the lease itself or separately, will relieve the co-signor of any obligation on the lease.

“NOTICE TO COSIGNER:  If you sign this contract, you will have the same responsibility for the property and the same obligation to make payments that every renter has.

If any renter does not pay, you may have to pay the full amount owed, including late fees, and you may have to pay for certain loss or damage to the property.

The lessor may collect from you without first trying to collect from any other renter. The lessor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against any renter, such as suing you or garnishing your wages.

This notice is not the contract that makes you responsible. Before you sign, be sure you can afford to pay if you have to, and that you want to accept this responsibility.”

 The notice required shall be printed in at least 10-point boldface type in English and Spanish. If the rental-purchase agreement is required to be written in a language other than English or Spanish, the notice shall be written in English and, in addition or in lieu of Spanish, in that other language.

(e) If the notice is included with the text of the rental-purchase agreement, the notice shall appear immediately above or adjacent to the disclosures required by subdivision (b) of Section 1812.623 (a separate section that should be reviewed for those disclosures). If the notice is not included with the text of the agreement, the notice shall be on a separate sheet which shall not contain any other text except as is necessary to identify the lessor and agreement to which the notice refers and to provide for the date and the person’s acknowledgment of receipt.

(f) The lessor shall give each person entitled to notice under this section a copy of the completed rental-purchase agreement before obtaining that person’s signature.

Richard Beckman, of Beckman Feller & Chang P.C., has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 26 years, primarily in rent-controlled jurisdictions such as San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. He represents clients in a broad range of real estate-related disputes, including partition of co-ownership interests, purchase contract disputes, insurance coverage analysis and land use. Mr. Beckman also specializes in all aspects of landlord-tenant issues, representing landlords and tenants in residential and commercial matters. He can be reached at 415-871-0070; email rbeckman@bfc-legal.com or by visiting the website www.bfc-legal.com.

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