The Bornstein Minute

A new segment that provides bottom line, easily digestible insights for Bay Area landlords, real estate and property management professionals.

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If you have a no-pet policy in your rental units, beware. If a disabled person has a documented service or comfort animal, you cannot deny tenancy on the basis that you don't allow pets. Under the law, a service animal is not considered a pet and citing the no-pet policy will expose you to a discrimination suit.


 

When posting your apartment listing on Craigslist or other platforms, be very careful you do not expose yourself to a housing discrimination lawsuit. For example, “this apartment is perfect for [fill in the blank]”. When advertising your rental unit, keep in mind that fair housing and anti-discrimination laws prohibit you from excluding groups, and these laws are unforgiving.
Do you encounter a tenant's buyer's remorse? When a tenant signs a lease, changes their mind and finds another rental opportunity, they are obligated to pay rent through the lease term or until such time the rental unit is relet.
Being proactive in making necessary repairs in your rental units is not only a good practice and the right thing to do. The failure to make repairs and provide a habitable residence is one major reason why unlawful detainer actions hit a brick wall in the event eviction proceedings are initiated.

 

Residential Usage Of A Commercial Space

Due to a dearth of new housing stock, it's not surprising that some inventive tenants are turning commercial spaces into makeshift residences. This exposes the property owner to a wide range of risks, especially in rent controlled jurisdiction. Daniel Bornstein discusses this alarming phenomena in this video.

 

Quiet enjoyment of a dwelling is the tenant’s right and the landlord’s duty. If a neighboring tenant is creating excessive noise, we urge you investigate, be proactive in your communication, and if audibles are not corrected after your meaningful efforts to address the noise, you can explore options to enlarge the seriousness of the nuisance.
If you raise the rent based on the family size of the rental applicants, you are inviting a discrimination lawsuit. Keep rent prices consistent, without regard to the number of family members.
Illicit alterations to your rental property can expose you to financial and personal liability, especially if permits were not done properly and the city finds out. Do not turn a blind eye to a tenant renovating your kitchen or making a new bedroom in the garage.

 

 

A Tenant Buyout Agreement, when done properly, can cauterize risk.

With recent measures signed by Mayor Lee, the city is stepping up the enforcement of Owner Move In Eviction rules. While every circumstance is different, we recommend in many cases a tenant buyout agreement whereby the tenant voluntarily leaves the rental unit in exchange for some sort of compensation. By entering into a legal tenant buyout agreement, you are not merely paying the tenant to leave the dwelling - you can also minimize risk down the road if a disgruntled tenant contests their removal from the unit.

 

Taking past due rent

If you've commenced an eviction proceeding, you would welcome any money that the tenant gives you - after all, it's owed to you, right? Wrong, folks. Once an unlawful detainer action has started, taking any money from the tenant will reset the process because by accepting rent money, in essence you re-establish the rental relationship.

Responding To Repair Requests

Property owners should proactively address repair issues, promptly arrange a visual inspection and make the repairs if necessary or alternatively, send a letter to the tenant which documents the inspection and states your position. Your job is to maintain a continuous flow of information. By being reasonable and diplomatic, you reduce the risk of tenant disputes that can complicate an unlawful detainer action.

 

Prospective Tenants

A new law that can conceal a tenant's eviction history makes it more important than ever for landlords and property managers to do their due diligence when selecting tenants. Here's Daniel Bornstein's admonishments to avoid vexing problems down the road.


 

Are your lease agreements out of date? If you are using the same stale templates for any sustained length of time, chances are your lease has gone the way of the dinosaur, necessitating a review to ensure compliance with the changing times. A recurring theme at Bornstein Law is rental property unit owners using bad documentation that do not adequately protect their business.

 

Please be cautious in what you say to prospective tenants. When landlords make comments about family size, religion, and other off-color comments, they are inviting a discrimination suit. When it comes to this type of communication, less is more.

Choosing the right contractors will avoid legal problems down the road.

We want to warn landlords and property managers that hiring a contractor who is not licensed is a surefire path to potential liability. If there is shoddy work and the tenant suffers some consequence as a result of the contractor's negligence, it can result in litigation for the landlord and even the property management company that oversaw the work. God forbid, a family gets carbon monoxide poising from an inept contractor doing a heating job, for example.
Landlords and property managers need to know that this is not the time to hire a cousin that happens to be a handyman. Perhaps you turn the other way if there's a minor sink repair of the toilet is clogged.
But for major renovations like new roofs, you are exposing yourself to big time risk if you hire unlicensed contractors or tradespeople that go above and beyond the scope of their expertise. What if building permits are not obtained, or worker gets hurt on the job and the State is not notified? Risk looms from every conceivable angle, so this is nothing to be trifled with.
Choosing a contractor should be a deliberate process. Given the potential liability down the road if something goes wrong, consider the risks before hiring someone on the cheap. 

 

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For informed advice and additional insight about your legal options, please contact us today.