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When do tenants forfeit their security deposit?

Over the years I have heard landlords say that since a tenant did something wrong that they are going to take their deposit. It doesn’t work that way in California.

Security deposits may be used to offset expenses the tenant incurred such as unpaid rent or damage to the property. However, even if they have breached a part of the lease, you can only charge the cost to correct the breach and if the tenant disputes those charges then the landlord must be able to substantiate the charges or the landlord will likely be liable not only for the amount of the deposit but also for bad faith withholding, also referred to punitive damages.

Remember to keep it business and do not use charges to the deposit to try to punish your tenant.  If you ever have a question on what to charge you can give me a call at American Heritage Properties.

Bill Ausen

Broer

It isn’t personal–it’s business

As a landlord, you may encounter tenants with some really sad stories. Be understanding, but above all, be firm and unwavering when it comes to sticking with your policies. They are there to protect you and your property. In addition, you should only have these types of discussions with people who are named on the lease. Family members or significant others may want to get involved, and while you should be respectful, only discuss details with the tenant.

When you live in your house it is your home, when you rent it out then it is your business. Keeping it “business” is not easy to do but a key to being a successful landlord.

What happens when a tenant won’t cooperating in showing after notice has been given?

Most rental agreements allow for entry for the purpose of showing the property to new prospective tenants.  So what do you do if the tenant does not cooperate?  Legally you can serve a 3-day notice to perform and force them to show.  However, if they still do not cooperate then your legal recourse is to start an eviction.   This might be the route that an attorney would recommend, but as a property manager, my recommendation is to wait until the tenant moves out to show.  Yes, you do lose some marketing time, but I feel that the drawbacks exceed the benefits.

I could go into detail with the drawbacks, but I don’t want to write a book here–if you are interested in hearing more, just give me a call at American Heritage Properties.

Bill Ausen

858-695-9400 x178

Time to end state funding for eviction defenses!

The California Apartment Association has urged the state Legislature to stop providing funding for defense attorneys to help evicted tenants drag out the unlawful-detainer process.

The practice has occured for several years under a state law that CAA believes should expire in 2017.

Under the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, defense attorneys receive money from the state to represent low-income Californians in a variety of legal areas, from evictions to custody disputes. Since 2011, the Legislature has spent $9.5 million annually on the program in seven areas across the state.

While the concept is laudable, it’s rife with abuse when it comes to fighting evictions.

With money provided under the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, some lawyers make false claims about property owners who are simply trying to regain possession of their properties from tenants who’ve failed to pay rent.

The most common tactic: Answer an eviction complaint by claiming the unit is substandard. Despite having no proof, tenants often stay put until trial.

Most landlords end up settling because they cannot afford the delays or legal fees associated with such a claim.

Unless the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act is revamped to stop abuses in eviction cases, the California Apartment Association will continue to oppose refunding it next year.

***HUD Changes Rules with Criminal Background Checks***

HUD issued fair housing guidance this week in another effort to expand housing protection to individuals convicted of crimes.  On April 4, HUD issued a guidance document that could extend protections for individuals with criminal histories. This guidance builds on similar policies issued by HUD last year that only applied to public and federal-assisted housing.

The new guidance may prohibit the use of arrest records to deny residency.  Housing denials based on convictions may have to consider the nature and severity of the incident and often this will be based on a case by case basis. The guidance seeks to end blanket exclusions of prospective residents based on criminal history in favor of an approach that is more narrowly tailored to achieve property safety and security goals of neighbors and maintenance staff.

Those with criminal histories are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), HUD has crafted this policy using disparate impact theory. Disparate impact allows fair housing complaints to proceed where actions have a discriminatory result even if there was no intent to discriminate.

Who is responsible for carpet cleaning when a tenant moves out?

I think everyone agrees that the carpet should be cleaned before a tenant moves in. But who is responsible for cleaning the carpet when they move out? There are two different thoughts on this–the first is that tenants should leave it in the same condition as when they moved in, which is just cleaned. The second thought is that they are only responsible for wear on the carpet that exceeds normal and that normal use of the carpet, just like the walls, is normal wear.

The typical arena for resolving matters like this is small claims court–well, you are out of luck there because I have had cases where the judges have ruled that the tenant is responsible and then cases where they rule the homeowner is responsible.

At American Heritage, we started using a one year time limit as the determining factor and we have never had a legal problem enforcing this rule. If a tenant resides for less than a year then they are responsible for cleaning the carpet, but if they are there for more than a year then the owner is responsible.

This system of one year is more practical for the landlord. Once a tenant moves out there will be turnover work necessary. If the carpet is cleaned by the outgoing tenant, and before the turnover work is completed, then it will likely be walked on by maintenance people and get dirty again. Then when the new tenant moves in the carpet does not appear clean.

If the tenant is there for less than a year then there will likely be very limited turnover work necessary so it is less likely to get dirty again so it makes it more practical to have the outgoing tenant clean the carpet

There is now law that specifically says a landlord has to clean the carpet, but they do have to keep it in good and sanitary condition. But it is customary and expected that it be cleaned and in good condition for every new tenant moving in.

If you have any questions or thoughts about this, please let me know.

Bill Ausen
Broker
American Heritage Properties

Some rent collection tips for Landlords

There are several ways to collect the rent, but many tenants expect and prefer to pay online. There are a number of online options, some of which are free or low-cost, and offering this convenience to your renters can help ensure that rent is paid on time. If rent is paid late, remind your tenants of the terms of your lease, including any late fees, to encourage timely payments. While you want to maintain a friendly relationship with your renters and be considerate of extenuating circumstances, this is your business, so be clear — and firm — about your expectations.

6 Reasons Why San Diego Homeowners Choose American Heritage Properties

Choosing a San Diego property management company doesn’t have to be hard – especially if you know you want to work with the best. At American Heritage, we are here to talk about several key points that set us apart and ahead of our competition.

Our Experience

American Heritage has been in business since 1981. Our professional team members have been with us for an average of 13 years. This means you get a lot of experience and a lot of local market knowledge.

Collecting Rent

No landlord wants to spend time chasing down late rent payments. At American Heritage, we have on time rental payments 97 percent of the time. This is due to our careful selection and screening of tenants as well as our aggressive collection procedures.

Low Eviction Rates

For the last 20 years, our eviction rate has been less than one-half of a percent. We weed out bad applicants and ensure only responsible and reliable tenants will move into your property.

Low Vacancy Rates

Vacancy costs you money and that’s why we work so hard to avoid it. At American Heritage, our vacancy rate is less than one percent. That’s one of the lowest rates in San Diego.

Reputation

Check us out online. We have 26 five-star Yelp reviews, with a four-star average. On Google, we have 21 five-star reviews with a 4.5 star average. 

Property Management Focus

Another thing that sets us apart is that we focus 100 percent on residential property management. We don’t manage apartment buildings or commercial property. We don’t sell real estate. What we do best is to manage single family homes and condominiums, so that’s what we do full time. Our attention will never be elsewhere.

Contact us at American Heritage and we’ll talk about how we can make you a more successful landlord.

Periodic smoke detector check–who is responsible?

Although not required by California law, it is recommended that smoke detectors be checked periodically. Although the landlord is required to maintain the smoke detector, it is the responsibility of the tenant to notify the landlord if smoke detector maintenance is needed.

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