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ASK THE EXPERT: ANSWERS 

New Addition to Family and Contract 

Question: It just came to my attention that one of my tenants is pregnant. She has been in my building for 4-1/2 years and is a very good tenant, always pays rent on time, pleasant, and never any complaints about her. Her lease is for one person in a 2 room studio. She is planning on being a single mother -- a boyfriend or husband is not the issue. I like her and don't know that I'd want to ask her to leave but, what are my rights, as well as hers in this situation?

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  In California generally and under Federal law a landlord cannot discriminate against children, and the addition of a child under these circumstances, so long as the event does not raise occupancy above HUD recommended guidelines or local codes, would not be considered a breach of the tenantís obligations.  Additionally, you have the San Francisco Rent Control ordinance to deal with.  Review the materials under California in the
Landlord Law section, and our materials about discrimination in the Information and Tenant Screening sections, and contact the San Francisco Rent Board for guidance on the ordinance.

Collecting The Money

Question: I would like to know how to collect for monies owed to us after we have evicted someone for nonpayment or damages done to our property. We have tried small claims court, but we deal with people who really don't care about their credit or the fact that they have a judgement against them.

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  Unfortunately, your chances of collecting what you are owed are directly proportional to your tenantís financial responsibility.  Our suggestion would be to assign your judgment to a collection agency.  See the resources available in our
tenant screening section.

Premises Destruction and Tenancy

Question: I need general information about a tenant's right to remove personal property after a fire has rendered an apartment uninhabitable. My understanding is that once the fire occurs and the apartment becomes uninhabitable. Since the apartment is uninhabitable, the tenancy is terminated by destruction. Once the tenancy is terminated by destruction, the landlord may padlock the apartment. The only obligation the landlord has to the tenant is to allow them 15 days to remove their personal property. If the tenant has not removed their personal property after 15 days and the abandoned property is worth less than $300, the landlord may discard the abandoned personal property. Can you please confirm or explain what is wrong with my understanding. Thanks, John

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  Generally speaking, destruction of the premises does terminate the tenancy, however, California law usually requires that a notice to remove personal property which you believe to be abandoned be delivered to the tenant before the time limit would kick in.  You should go to our
Landlord Law section and search the California statutes for the relevant statute, which also includes the words, which must be included in the notice and an explanation of how it needs to be delivered.

Dead Tree Falls On Tenant's Car

Question: MY RENTAL IS IN FLORIDA. AT THE RENTAL A DEAD TREE FELL ON THE RENTERS CAR AND CAUSED $2,000 IN DAMAGES. MY INSURANCE DOES NOT COVER THIS AND HE DOES NOT HAVE RENTERS INSURANCE. HIS CAR INSURANCE IS BASIC AND IT DOES NOT COVER IT EITHER. NOW HE WANTS ME TO PAY FOR THE DAMAGES. AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS? HE HAS LIVED THERE 7 MONTHS AND NEVER TOLD ME THE TREE WAS DYING OR DEAD AND THERE ARE ONLY 2 TREES IN THE WHOLE YARD AND THEY ARE RIGHT BESIDE THE DRIVEWAY. I NEED TO KNOW IF I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THIS OR NOT. PLEASE HELP! THANK YOU. STACEY

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions. The question is going to turn on who had control of the tree or the real property law of the State of Florida.  Unfortunately, real property law is not logical, it is historical, and the cost to get to the bottom of the problem will probably be more than the amount at stake.  You should probably work out some sort of an arrangement with the tenant to share the cost, for example, giving a $1000 allowance against rent, on the theory that a compromise you can control is better than a small claims court decision you cannot.

Ellis Act In Action

Question: I am considering selling the building to a developer, who will demolish it and put up condos. I want to evict the tenants under the "Ellis Act" but am finding it hard to obtain good information on my obligations under Ellis and the proposed changes in the Ellis law. What are the changes in the Ellis law and when are they effective?

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  If you refer to the
Info Center you will find a very thorough article on the Ellis Act including an addendum with the full text of the amendments going into effect Jan. 1.  If you go to the Landlord Law center under California you can obtain a full text of the act with the search engine for California statutes.  Do not even think of serving notices under the Ellis Act without obtaining counsel as suggested in the article.

How To Start The Eviction Process

Question: I have a tenant that has become 4 months late in payments. I have given them ample chances to catch up and the latest resulted in a bounced check. When confronted to pay bank fee for bounced checks, they have refused payment of any kind. I want to evict this tenant ASAP. How do I proceed?

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  You can find the answer to your question by going to the Landlord Law section of our site and examining the materials there.

How To Screen Tenants

Question: HOW DO YOU SCREEN PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER RENTED BEFORE SUCH AS PEOPLE WHO TELL US THEY HAVE ONLY OWNED A HOUSE, LIVED WITH PARENTS, ETC.?

Answer: In your situation, obtaining a comprehensive credit report is critical.  Frequently, a credit report will reveal evidence of a previous landlord-tenant relationship the tenant is trying to conceal.  If it does not, you will have to rely on the report and references.  See our
tenant screening section.

Rental Repairs or Payment?

Question: I have a tenant who has not paid rent since October, 1999. He says he will not pay because of minor repairs. I would like to get him out .

Answer: We are prohibited by law from giving legal advice over the Internet on specific legal questions.  You should review the materials in our
Landlord Law section under Connecticut.

Property Management Fees & Contract

Question: I am leaving my current residence for another home and have decided this is a good time to get started in rental properties. I will be an absentee owner, as my new home is 4 hours away. I would like to contract with a long time friend to manage the property but neither of know what an appropriate management fee would be. The home is an 1800 sq. ft. 3bdrm 2.5 bath house that rents for $895.

What sort of written agreement should I have with the property manager and what is an appropriate fee?

Answer: First you must determine what the licensing requirements are for off site property managers in the State of Georgia.  If it is legal at all for your friend to manage the property for a fee, then the amount of the fee is a matter of negotiation.  The wisdom of having a longtime friend manage the property is certainly open to question, as you are likely to lose both money and the friend before long.  Consider professional property management.  Look in our Apartment Associations section for your state, find one close to you and inquire for a list of licensed real estate brokers who offer management services.