Landlord Won't Give Nuisance of a
Neighbor the Heave-ho
Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written
by Counselor of Real Estate and
Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real
Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (10 a.m.
Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet
and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the
Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law
firm representing landlords.
QUESTION: My landlord refuses to evict my co-tenant who rents the
house on the back of the property. Because I rent, I'm unsure of my
rights. Doesn't the landlord have an obligation to evict a tenant who
continues to be a nuisance, and every one in the neighborhood has
signed a petition wanting him out?
ANSWER: Kellman: A landlord has an obligation to properly
manage the property including securing the peace and safety of the
residents. If a tenant creates a genuine nuisance as defined by law,
then the landlord should take action. A nuisance is usually something
more than one incident unless such the incident is very serious.
The landlord should first confirm that the claimed disturbing
conduct is real and substantial and not simply the exaggerated claims
of neighbors who may not get along with that tenant. Once confirmed
that the tenant is causing a significant disturbance, a written
warning should be issued. If that fails, the landlord should then ask
that tenant to vacate the unit or face potential liability from the
co-tenants or the neighbors for not doing so.
Q: I recently ended a month-to-month lease. I only received $210
back from my $500 security deposit because the landlord said the
apartment was smoke damaged and had to be thoroughly cleaned. My
roommate and I both smoke, but it was done outside most of the time.
The lease didn't state nonsmokers.
The landlord commented that we kept the place so clean and neat
that we would get a full refund, but she's also deducted charges for
things that were not in the initial walkthrough. I have pictures and
video to prove the condition of the town house once we moved out. If I
take this case to small claims court what are my chances?
A: Griswold: Your chances aren't very good as landlords can
legally deduct for any cleaning that is necessary under California
Civil Code Section 1950.5. Unlike damages, cleaning is not subject to
an allowance for ordinary wear and tear.
The smell of smoke gets into the carpeting, window coverings,
walls, etc. and can be costly to cure. The smell might not have been
detected by your landlord when showing the town house but that does
not preclude the landlord from rightfully charging for the cleaning of
the carpet and walls once you move out.
It may have been unwise for her to make comments regarding your
security deposit until you vacated the property. However, in light of
the need to thoroughly clean the town house due to smoking, the total
deductions of $290 do not seem grossly out of line.
Send the landlord a letter expressing your concerns and your
reliance on the landlord's positive statements about the rental unit
and implying that you would receive a full refund of your security
deposit. You should request clarification of the charges and ask them
to make an adjustment.
However, my opinion is that your chances of prevailing in small
claims court are slim particularly if the landlord can support the
charges with invoices from third party contractors.
Q: My 25-year-old daughter cannot rent an apartment because she
does not have any credit. If I co-sign for her what am I responsible
for, does it show up on my credit report and how long do I have to be
on the rental agreement? If she gets an apartment and establishes
herself there can she reapply by herself and have me removed from the
A: Kellman: In the typical co-signing arrangement,
co-signers sign the lease as a co-tenant, as if they are living there
at the rental also. First the bad news: The law makes you equally
responsible for the rent and all damages to the rental.
Further, if the rent is not paid, you are liable for it even if you
gave the money to your daughter for the rent and she spent it
elsewhere. Your credit is not affected unless there is a problem. If
there is an eviction lawsuit filed for nonpayment of rent or violating
the lease, you share the legal liability as if you were right there in
the middle of the action.
You can be named in that case as if you were living there and if
the eviction is successful, your credit will be impacted. You could be
labeled an undesirable tenant even though you never spent one night at
Sometimes, landlord attorneys will not name the co-signer in an
eviction case simply to speed up the process. Once the eviction is
accomplished, they can sneak up on you and sue you separately for
damages or unpaid rent.
Now the good news: It is a wonderful to help out your daughter and
I am sure you will impress upon her the importance of treating this
rental responsibly. Once she establishes a good rental history, you
may approach the landlord to delete your name from the lease.
Besides the rental history, she will need to show sufficient income
to support the rent. The time to establish herself varies depending on
different factors but she may wish to reapply for the lease after six
months of renting there.
Q: I rented my property to a tenant for a fixed two-year lease
several years ago. Last Sunday, I received a call from the tenants
saying they will be vacating the premises in 30 days. They said they
found a house to buy and were giving me a verbal 30-day notice.
I thought when they signed a fixed-term lease the lease would
automatically renew for another two years and thus my tenants are
locked into the lease for another five months until the renewal
Also, isn't a written notice required? Can I use their security
deposit for advertising? Do I have to return the security deposit or
deduct it from the rent that I would have gotten for the remainder of
the lease? Or can I recoup the entire five-month loss of rental
A: Smith: First, remember that your tenant promised you a
two- year commitment. The excuse given in your question will not
legally justify breaking the lease. The tenant may leave possession if
he chooses, but his departure will not extinguish continuing rental
The verbal 30-day notice has no real legal effect, other than to
put you on notice that he may be moving out. As his landlord, you have
the right to receive continuing rent even though the tenant left. If
he does not pay, you may take him to court for lost rent, advertising
expenses, cost of marketing the property, and other damages caused by
the lease break. The security deposit may be used for all of these
items, as well as for damages and cleaning.
The outgoing tenant will remain responsible for rent up until such
time as you successfully re-lease the property to a qualified
YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to
answer your questions in this column, although letters
cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental
Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O.
Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail
them at firstname.lastname@example.org
2001 Rental Roundtable
Robert Griswold and the Real Estate
Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and
state fair housing laws. As a reminder to all owners and managers of real
estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair
Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference,
limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex,
physical disability, or familial status, or intention to make any such
preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local
fair housing laws may also apply. Be sure to inform all persons that all
dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.
Revised and Updated -
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM,
PCAM, GRI, ARM
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161
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