Landlord-Tenant disputes: Richard Ruman, Attorney.

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Landlord and Tenant Disputes

Being “right" doesn't guarantee you'll get the right results. I can protect you in Landlord and Tenant Disputes.

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Landlord and Tenant Disputes

 If you have an extra room in your house, you're one classified ad away from being a landlord.  No training is required, no special license is needed.  You can suddenly find yourself in the middle of a legal obligation without knowing what, exactly, you've signed up for. 

Or, you've rented a house from a person who seemed friendly and caring when they were seeking a renter, but when the heat goes out they can't be found. 

On a grander scale, if your business suddenly doesn't have a lease, are you out of luck and out of business?


Landlords and tenants can find themselves at odds for many, many reasons – not the least of which is that frequently a landlord-tenant relationship is based on incomplete verbal agreements or faulty dime store boilerplate documents. 

Landlord-tenant laws can be complex because federal, state, and even local jurisdictions all contribute plays to the landlord-tenant rulebook.  One false step can not only ruin a valid claim, but get you in expensive trouble.  You need to understand your rights and obligations. 


Basic Issues

  • Tenants agree to pay rent in full on the date specified, to keep the space clean and undamaged, to use the space as it is intended, to be a good neighbor, and to secure the landlord's permission before allowing others to occupy the space 
  • Landlords are expected not to discriminate when renting a space, to keep the space livable, and to provide repairs and general property upkeep.  Landlords cannot unilaterally lock a tenant out or shut down utilities.


Other Issues

As with most relationships, the landlord-tenant association begins with good will and optimism.  Even though the basics may not be in dispute, disagreements develop over the details.  Some additional items to consider:  

  • Will the landlord or tenant pay for the utilities?
  • Who is responsible for yard care?
  • Is it okay for the tenant to paint the kitchen cabinets or attach a flat screen TV to a wall?
  • What are the rules about noise?  Late rent payment? 
  • What if the tenant fails to comply with the rules about noise or pets? 
  • Is it okay for a landlord to enter the rented space at any time?


If the rental agreement is incomplete on these issues, then both landlord and tenant are free to interpret the situation to the own advantage (within the rules of law).  In my experience, landlord-tenant disagreements tend to become quite heated because the issues, literally, hit home.

An experienced legal advisor can craft a rental agreement (or lease) that covers all the details including ways to handle the truly unforeseeable situations.  If you're a landlord, you'd be unwise to turn over your most valuable assets to a renter without proper protection.


Renter's Rights

If a landlord is not being a proper steward of a rented space, renters can (and should) report the landlord to local housing authorities or building inspectors.  If the problems are more immediate (a broken pipe for example), the renter can, in certain situations, make repairs and withhold rent or stop paying rent altogether.  Most authorities would agree that doing this, without proper help, is risky and can invite an eviction suit from the landlord.


The Eviction Suit

"Eviction" is one legal term that everyone knows.  Sometimes, unfortunately, the landlord-tenant relationship fails.  If a tenant is breaking the law in your rental space or is failing to pay rent or is otherwise failing to abide by the lease, an eviction suit may become necessary.  This is a multi-step legal process that should not be attempted without a knowledgeable counselor.  And, certainly, the idea of mediation should be discussed before moving forward with legal action. 


Landlord Discrimination

Both federal and state law provide penalties against landlords who evict or won't rent to a person based on, among other things, race, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.  The ugly reality is that these laws were developed because of a real need.   


If you believe you have been victimized, the agencies tasked with investigating and resolving these situations would be the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  I can guide you through the process of developing your case.


A Place to Start

If you want to begin educating yourself on Landlord-Tenant Law in California, you might want to read a California Department of Consumer Affairs Consumer Publication on this topic.  Click here to download this user-friendly publication in PDF format that covers the essentials.  (Click here to download it in Spanish)

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Prevention is the Best Medicine

Considering renting property?  Had enough of an absent landlord?  Before proceeding, let me help you thoroughly understand the legal landscape.  Together we can map out a practical plan that will get the best results. 

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Richard Ruman Attorney at Law 9401 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1250 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (310) 273-7474
Practicing primarily in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Site content copyright Richard Ruman.