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This is a collection of forms and papers you may find handy in dealing with your landlord.
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You are so used to renting where things don’t work that you may think that your place is in good condition. Think again. Here’s a checklist of things that may be wrong with your place that maybe you’ve forgotten or overlooked. The items come from the statutes and local ordinances, so they are all official “defects” in your place. The list is not exclusive -there may be more, but this will at least get you started.

The landlord wants their rent on time, but you’re entitled to a decent place to live before he can even demand the rent. If you plan to withhold rent, repair and deduct, or sue the landlord for failing to give you your money’s worth, having a list to work from is the key to your presentation in court, and your taking effective legal action. Share the list with your neighbors. Group action is better than individual action. If you have problems, they probably do too, but they thought they were the only ones.

Following through on your Habitability Checklist, taking action to fix some of the problems would be a next step. Even if the lease says you can’t do it without the landlord’s permission, or the landlord says you have to use his people to make repairs, it ain’t so. You have the legal right to fix things that the landlord won’t fix under Civil Code 1942, and take it out of your next rent check. Read the section on Repairs on this website, and spend up to one month’s rent twice in a row, legally. Here’s the form to help you keep track of it. It is also useful when suing the landlord for breach of contract.

If you have an unexpired lease, but need to get out, the landlord’s failure to fix even minor things provides your legal reason to end the tenancy and own no rent after the day you leave, even if the lease says otherwise. The landlord will often try to con you into thinking that he won’t LET you out of your lease unless you pay him some money, or that you’ll still owe money until he finds another tenant. The law says otherwise. You have the right to end your tenancy in this way. Use the wording and style of this letter as your template for the letter you write. Not everything applies to your situation, but it’s there for you to copy into your own letter.

If you have a month-to-month tenancy, you only need to give 30 days’ notice that you are moving [even if the landlord has to give 60 days’ notice], and you can give the notice at any time, not just on the beginning of the month. The notice MUST be in writing – a simple oral notice, text, or email is not good enough. You can mail it to the landlord, fax it, or personally deliver it. You pay rent prorated [1/30th of the month’s rent per day] for the end of the last month. If you paid a “last month’s rent” [not security deposit], then you can apply that to cover the unpaid rent for the end of your tenancy.

Some landlords don’t get it. They rent you the place, but then think they can come in any time to do whatever they want. They can’t. It’s trespassing. There is a law here, Civil Code 1954, and even they have to follow the law. This notice shows them that you mean business. You can tone it down, as appropriate, but some resident managers, property managers, and mom and pop landlords only seem to respond to strong positions, due to their reptilian heritage. You can use this for the intruding landlord or manager, repairmen, real estate agents, and others who don’t respect your rights or privacy.

Here’s where you have one roommate moving out and a new one coming in, and you need to square away the landlord’s permission and security deposit issues. This is not where you are subleasing to the new roommate, but where they have an equal right to the other roommates, and one cannot evict the other.

After you have moved out, or been evicted, the property left behind is not lost. It is still yours, but you need to get it. The landlord CAN store it in place and charge you the daily rental value of the place, or CAN move it into a storage facility and charge you the reasonable cost of moving and storage as a condition of getting your property back. The landlord is liable for the property against theft or damage as a “bailee for hire,” just like Bekins. Generally, the landlord will just let you get your property without a hassle, happy not to have to do it himself, but sometimes you need to take legal steps to avoid losing your stuff. If you do nothing, the landlord COULD declare it abandoned and either dispose of it in any fashion if the value is reasonably $300 or less, or auction it off at a public auction. This notice is the one required by law to be given to get you property back if the landlord is trying to give you a hard time. If you claim the property within 2 days of vacating, the landlord CANNOT charge you money as a condition of releasing it to you.

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