Landlord/Tenant Disputes Attorney in Laguna Hills, California
Disputes between landlords and tenants are inevitable. Notwithstanding the beneficial relationship that exists between both parties, disagreements often arise when one party defaults on their expected obligations or responsibilities under the lease agreement. Such landlord-tenant disputes can arise due to various issues, including failure to pay rent, property damage, breach of lease, property maintenance, or cleanliness and orderliness.
If you are involved in a landlord-tenant dispute, consulting with an experienced California real estate law attorney is crucial for proper guidance. I have the experience and resources to assist and guide commercial and residential landlords and tenants involved in legal disputes. As your legal counsel, I can evaluate your unique situation and help you understand your possible options. My firm – J. Eric LeVine, ESQ. – proudly serves clients in Laguna Hills, California, and the surrounding areas of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties.
Residential California Landlord-Tenant Laws
Recent changes in California's landlord-tenant laws have made residential leases and rental agreements much more tenant-friendly. Nonetheless, the law still offers reasonable protection for landlords. Below are some important laws affecting residential landlords and tenants in the state of California:
Rent increases statewide is capped at 5% plus inflation, or 10% of the lowest gross rental rate for qualifying units. Some counties and cities have adopted stricter rent control ordinances.
Generally, residential Landlords can increase the rent only once over any 12-month period.
California Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws
The landlord must follow all California lease laws and the Fair Housing Act when screening prospective tenants.
Landlords may charge a non-refundable application fee less than their actual out-of-pocket costs for screening services.
The application screening fee may not exceed $30.
California Security Deposit Laws
California landlords can require a security deposit not exceeding a maximum of two months' rent for unfurnished residential rentals and three months for furnished rentals, respectively.
Landlords are not required to pay interest on security deposits under state laws.
The landlord has 21 calendar days after the tenant vacates the premises to provide a detailed outline stating how the security deposit was used and to return the remaining amount.
Required Landlord Disclosures
Landlords are required to disclose specific information to tenants, such as the availability of gas or electricity and other utilities or health-related challenges.
Unless the lease agreement states otherwise, the lease is usually for less than one year, and the rent will be due at the end of each month.
Landlords are not required to give tenants a rent payment grace period.
If the tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can only file an eviction suit after giving the tenant a properly written and served notice.
Landlords may charge their tenants a reasonable fee for paying rent late.
Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent
Tenants may withhold rent, sue the landlord, move out of the premises, call local or state health inspectors, or exercise the right to "repair and deduct" if a landlord fails to carry out important repairs affecting habitability promptly.
Termination and Eviction Rules
Beginning January 1, 2020, residential landlords are now required to have just cause in order to evict tenants who have occupied a unit for at least 12 months, or up to 24 months when an adult tenant is added onto a lease (change in roommates). Just cause includes failure to pay rent, breach of lease, criminal activity, creating a nuisance, committing waste, refusal to execute a written extension or lease renewal, and refusal to allow the owner to enter the rental unit following proper notice.
Residential landlords, with some exceptions, can also evict for no-fault reasons, e.g., when the owner or their family plans to occupy the property, if they want to remove the property from the rental market, if they intend to substantially remodel the property, if they are ordered to vacate by a government agency or court.
Residential landlords must provide relocation assistance by way of one month's rent or a waiver of last month's rent for no-fault evictions with proper notice.
Rules About Landlords' Access to Property
Landlords can enter a rental property without giving a written notice to deal with a true emergency.
The landlord must give reasonable written notice – usually 24 hours – before entering a rental property to inspect or make non-emergency repairs.
Evictions may only be based on a violation of the terms and conditions of the lease agreement and not discrimination based on race, national origin, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, familial status, or disability. If an eviction is to take place, getting the help of an experienced attorney is essential.
Common Residential Landlord/Tenant Disputes
Some of the most common issues between landlords and their tenants include:
Nonpayment or failure to pay rent
Breach of lease
Cleanliness and orderliness
Interests and taxes
Community codes, rules, and guidelines for residents
Safety and security issues
Allowing disputes to escalate often ends up in eviction or fierce legal battles. According to Eviction Lab, landlords in the United States file about 3.7 million eviction cases in a typical year. An experienced attorney can review the surrounding facts and enlighten you about the possible remedies or dispute resolution options.
Common Commercial Landlord - Tenant Disputes
Commercial leases involve offices, restaurants, shopping centers, strip centers, retail outlets, industrial settings and warehouses, and data centers. Each of these leases has unique characteristics applicable to that setting.
Both the source and the resolution of these types of disputes will depend on the terms and conditions set forth in the lease itself, as well as the history between the landlord and the tenant. Common disputes include:
The type of business to be operated under the lease;
The security deposit and the application of that security deposit;
The term or length of the lease and options to extend the lease term;
Renewal of the lease;
Who is responsible for repairs and what is included in common area maintenance (CAM) charges;
Subleasing and assignment of the lease, in particular when the tenant wants to sell their business; and
Termination of the lease.
There are many different options for resolving a landlord-tenant dispute. These include:
Arrange a Settlement Meeting: A settlement meeting between the tenant and the landlord may be organized to settle any ongoing issues or disagreements.
Mediation: Mediation can also be used to resolve landlord-tenant disputes more amicably, keeping things confidential. It requires both parties to come together to discuss a possible resolution. A third party (mediator or mediation attorney) will discuss the issues with each party individually and help negotiate or facilitate a possible compromise.
Arbitration: Resolving a landlord-tenant dispute through arbitration will require both the tenant and landlord to submit evidence and testimony to one or more arbitrators. The arbitrators will review the evidence put before them and help determine the best way to settle the disagreement.
Litigation: If any of the alternative dispute resolution methods are not pursued or otherwise not productive, however, litigation can be an option. Litigation requires the intervention of a private judge to help resolve the landlord-tenant dispute through the court system. A court hearing will be scheduled where both parties will be allowed to present their case.
When involved in a landlord-tenant dispute, getting help from an experienced attorney as soon as possible is important. I can evaluate the surrounding details of your case and decide the best approach to settle such landlord-tenant issues.
Work with an Experienced Real Estate Attorney
The landlord-tenant relationship is a complicated one, and resolving disputes can involve several complex procedures. However, when disagreements arise, understanding the legal implications and taking adequate steps to resolve them can help maintain a healthy tenant-landlord relationship and mitigate potential disputes. An experienced real estate attorney can review your unique situation and explore your possible legal options.
For over four decades, I have dedicated my career to providing outstanding legal services and representing clients in their real estate and landlord-tenant dispute cases. As your legal counsel, I will evaluate the surrounding facts of your case and help you understand your possible dispute resolution options. I will work meticulously with all parties involved in an attempt to settle any pending disagreements efficiently and productively. As a tenacious and resolute litigator, I will fight for your best interests and advocate for your needs.
The resolution of every legal dispute largely depends on the specific facts and circumstances that created that dispute. The descriptions above are general in nature and are not intended nor should they be considered to be specific legal advice with regards to any dispute. There are many exceptions to what is indicated above that may affect the ultimate outcome.
Landlord/Tenant Disputes Attorney in Laguna Hills, California
If you're involved in a landlord-tenant dispute, contact my firm – J. Eric LeVine, ESQ. – today to schedule a one-on-one case assessment. I can offer you the experienced legal counsel and honest advocacy you need to navigate your case. I'm proud to serve clients in Laguna Hills, Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and the rest of southern California.