Whether you have one tenant in Concord or many, there are plenty of perks to being a landlord. For starters, you are able to earn and enjoy passive income every month. If you’ve been successful with one tenant, you can expand your rental property business and build a portfolio that can lead to financial freedom.
As with everything in life, there are some downsides to being a landlord. For example, your tenant can rightfully sue you if you’re breaking certain landlord-tenant laws at the federal, state or local level. And, if you’re not careful, things can get ugly if your tenant takes you to court.
You may be wondering… Can a renter really do that? What happens if a tenant files a lawsuit against me?
The reality is that, yes, your tenant in Concord can sue you. Some lawsuits won’t hold up in court, but there are at least five legitimate reasons a tenant can sue you. While we are not attorneys, we found five scenarios in which a tenant can rightfully sue you.
1. Landlord Intrusions & Invasion of Privacy
If there were a manual with the title Landlord Guidelines 101, one of the first rules to know is that you may never enter a rental property without permission. Entering a unit without permission can result in serious consequences.
However, according to California Civil Code 1954, there are a few exceptions when a landlord may enter a rental property without permission.
These exceptions include:
- During an emergency such as a fire or a burst pipe that is causing flooding
- Giving advance notice, typically a minimum of 24 hours, to enter the property to make repairs or to show the property and you must enter during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- You may enter when your tenant isn’t home, but you are liable if anything is broken or stolen.
- If you are working with a contractor for repairs or a realtor to sell your rental property, the rules still apply. The third-party must give at least 24 hours’ notice to the tenant before entering the property.
Otherwise, it’s fair game for your tenant in Concord to sue you for the invasion of privacy or trespassing. You can be sued for up to $10,000 for breaking this law. It is a serious matter and you are almost always better off communicating with the tenant before entering.
2. Risk of Injury on the Property
It is important to be aware of the surroundings and potential hazards on your property. This is especially true if your tenant brings it to your attention.
If a tenant gets injured on your property, whether inside or outside the building, this can be grounds for a lawsuit. If you were informed of the hazard and didn’t take action, your tenant has an even stronger case.
These are some examples of safety issues that can lead to your tenant filing a lawsuit against you:
- A ceiling fan drops and hits your renter
- An unrepaired sidewalk causes a serious fall
- A loose handrail causes an accident
- Neglect of leaky pipes and roofs. This can cause mold, which transitions to even more serious health-related problems. A leaky roof can also eventually make a home uninhabitable by destroying the structure and rafter beams in the attic.
There is more probability of a lawsuit when a landlord’s actions could have prevented an injury. As a landlord, it is expected that you will take reasonable care of the property. If you fail to do so and do not make an effort to prevent the risk of injury, a lawsuit may be on your hands in the future.
3. COVID-19 Evictions
On January 29, 2021, Governor Newsome extended the COVID-19 Tenants Relief Act to June 30, 2021. Landlords may not evict tenants who show proof of financial distress due to COVID-19 circumstances.
Attempting to evict a tenant under these circumstances can result in a lawsuit. If you post a notice to quit for nonpayment, the tenant has 15 days to provide you with financial distress notice under this California law.
However, this does not mean that the tenant can live at your rental property for free until further notice. By June 30, 2021, tenants are required to pay 25% of their outstanding rent balance incurred between September 30, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
COVID-19 related laws for evictions and payment collection can change on a dime. It’s important to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 eviction laws, which is where a property management company in Concord can help.
4. You Owe Your Tenant Money
Has your tenant paid for their own repairs recently? Have they recently moved out but you have yet to return a security deposit?
If so, owing money is yet another legitimate reason why a tenant can sue you.
For example, say that a tenant calls a plumber because of a leaky pipe. In California, a tenant should provide you with written notice that they plan to make repairs on the property. If you do not respond, the tenant is allowed to move forward with repairs on their own dime.
For example, a plumber arrives at the apartment and charges your tenant $300 to fix the plumbing problem. This $300 comes out of the tenant’s pocket. If a tenant does not have extra money to cover this cost, it can put them in a financial strain which includes paying rent on time.
From here, you can deduct $300 from the total cost of rent for that month. You may also pay them back in cash. Of course, if you choose the latter, make sure that there is a paper trail.
If you fail to reimburse the tenant whether it is a deduction from the rent or in cash, the tenant has two options. They can take you to small claims court or they can even legally vacate the property.
For more information on California’s repair and deduct law, click here.
5. Illegal Clauses in the Lease Agreement
Lease language needs to be carefully evaluated by an attorney or an experienced property manager like Blue Line Property Management.
You want to be careful about the clauses that are included in the lease. For example, in California, landlords must allow service and emotional assistance support animals to live with your tenant.
Furthermore, note that the state does not require any type of training to be considered a support animal.
Even if you don’t allow pets, these types of animals are required by law to remain on the premises. Attempting to exclude service animals can result in your tenant trying to sue you.
Need Help Managing Your Property in Concord?
One of the best ways to avoid getting sued by your tenants is by preventing bad situations in the first place. Blue Line Property Management can help you see around corners that might result in potential lawsuits.
Whether you’re a one-unit landlord who one-unit landlord who is in over your head or you own a multi-family property, we’re here to help. As lifelong residents of the area, we have connections to local attorneys who can assist you.
Contact us today to find out how our comprehensive property management services can make your life a whole easier and more enjoyable.