Category: News

28 Nov 2016

What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do in a California Eviction

What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do in a California Eviction

In California, the only way to legally evict someone is by filing an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit. The laws governing eviction are very complicated and require landlords take specific steps for an eviction to be legal.

A landlord MUST give notice to terminate

California law requires landlords legally terminate tenancy before evicting someone. Tenancy can be terminated early for several reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating terms of the lease, or committing an illegal act. If there is cause, the landlord must give the following notice:

  • 3-day notice to pay rent
  • 3-day notice to cure or correct a violation
  • 3-day unconditional quit notice if the tenant commits a serious violation

If the lease is being terminated without cause, the notice depends on the lease term. If the tenant has a month-to-month agreement and has lived in the unit for less than one year, 30-day written notice is required. If the tenant has lived in the unit for 12+ months on a month-to-month lease, 60-day notice is required. For a fixed-term lease, the landlord cannot end the tenancy early without cause.

A landlord MUST serve notice properly

Not just any type of notice of eviction will work. A 3-day, 30-day, or 60-day notice to the tenant must be served correctly to be legally effective to ensure the tenant actually receives the notice. A landlord can send notice by:

  • Personal service, which means personally handing the notice to the tenant or leaving it with the tenant if the tenant refuses to take it. If the landlord does not find the tenant at home, the landlord can serve the notice personally at the tenant’s place of work. If neither option works, substituted service is allowed by serving the notice with someone of sufficient age and discretion at the tenant’s home or work AND mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant’s home.
  • Posting and mailing notice. In this case, the notice can be served by taping a copy of the notice to the rental property in a conspicuous area like the front door and mailing a copy to the rental unit’s address.

A landlord MUST give the tenant the option to correct a violation
If a landlord gives a 3-day notice and the reason can be corrected, the landlord must give the tenant the option of correcting the violation. This is true in cases where rent is behind or the tenant has a pet that is barred by the lease agreement or violating some other term of the lease, for example.

A landlord can NOT end a fixed lease without reason

If you have a fixed-term lease that lasts longer than one month, your landlord cannot end your tenancy without cause, such as violating the terms of your lease or failing to pay rent.

A landlord can NOT personally remove a tenant from the property

Under California law, it is illegal for a landlord to remove someone from the unit. The only way to legally evict a tenant is to win an eviction lawsuit at which point a sheriff will perform the eviction. This means a landlord cannot change the locks, remove a tenant’s property, or turn off heat or electricity, for example.

If you are facing eviction, a landlord tenant attorney may be able to help if you are dealing with retaliatory eviction, an eviction that was not done legally or following proper procedure, or you have another defense to the eviction. Contact Soliman Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced West Los Angeles landlord tenant attorney.

22 Nov 2016

Want to Use the Repair & Deduct Strategy as a Tenant Be Sure You Follow the Rules

Want to Use the Repair & Deduct Strategy as a Tenant? Be Sure You Follow the Rules!

The “repair and deduct” strategy is a powerful tool tenants can use when a landlord refuses to pay for necessary repairs to a rental property. While you are well within your rights to repair defects yourself and deduct the cost from the rent, this must be done correctly or it will be you who is in trouble.

Here’s what you should know about the conditions and procedures that must be followed to use the repair and deduct strategy as a tenant in California.

It Must Be an Issue of Habitability

You can’t repair minor problems and deduct the cost from your rent, but you can if the issue affects your safety or health as a tenant. Be sure to consider this before you employ the repair and deduct strategy. You can certainly use the repair and deduct method to deal with issues like:

  • Leaking plumbing
  • Water heater issues
  • Thermostat problems
  • Broken front door lock
  • Broken window

It’s important to note that the conditions do not need to be so bad that they justify withholding rent, which requires a substantial reduction in habitability.

You Must Inform the Landlord

The landlord must be informed of the problems and given a chance to correct them. After all, the “repair and deduct” remedy actually involves spending the landlord’s money against his will and potentially hiring contractors at a greater expense than he could have done. The best way to inform the landlord is to do it in writing and identify the issues, how they affect you, whether they pose a safety or health risk, what needs to be done, and when it should be done. Send the letter by certified mail, keep a copy, and take pictures of the conditions.

The Landlord Needs a Reasonable Amount of Time to Fix the Problem

30 days is presumed to be a reasonable amount of time to correct most habitability issues for a landlord, unless the problem severely affects tenants (such as no working toilet, no electricity, or a broken front door lock) or the problem can be fixed quickly by qualified, available workers.

Take Care in Hiring a Repairman

After you wait a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to fix it, you can call in a repairman. It’s important to note that you cannot charge for your own time, even if you are qualified. Be sure you hire a qualified, licensed contractor to perform the work. Get an estimate for the job, pay out of pocket for the repairs and labor, and use your paid invoice as a receipt. You do not need to choose the cheapest contractor as this is the risk the landlord takes in not fixing the problem when he or she was informed. If the item must be replaced because it cannot be repaired, that is fine but be sure the contractor notes this on the invoice.

Work Cannot Exceed One Month’s Rent

The work done cannot exceed one month’s rent and you can only use this remedy twice in a 12-month time period. It is possible to have several defects repaired at once as long as they do not exceed one month’s rent.

Deduct the Cost from Your Rent

Once the work is done, total up your receipts and write down this amount. Subtract it from your normal rent amount and pay that new amount in rent for the next month. Be sure to note “Repair and deduct – [Month] rent” in the memo on the check. Make copies of your receipts and calculations and include a cover letter for your deductions that explains that you repaired and deducted for items covered by Civil Code 1942. While these steps are not legally required, they can protect you if your landlord attempts to evict you for failure to pay rent.

Finally, it’s important to protect yourself by keeping a log and all documentation, including where the defect is located, photographic evidence of the defect, when and how the landlord was informed, when you took action, how the defect was repaired, and copies of your letter to your landlord, and invoice from the contractor.

15 Nov 2016

Marijuana Arrests Drop in 2015 to Lowest Level Since 1996

Marijuana Arrests Drop in 2015 to Lowest Level Since 1996, Remain Higher than Violent Crime Arrests

While the outdated claim that marijuana is a dangerous and highly addictive gateway drug has been largely discredited by decades of research, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government and people still face arrest and prosecution for possession and sale of marijuana, even when a violent crime has not been committed.

According to a recent analysis published by the Washington Post [https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/26/marijuana-arrests-fall-to-lowest-level-since-1996/], the number of marijuana possession arrests declined 7% in 2015 to 575,000, the lowest level since 1996 according to new FBI unified crime statistics.

This is a 35% decline in marijuana arrests since 2007, when arrests reached a peak of 800,000. In general, this indicates police are putting less effort into enforcing federal and, in some cases, state laws.

Still, a joint report called “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States” issued by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch found the 575,000 marijuana arrests last year were for low-level personal use was almost 14% more than the 506,000 arrests for all violent crimes in 2015. That includes serious assault, rape, and murder arrests.

The report also highlights an issue in which the system coerces guilty pleas from people charged with drug crimes, even if they are not guilty. Over 99% of people convicted for drug possession in 2009 pleaded guilty in the 75 largest counties in the United States and most in at least two states were poor enough to qualify for a court-appointed attorney yet had a bail amount of almost $40,000 on average.

This problem also exists in California. While medical marijuana has been legal in California for 20 years, more than 500,000 people have been arrested for marijuana in the last decade.

If you have been arrested for marijuana possession, cultivation, or sales, there are many defenses that can be explored to reduce the risk of conviction. Contact Soliman Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced marijuana defense attorney in West Los Angeles to discuss your case.

07 Nov 2016

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Period Ends

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Period Ends November 7

The registration period for the mandated 2018 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery began on October 4, 2016 and ends on November, 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm EST. Online registration is available.

The DV lottery allows nationals from eligible countries to apply for a green card outside of the standard visa process. People who are already sponsored for an immigrant visa by a family member or employer are also eligible to participate in the lottery. Every year, 50,000 green card lottery slots are available with winners chosen through a random drawing.

Qualifications for the DV Lottery

The DV lottery requires that an applicant have a high school education or equivalent as well as two years of qualifying work experience in the last five years. Only the principal applicant needs to meet this requirement, not a spouse or children. You can confirm your qualifications through the U.S. State Department [https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/diversity-visa/if-you-are-selected/confirm-your-qualifications.html].

Eligibility by Country

Only nationals of certain countries are eligible for the DV lottery, but most countries are eligible in 2018. For the 2018 DV lottery, natives of the following countries are NOT eligible for the program this year:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (mainland-born)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom and dependent territories (not Northern Ireland)
  • Vietnam

Different countries are selected each year based on which nations sent the fewest immigrants to the U.S. in the last 5 years based on their population.

If you are a native of an ineligible country, you may still become eligible to apply for the DV Lottery if your spouse was born in an eligible country or if neither of your parents was born in your native country or made a home there when you were born, in which case you may be able to claim one of your parents’ birth countries as your own.

If you are interested in applying for the DV Lottery, it’s important to do so as soon as possible. If you are notified that you have won the lottery, follow up immediately because the government always declares more winners than available green cards and the supply may run out if you do not follow up. If you win the lottery, it’s important to hire an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney to help you as the USCIS may get backed up for months without action.