A tenant must use ordinary care for the preservation of the premises in safety and in good condition [see CC § 1928 ], and must repair all deteriorations or injuries to the premises occasioned by the tenant's want of ordinary care [see CC § 1929 ]. A tenant must use leased property in such a way as to avoid waste.
Waste occurs when the party in possession commits an act that substantially or permanently diminishes or depreciates the market value of property. Further, unauthorized alternations made by a tenant to premises may constitute waste, even though they enhance the property's value, because the policy is that the premises ought to be returned on the lease's termination in the same condition as when leased. However, a tenant may be able to make minor alternations to the premises without violating a lease provision that specifically prohibits alterations by the tenant. Whether an alteration is material or minor is a question of fact to be determined by looking to the lease as a whole and any specific provisions regarding alterations.
Ordinarily, the amount of damages recovered for a tenant's waste is the pecuniary measure of the diminution of the estate or the value of dilapidations amounting to more than ordinary wear and use. Although by statute treble damages may be recovered against a tenant who commits waste, treble damages are not mandatory in character, and contemplate a showing of willfulness or malice. Whether the damages should be trebled is left to the court's discretion.
The Law Offices of James V. Sansone offers a full range of landlord tenant legal services, including evictions, evictions after foreclosure, eviction defense, contract and lease disputes, landlords in bankruptcy, and especially enjoys dealing with problem tenants. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.