Recently in Landlord/Tenant Law Category

Notorious Sonoma County Landlord/Tenant Case Finally Comes to a Close After 4 1/2 Years

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Smith v Cook .jpgLANDLORDS BEWARE!

According to a Press Democrat article dated April 8, 2010, Gwen Smith seemed like the perfect tenant. The 53-year-old single mother was articulate and bright, had good references and talked about using her law degree to help crime victims and other women raising children on their own.

But what Landlord Connie Cook didn't know when she handed over the keys to her converted barn in 2009 was that she was opening her doors to trouble.

According to court records, Gwen Smith runs a "scam pattern". "She seeks a kind landlord, moves in and never intends to pay anything but the first month's rent." Gwendolyn Smith, has eviction cases against her in at least three states that we know about. She is an accused serial squatter who has frustrated landlords using a tactic of legal delays afforded to her by California's tenant friendly legal protections.

Gwen Smith's tactics were found to be "intentional, malicious, and outrageous" by retired Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil.

Continue reading "Notorious Sonoma County Landlord/Tenant Case Finally Comes to a Close After 4 1/2 Years" »

Former Sebastopol Tenant Gwen Smith Is Up To Her Old Tricks

December 8, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

kim-jong-il.jpgFor those of you following along, Gwen Smith is at it again. Off the heels from her defeat in federal court attempting to sue the Press Democrat for defamation, she has now filed a lawsuit in federal court against her former landlord Barbara Wilt. Smith vs. Wilt.pdf

As usual, you can formulate your own opinions.

Resolving Your Eviction / "Unlawful Detainer" Case in California Courts - Chapter 3

September 25, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

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Resolving Your Eviction / "Unlawful Detainer" Case in California Courts - Chapter 2

September 18, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

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Resolving You Eviction / "Unlawful Detainer" Case In California Courts - Chaapter 1

September 11, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

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Santa Rosa Landlord Constance Cook vs. Sonoma County Tenant Gwendolyn Smith, The Appeal

August 10, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

ostrich_head_in_sand.jpgAs any reader of my blog knows, Gwendolyn Smith has appealed the $49,635.96 judgment against her. Just like she did in the trial court, Smith was able to prolong the appeal by filing several motions for extensions of time. For those who are interested, below you will find (1) Smith's opening brief, Cooks Brief, and Smith's Reply Brief. If you read nothing else, you will enjoy Smith's Reply Brief. It says all that you need to know. I shall not say any more on that subject. For the full case docket click here.

I almost did not have time to write this post as my "white van" had to be taken back to the "CIA". I also am "biding my time" and will be ready to stand up to protect my clients from the tyranny of others. (You need to read Smith's Reply Brief for this to make sense).

Appellants -Gwen Smith- Opening Brief.pdf (Gwen Smith)

Cook Respondent Reply Brief.pdf (Constance Cook)

GS Reply Brief.pdf (Gwen Smith)

Remember, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Landlords and Tenants Both Winners with AB 1679 - Security Deposit Legislation

images.jpgAssembly Bill 1679 is a win-win for tenants and property owners. It brings California law in line with modern technology, by allowing rental property owners and tenants to mutually agree to:

1) Allow property owners to deposit any remaining portion of the security deposit directly to a bank account designated by the tenant; and

2) Allow property owners to provide a copy of the itemized statement along with supporting documents to an e-mail account provided by the tenant.

Unfortunately, current State law does not allow rental property owners to return a security deposit directly to a tenant's bank account. Having to return security deposits back through a physical check significantly slows down that return and costs property owners time and money. In addition, tenants often do not provide a forwarding address in a timely manner, thereby further delaying the return of their security deposit.

Under current law, rental property owners are only allowed to return tenant security deposits through a physical check delivered personally or by first-class mail. This requirement to return a security deposit by a physical check was first placed in statute decades ago, long before the advent of modern technology, electronic fund transfer options, and email.

Today, more tenants are asking that rental property owners return any remaining security deposit directly into their own bank account. This request is consistent with the way in which many tenants already chose to pay their rent - through an electronic fund transfer (EFT).

The legislation has cleared all legislative committees and is on the way to the Governor's desk.

Miss a 15-Day Window, No Rent is Due To Santa Rosa Landlords

commercial-residential-rental-real-estate-investment.jpgThe California Apartment Association (CAA) is opposing Assembly Bill 1953 which says that if a new owner or property manager fails within 15 days to provide notice to the tenant of the new name, telephone number, and address of the person or entity to whom rent payments shall now be made, waives any rent accrued prior to giving that notice.

The bill is sponsored by the San Francisco tenant's rights group, Tenants Together. Tenants Together claims that some owners don't tell tenants where to pay the rent and then they intentionally wait months for the rent and then they finally get around to serving the tenant with a 3-day notice, at a time when tenants have already spent their rent money and can't pay.

But CAA disagrees and points out that a number of years ago, this issue was addressed in statute. The law requires the property owner to put specific information in the Notices to Pay Rent or Quit. Those notices must include information about where rent payments are to be made and the specific times that the owner or the agent is available to receive the rent. A tenant who claims he or she didn't know where the rent was to be paid or whether it was even due and owing, and they thereafter spent the rent money, is simply not logical.

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Prospective Tenants and Screening Fees: What An Owner Can And Cannot Do

tenant-screening-02.jpgThe amount of the screening fee cannot be greater than the actual out-of-pocket costs of gathering information concerning the applicant, including, but not limited to:

1. The cost of using a tenant screening service or a consumer credit reporting service, and
2. The reasonable value of time spent by the owner or his or her agent to obtain the information.

The initial law provided that in no case, however, can the amount of the application fee charged by the owner be greater than $30 per applicant. This fee may be adjusted annually by the owner commensurate with an increase in the Consumer Price Index. As of December 2011, the adjusted rate is $43.54.

Unless the applicant agrees in writing, the owner cannot charge a fee when he or she knows or should have known that no rental unit is available at that time or will be available within a reasonable period of time.

The owner must provide the applicant with a receipt for the fee paid by the applicant. The receipt must itemize the out-of-pocket expenses and the time spent by the owner or his/her employees to obtain and process the information.

If the owner does not perform a reference check or does not obtain a credit report, the owner must return any amount of the fee that is not used.

If a fee is paid and if a request is made by the applicant, the owner must provide a copy of the credit report to the applicant.

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US Supreme Court May Hear Case That Could Potentially Outlaw Rent Control

forrent.jpgThe U.S. Supreme Court may be prepared to hear a case that could potentially outlaw rent control. New York City landlord James Harmon contends the City's rent control law constitutes a physical taking of property in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The Court has not yet announced whether it will hear the case but has asked the state and city of New York to respond to Harmon's argument.

Harmon, 68, lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side in a five-story brownstone that has been in his family since his grandfather bought it in 1949. In 1969, the building became subject to New York City's Rent Stabilization Law, which caps the percentage that a landlord may raise rents each year.

By the time Harmon and his wife took full ownership of the brownstone in 2005, three of the six units were renting at rates that were 59 percent below-market to tenants that Harmon claims did not need the discount.

Harmon argues that he and his wife effectively have been financing the approximately $1500 monthly mortgage payments on the Long Island home of one of their rent stabilized tenants who pays $951.22 monthly rent. According to his petition, Harmon has spent two years and more than $30,000 in legal fees trying to recover possession of one rent-stabilized apartment for one of his grandchildren.

The U.S. Supreme Court now wants to review records on this case from two lower courts that previously rejected Harmon's petition and may decide to hear arguments some time before October of this year.

For further information on this case and on rent control in general, use the links below.

Washington Post Article

Wall Street Journal Article

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone is located in Santa Rosa, California and litigates numerous landlord tenant disputes including evictions, contract and lease disputes, evictions after foreclosure, and problem tenants, 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.

New Bills That Will Impact Santa Rosa Landlords And Tenants

state-capitol.jpgAccording to CAA, in the last weeks of February, California lawmakers introduced hundreds of new bills that would impact the rental housing industry, here is a look at what CAA has identified so far.

AB 1610 - Accessibility - This bill would establish notice requirements for an alleged aggrieved party to follow before bringing an action against a business for an alleged violation of access rights of a disabled individual. The bill would require that party to provide specified notice to the owner of the property, agent, or other responsible party where the alleged violation occurred. The bill would require that owner, agent, or other responsible party to respond within 30 days with a description of the improvements to be made or with a rebuttal to the allegations. If that owner, agent, or other responsible party elects to fix the alleged violation, the bill would provide 120 days to do so.

AB 1726 - Pools - This bill would require an apartment building with a swimming pool to employ at least one qualified pool operator, as defined, and to maintain and conspicuously post a current certificate of each qualified pool operator employed by the swimming pool owner. This bill would require originals or copies of the certificate or documentation of each qualified pool operator employed by the site to be available onsite for inspection by a local enforcement agency. It also would require every pool operator of a public swimming pool to be a qualified pool operator, and to take a pool operator training course and examination, as specified, approved by a local enforcement agency. This bill would require a pool operator training course to be registered and approved by a local enforcement agency, and would allow the enforcement agency to charge a registration fee, as specified.

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Rejected Residential Lease Was Not Terminated In Bankruptcy

For-Lease.jpgThis dispute arose in the bankruptcy court when the debtors defaulted on the terms of their prepetition lease, which was terminated as a result of it being deemed rejected.
These Chapter 7 debtors filed for bankruptcy 10 days after signing an apartment lease. They did not schedule the landlord as a creditor. They did not disclose the lease on Schedule G. Pursuant to Section 365, the lease was deemed rejected 60 days postpetition because the trustee did not assume or reject it. Two months after the debtors received their discharge, the debtors stopped paying their rent. The landlord sued the debtors, obtaining a judgment for $8,929 for past due rent. The debtors asked for reconsideration on the basis that any rent obligation was discharged in their Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The court was not persuaded by the debtors' arguments. The court ruled that the landlord's rent claim was not a claim for damages resulting from termination of the lease agreement upon rejection. The deemed rejection of the lease resulted in a prepetition breach under section 365(g)(1). However, the court reasoned that a breach of a lease does not result in the termination of a lease. If the parties treat the lease as remaining in effect, then the lease continues in force. "If there is a future breach of the lease, the resulting claim does not arise from the rejection of the lease but from the tenant's subsequent default, and the lease is than subject to enforcement under applicable law," the court said.

If you are a landlord attempting to evict a tenant who has filed for bankruptcy or a tenant who needs to file bankruptcy we can help. The Law Offices of James V. Sansone assists individuals with landlord tenant disputes, including evictions, and file for bankruptcy protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code. 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.

Will Black Friday Create Legal Liability For Holiday Retailers?

November 29, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

slip-and-fall2.pngDo retailers, such as Walmart, owe their customers a duty of care? Yes they do. Land owners owe a duty of care to all invitees. The class of persons designated as invitees includes those who have come upon the land at the express or implied invitation of a possessor for the purpose of transacting some business within the scope of the invitation.

The duty of exercising ordinary care for the safety of business visitors may require one who invites the public to his/her premises to purchase goods to take measures different from those required of one inviting others to his/her private residence.

A land owner is required to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition and has a duty to exercise due care to protect invitees from conditions that can result in injury. Whereas, a land owner has no duty to protect invitees from open and obvious dangers. However, even if a danger is open and obvious, a landowner owner may still owe a duty to protect an invitee if the risk of harm remains unreasonable.

A possessor owes an additional duty towards an invitee to exercise reasonable care to make the land safe for the reception of his/her invitee, or ascertain the actual condition of the land so that by warning the invitee, the possessor may give the invitee an opportunity to decide intelligently whether or not to accept the invitation or permission.

This Black Friday saw a lot of mob like mentality. Some of the issues were created by people's greed, while others were created by retailers' own negligence. Nevertheless, people were injured because of this greed or negligence. Are the stores at fault?

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone is located in Santa Rosa, California and serves clients with their civil litigation needs throughout the North Bay area of California, including Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Lake County, Santa Rosa, Napa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport and Kelseyville.

Bay Area Problem Tenant Gwen Smith Emerges In Oregon

November 23, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

house_0.jpgAs posted and written by CBS 5, A few weeks ago, I reposted a post by CBS 5 who reported on a woman who avoided paying rent for years. She had numerous court judgments against her, and owes more than $100,000 to landlords, some in the Bay Area.

Recently, she turned up in Oregon, but her stay there didn't last long.

When CBS 5 first caught up with Gwen Smith, it was late October in the Sonoma County town of Forestville. She sped past our cameras as we tried to ask her about eight court judgments against her totaling $183,000, judgments in favor of landlords such as Connie Cook in Sebastopol.

"She started claiming that the apartment was uninhabitable. The water was not healthy, there was a gas leak," said Cook. A judge ruled Smith's conduct of not paying rent and filing numerous legal actions "malicious" and a "tactical delay" and awarded cook approx. $49,000 in damages.

After leaving Cook's house, Smith moved to Oregon renting a room in Lance Hilt's house. Within days, Hilt said he realized he had made a big mistake. "I got the roommate from hell," he said.

Hilt said she put a lock on her room, and started complaining about everything. "It's all about her, she's like a fulltime job," he said. He managed to evict her.

Then Smith moved into Pamela Joy's house and soon started "threatening" her, according to court documents. "I put a lock on the inside of my bedroom door because I was afraid to not lock it at night when I was asleep," said Joy.

Joy also took Smith to court. In an audio recording from the Jackson County Circuit Court, Smith was heard talking back to the judge. "She was arguing with the judge, it was to my mind really shocking," said Joy.

But one thing that didn't happen to landlords in Oregon, and was the financial ruin for some in California, involved Smith withholding rent.

In Oregon, if there's a landlord tenant dispute, tenants still have to pay rent into an escrow account held by the court. Whoever wins gets the money. I am of the opinion that CA should adopt a similar law. This would curb a lot of abuse.

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone is located in Santa Rosa, California and litigates numerous landlord tenant disputes including evictions, contract and lease disputes, evictions after foreclosure, and problem tenants, 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.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Selecting a Property Manager, Screening Renters, Maintenance Concerns & Fees

November 15, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Property-Management-Tax-Tips.jpgWhat is the single most important skill you should look for in a property management firm? The ability to screen out high risk applicants and rent to the good ones. This is critical to avoid potential expensive litigation in the future.

You should always find a manager who knows how to screen prospective renters. The property management company should have a written policy that is given to prospective renters. Having a policy can prevent the company from illegally discriminating, even unintentional discrimination. Other questions to ask include (1) is the written policy adhered to?, (2) How are exceptions made?, and (3) Does the supervisor review every decision?

It is not recommended that you require the property management firm to contact you prior to accepting a new resident. This can lead to a fair housing compliant.

In order to locate good renters you should set up criteria well before your search. Some of the more popular requirements include:

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