Recently in Eviction Category

Financial Instability of Sonoma County Families Breeds New Forms of Fraud

bankownedpic.jpgSonoma County foreclosures may be less common than they were two years ago, but they continue to besiege financially vulnerable homeowners.

According to The Real Estate Report, notices of default in Sonoma County - the first step in the foreclosure process - jumped 52.1% in February. But the good news is that there were still down by 70.1% from the previous year.

Due to the avalanche of foreclosures in recent years, banks continue to own about 685 properties in the county.

Financial Vulnerability Breeds New Forms of Fraud

The Great Recession saw too many people lose their jobs and their homes. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals saw a window of opportunity amid this atmosphere of pain and financial uncertainty.

As part of their fraud, companies cropped up, claiming they could prevent foreclosure by negotiating with a consumer's lender or obtaining a loan modification.
These services were offered at a price and naïve and desperate homeowners facing the prospect of foreclosure gladly paid the fee.

Many of the companies pretended to be affiliated with the government or government housing assistance programs. Others falsely claimed to offer legal services or "audits" of consumers' loan paperwork to help them negotiate a resolution with their lenders.
Unfortunately, promised services were never delivered.

Continue reading "Financial Instability of Sonoma County Families Breeds New Forms of Fraud" »

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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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.

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.

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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:

Continue reading "Selecting a Property Manager, Screening Renters, Maintenance Concerns & Fees" »

North Bay Tenant Accused Of Evading Rent For Years - Santa Rosa Landlords Beware!

October 28, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Dark-Evil-41164.jpgAs reported by CBS 5,

As the California rental market heats up, landlords need to do their homework.

Connie Cook bought a Sonoma County property eleven years ago, hoping to spend her retirement years there. Her plan was to rent out the converted barn to help pay the mortgage.

That plan was working well, that is until a single mother moved in with her teenage son in 2009.

Soon afterward, Gwen Smith, the new tenant, started complaining that a gas leak and unhealthy water were making the apartment uninhabitable.

Then, Smith stopped paying rent. But when Cook tried to evict her, Smith, who has a law degree, fought back in court by filing motion after motion - all while paying no rent.

A judge eventually ruled that Smith's conduct was "malicious," and her numerous court filings amounted to "tactical delay." He awarded Cook $49,000. But, unfortunately for Cook, Smith appealed the judgment, and that case is still pending.

It turns out this wasn't the first time Smith had stopped paying her rent.

As Connie Cook's finances dwindled, she turned to her local legal aid office, which told her they knew Gwen Smith. They called her "notorious."

Sebastopol homeowner Barbara Wilt rented part of her house to Smith in 2008.

A few weeks after moving in, Smith allegedly changed the locks, and began complaining that the apartment was uninhabitable.

But, when Wilt tried to enter the house to fix the alleged problems, she was met with a nasty surprise: the police.

Smith had called the police claiming someone was trying to break in. In one encounter, Smith even pepper sprayed Wilt.

"I just felt this liquid on my face, started swelling up, couldn't see, it was horrible," said Wilt.

When Wilt took Smith to court, Smith countersued, claiming she and her son suffered "property damage, illness, infections, and emotional trauma" - all from living in Wilt's "hellish basement."

Wilt eventually won a default judgment for more than $42,000. But Smith appealed that judgment as well.

A month ago, after three years of legal battles and a trip to the Supreme Court of California, the Supreme Court ruled in Wilt's favor, upholding the judgment against Smith.

And that's just two cases. CBS 5 found a total of eight judgments in eviction proceedings against Smith in four states.

Smith's law degree helped her work the system, but experts say California's tenant protection laws worked to her advantage.

According to attorney Jim Sansone, tenants can withhold rent while a case is pending. Faced with motion after motion, most landlords, he said, simply give up.

"I have a lot of landlords who come to me and say, you know what, I am going to figure out what the cost of defense is, and I am going to offer that to the tenant and waive all my rights," said Sansone.

CBS 5 offered Smith a chance to share her side of the story. After two weeks we tracked her down to the small town of Forestville.

Smith wouldn't speak with us, and her most recent landlord didn't want his name used. But, he did tell CBS 5 that Smith stayed for three months without paying rent.

The day after our encounter with Smith, she moved out of the Forestville home. Her whereabouts now are unknown.

Meanwhile, Barbara Wilt is still waiting to collect on her judgment.

"I still am just so flabbergasted and shocked and so disappointed and disillusioned with our justice system," Wilt said.

Connie Cook is still waiting for her money too. But, even if she gets it, it is already too late. Living on Social Security and with no rental income, Cook fell behind on her mortgage payments and lost her farmhouse to foreclosure.

"It breaks my heart, just breaks my heart," Cook said.

Continue reading "North Bay Tenant Accused Of Evading Rent For Years - Santa Rosa Landlords Beware!" »

What Type of Damages Can A Santa Rosa Landlord Obtain In An Action For Unlawful Detainer?

October 6, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

evicdep.jpgI consult with many landlords who are surprised to learn that they can't obtain a judgment against a tenant for property damage to the subject rental unit. This is because the statutory primary purpose for an unlawful detainer action is possession, nothing more.

In addition, but only incidentally, the landlord may obtain:

1) A declaration of the forfeiture of the lease (tenancy agreement);

2) The amount of any rent due and unpaid (together with interest), if the ground for eviction is nonpayment of rent;

3) Damages for occupancy during a holdover period (up to the date of entry of the judgment); and

4) Statutory damages, if the tenant is guilty of willfully holding over after expiration of the tenancy term.

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