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San Jose California Real Estate Law Blog

Protect property from squatters by being vigilant

When there are easily accessed online articles and even a few websites dedicated to helping squatters be successful, it is easy to understand why the practice is so widespread. Property owners In California need to take extra care in safeguarding their property due to somewhat easier restrictions on squatters and their rights of tenancy to property they do not own.

The Los Angeles Times carries a story about squatting, which has been a bigger-than-usual problem over the past decade or so due to the housing bust. It is not just a situation faced in modest neighborhoods of single-family homes lost through the foreclosure crisis, but upscale coastal homes too.

Can I force my property co-owners to sell?

There are times when co-owners of a California property disagree on whether to sell or keep it. It might be a couple who bought the home together but now want a divorce. It could be one of several siblings or relatives who co-own an inheritance and one of them has decided he or she would rather have the money. Or it could be two or more business partners who bought an office or apartment building together but are dissolving the partnership and want to sell the property and move on or retire.

Whatever the situation, there are bound to be emotions involved, but hopefully, both or all sides are willing to work together for the good of the whole. If joint owners cannot agree on dividing the property, however, a sale can be forced, according to SFGate.

What is the difference between a rental agreement and a lease?

While the words lease and rental agreements are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different types of rental contracts. A lease is a detailed long-term rental contract whereas a rental agreement is a renewable short-term contract. Depending on the needs of the landlord and potential tenants, both have positive aspects and drawbacks.


Seller disclosures: what does a seller need to tell you?

In real estate, seller disclosure is the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much about the property as they can from the seller before purchasing it. The disclosure documents can be made up of several forms that provide information about the property.

The California Association of Realtors publishes a number of different disclosure forms for buyers that outline the property in detail. One of the documents is a Transfer Disclosure Statement questionnaire that seller fill out. Sellers must also complete the Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement to identify any potential natural hazards the seller is aware of, such as property on an earthquake fault zone.

Understanding when your landlord can raise the rent

Imagine your landlord coming to you on Friday and telling you that he or she has decided to raise your rent payment (which is due on Monday). This scenario is the nightmare shared by all renting tenants in Santa Cruz, and one that several of the clients that we here at The Law Office of Leo B. Siegel have assisted in the past have faced. Most may think that since your landlord owns the property you live or work in, he or she can raise the rent anytime he or she wants. Yet what does the law say? 

First and foremost, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, your landlord cannot increase your rent during the term of your current lease provided that it is for more than 30 days. The only time he or she is able to raise the rent while in a current lease agreement is if yours is a periodic rental agreement. If your agreement does not provide a time frame for how long you are able to use the property (but rather simply details the dates when the rent is due), then it is classified as periodic. 

Detailing the different types of deeds

Most people in Santa Cruz may believe that the issue of trasnferring the title of a property only comes up when said property is listed for sale. While that may be the most common reason for a title transfer, it is by no means the only one. Some may want to transfer the title of their properties to a spouse following a divorce or when protecting personal assets from business ventures. Others may find it necessary to transfer property ownership to a trust. Or, one may simply want to gift a property to a family member. Whatever the reason, it should be understood that before one tackles a title transfer, he or she must first understand the type of deed that best applies to the transaction. 

According to the online publication, there are certain types of specialty deeds: 

  • Quitclaim deeds: These are used when multiple people with shared stakes in a single property transfer their ownership to a single party. 
  • Gift deeds: Such deeds transfer ownership of property without requiring payment for it. 
  • Fiduciary deeds: These deeds give ownership of a property to another who then acts as an agent to sell the property for one who cannot on his or her own. 

How an eviction affects your credit rating

A rental agreement is a legally binding document, wherein you the tenant are agreeing to your landlord’s terms. However, if you do not uphold your end of the arrangement, your landlord can evict you. Evictions can happen when tenants fail to pay rent, do not obey property rules or damage the rental property.

Being evicted from a rental property can hurt your credit score. Since your credit score impacts your ability to get loans, apply for new rentals and even get a new job, avoiding something that will hurt it is best. While evictions do not show up directly on credit reports, eviction related information will and lenders and landlords can easily spot these on your credit report.

Dealing with boundary disputes

Border disputes can happen when neighbors do not have a clear understanding of where their property boundaries are. In most cases, the dispute is caused by encroachment.

When your neighbor builds a new garage that crosses the property line, the structure is encroaching on your property. Encroachment can also happen above the property line. For example, if your neighbor built a new upper level deck that overhangs into your yard, the deck is encroaching on your property even though it is above ground.

Common types of real estate fraud

There are, as always, plenty of horror stories on the topic of real estate fraud -- the schemes, illegal flipping and other ploys surely cross a soon-to-be homeowner's mind at some point in the housing search. But do bad real estate practices really plague the industry as much as one might think? California may have its own pocket of housing gems with its alluring culture and coastlines, but, much like other states, it has a considerable amount of fraud. Fortunately, however, there are ways one can avoid it.

It is generally wise to approach any housing deal with caution, as mishaps do occur. KION News reported in a late 2017 article that real estate fraud has been an ongoing issue, and experts do not expect the trend to fall to the wayside. Some say technology could be one reason for the plummet -- cybercrime is just one of many forms of rental scam. The police department has handled cases carefully, with some ending in felony theft charges. One sign of a scam, according to the article, is when an alleged landlord claims they cannot meet prospective renters to show the property. It is never a bad idea to also check a realtor's background to ensure they hold a valid license. 

What are reasonable circumstances for eviction?

There are endless perks to renting a home in California: one-time pet fees, no looming mortgage payments and landlord responsibility over maintenance and repairs. Depending on location, there are ideal places to rent for all types of lifestyles. But one drawback to this living option is in regards to relationships between tenants and landlords; tensions can rise when there is a disagreement over the living situation. Regardless of the side of dispute, what, exactly, makes a situation grounds for tenants eviction?

SF Gates shares the basics when it comes to tenant and landlord disputes and California law. Known as an "unlawful detainer" lawsuit in the state, an eviction is a lengthy and complicated process -- one that most would prefer to avoid -- largely because of the time tenants typically demand to remain in the home, and for the fact that courts often push eviction cases back in hearing scheduling. SF Gate shares that the state considers the following as grounds for eviction:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Being a nuisance to the neighborhood
  • Having pets when they are prohibited 
  • Manufacture of drugs on the property


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