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Landlord harassment and the law

Disagreements between tenants and landlords are no average dispute, mainly because it can threaten one's living situation. When a landlord harasses a tenant, the issue becomes all the more problematic. California tenants deserve honest communication, proper maintainence upkeep and, above all else, a safe living environment.

Unfortunately, as The Mercury News shares, this was not the case for one San Francisco woman who rented an apartment that she thought had a price too good to be true. To her shock, the apartment apparently came with a hidden cost: she later received sexually explicit text messages from her landlord to the point at which she did not feel safe. According to The Mercury, women across the Bay Area have made recent reports of harassment from landlords, resulting in a #MeToo movement occurring in a place many would have least expected. 

Tenancy in common vs. joint tenancy

Co-owning a property in Santa Cruz can be a complex proposition; many of the clients that we here at The Law Office of Leo B. Siegel have worked with can attest to this fact. Your stake in the property will always be your primary concern. At the same time, what your co-owners do should also weigh heavily on your mind. For this reason, it is extremely important that you consider the type ownership will be most advantageous to you before buying into a venture. 

The issues inherent with co-ownership often do not affect married couples. You and your spouse can purchase a home designated as community property, which automatically assigns joint ownership to both of you. Rather, this article refers to scenarios where you own properties along with other parties. 

What is real estate fraud?

Home ownership is the American dream, and it is shared by many right here in Santa Cruz. But there is no lack of people who would take that dream away from you through a variety of schemes. To safeguard yourself from real estate fraud, you need to know what to look for; here are some common schemes.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office explains that identity theft and forgery are two types of real property crimes and can include forged grant deeds and phony, or “straw” buyers. New home buyers are also at risk from forgers who send fake escrow instructions in hopes of diverting deposits to their own account.

Giving advance notice before eviction

An unfortunate part of doing business is that many people won’t uphold their end of a contract. This is especially true in property management and landlord situations where the agreement includes living arrangements.

Eviction is the legal process of removing a tenant for violating their rental agreement. There are many reasons, from criminal behavior to not paying rent to unlisted occupants. If a tenant isn’t biding the rules in their lease, a landlord has the right to action.

City seeks to evict boat dealer from current space

Oftentimes, parties that are not in position to buy their coveted spaces in Santa Ana will attempt to enter into lease agreements with the owners with the promise of eventually being able to buy the property outright. Such agreements are perfectly legitimate provided that they are executed correctly. In such a case, "executed correctly" means obtaining signed documentation to verify such agreements. The absence of such documents may later allow one side to back out of such an agreement, citing that as proof that such an accord was never in place. Conversely, an interested buyer can also try to create controversy by saying that he or she had such an agreement in place despite having to evidence to support it. 

These are the exact claims that were made by both sides of a recent lease agreement dispute in New Hampshire. A local boat dealer originally called foul after the city had arranged the sale of the property it occupied in advance of the termination of its lease. The dealership's owner claimed that the city had promised her first right of refusal to buy the property. City officials dispute this assertion, and has since sold the property to one of the dealership's competitors. It has since initiated eviction proceedings in order to facilitate the complete of the sale to the space's new owner. 

Can a tenant ever validly break a lease?

When you moved into your California apartment, you thought you would live there “forever.” Now, however, you feel you must move and your lease has not yet expired. What, if anything, can you do?

HomeGuide explains that in California, you have the legal right to break your lease, but only under certain circumstances. The first thing you must realize is that “valid reason” is not synonymous with “legal reason.” For instance, if your company decides to transfer you half way across the country, you have a valid reason to move. It is not, however, a legal reason to break your lease. Nor is it a legal reason why your landlord must return your security deposit and must not charge you for the remaining months of the lease.

Can I evict my tenant?

If you are a landlord in California, chances are that you have had a situation where the tenant residing at your property has been less than ideal. Fortunately, eviction proceedings are a possibility under certain circumstances.

According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, if the tenancy is month-to-month, you can give a 30 or 60 days’ notice that the property is to be vacated. This can usually be done without any explanation necessary. However, there are a few localities where an explanation for termination must be given to the tenant. These might include rent control cities or subsidized housing programs. Evictions cannot be served in cases of retaliation or discrimination.

What Should I Know About Eviction in California?

If you rent a home or apartment in California, being fully aware of your rights and responsibilities is extremely important. This is especially true when it comes to eviction. Landlords do have the right to evict tenants under certain circumstances, as explained by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

No matter the situation, landlords must give tenants notice before evicting tenants. However, the amount of notice can vary depending on the exact situation at hand. In general cases, landlords must provide 30 or 60 days’ notice to tenants they wish to evict. Additionally, landlords are not obligated to provide a reason when giving this much notice. All that’s required is that the notice is provided in written form, unless a special situation applies (such as residence in a rent-controlled dwelling).

Rent control and California's Costa Hawkins law

As rents in Santa Clara County continue to surge, some tenants are facing harsh economic realities. With the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose hovering at $2,550--nearly $1,000 more than the national average--lower- and middle-class residents are feeling the squeeze of Silicon Valley's housing demands.

Northern California is not alone in this--cities all over the state are experiencing skyrocketing rents, and some are advocating for a reformation on consumer protections. Specifically, California's Costa Hawkins law, which restricts how some cities can implement rent control policies, has come under fire with calls for repeal. But what is it about this law that has landed it square in the middle of the public debate on housing?

Claiming tax deductions on co-owned properties

Owning a property offers several benefits to Santa Cruz residents, including certain tax advantages. Chief among these advantages is the opportunity to claim deductions related to the expenses of ownership. Deductions do tend to get slightly more complicated, however, when a property is co-owned. Thus, prior to purchasing a property with another party (that is someone other than one's spouse), one should sit down with all of those who will have a stake in it to research the tax considerations related to ownership. 

One of most common ownership deductions is that of interest paid on a mortgage. Federal regulations do allow one to deduct mortgage interest paid on real estate for which he or she is the legal or equitable owner. According to The Tax Advisor, establishing equitable ownership requires that one show that he or she: 

  • Can legally possess the property and enjoy the benefits of any rents or profits it produces
  • Is obliged to maintain the property 
  • Is obliged to insure the property 
  • Is obliged to pay taxes and assessments for the property 
  • Shares the risk of losses incurred from the property 
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