What Are My Options for Dealing With a Nuisance Tenant as a Landlord in California?
As a landlord, you have likely done your due diligence to screen potential tenants to identify those who might be problematic renters. Unfortunately, even the most stringent screening process might not be enough to avoid having a tenant who becomes a nuisance.
Under California Civil Code Section 3479, a nuisance is defined as: “Anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a nuisance.”
A tenant or renter could become a nuisance for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common issues include:
- Making too much noise
- Destroying property
- Conducting illegal activity at the home or apartment
- Causing problems with neighbors
- Otherwise interfering with the rights of others
Three Steps For Addressing Tenant Nuisance
Almost all lease or rental agreements will outline what constitutes a tenant nuisance. This means that the tenant or renter should be reasonably aware of the landlord’s expectations while they reside in the unit. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you need to take action against a tenant who has become a nuisance. The three steps you can take include:
Step One: Request that the tenant discontinues the behavior
In some instances, the tenant may be unaware that their actions are causing anyone else to suffer. They might also be aware that their behavior violates their lease. That’s why it is recommended that you contact them to discuss the issue. Approach them in person, on the phone, or by email in a friendly manner and explain the situation. In many instances, this will be enough to put a stop to it and restore the peace!
Step Two: Use a three-day notice
As a landlord in California, you have a few notices at your disposal that can help you deal with a nuisance tenant. Depending on the type of violation, you could issue:
- A three-day notice of breach of a rental agreement, or,
- A three-day notice for incurable breach
If the tenant has violated the lease agreement, they have three days to “cure the defect.” If they fail to comply, they could be required to vacate the unit or premises.
A preliminary eviction notice for incurable breach means the tenant has violated the lease or rental agreement, and they are not entitled to fix the breach. This type of notice is usually served to tenants who are conducting illegal activity on the property. In this instance, the landlord does not have to request that they remedy the issue and instead will request that the tenant move out within three days of the notice.
Step Three: Eviction
If the nuisance persists and all communication has broken down between the landlord and the tenant, eviction may be the only final option at the landlord’s disposal. Eviction is a legal process that must be served with written notice that states what clause the tenant violated. A court order known as an “unlawful detainer judgment” will be needed to have sheriffs vacate a tenant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the eviction process a bit more difficult than normal since the passage of SB-91 has paused all evictions for tenants who declare under the penalty of perjury that they cannot pay rent due to a COVID-related reason.
Contact a California Lease Dispute Lawyer
One of the best ways to protect yourself as a landlord in California is to make sure that your residential leases are properly drafted and align with your interests. At Winton Strauss Law Group, our California real estate attorneys have the experience necessary to help advise you on a wide variety of real estate matters in Northern California. Call us at (415) 985-2111 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable member of our team today.