(415)552-9060
Can My (Troll) Landlord Give A 24-Hour Notice That Lasts All Week?

Can My (Troll) Landlord Give A 24-Hour Notice That Lasts All Week?

Can My (Troll) Landlord Give A 24-Hour Notice That Lasts All Week?

Peter Coleman-Weight sings Caligula.

Can a landlord state a whole week 9:00am – 5:00pm to enter under California Civil Code Section 1954, 24-hour notice, and the first four days she doesn’t show or call. She also screams, swears, and prays while walking around, she also threatening to break all the windows and to burn down the house if we ever refuse to let her in.

She isn’t the owner, she gave the house to her daughter to avoid lawsuits. But she walks around screaming that the house belongs to her no matter who’s name is on it.

Can your landlord serve a 24-hour notice that lasts for a week? How does that work unless there’s an ongoing construction project? Civil Code §1954(d)(1) states in part, “[T]he landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry.” Twenty-four hours is presumed to be reasonable. The law does not presume multiple entries as you describe.

You don’t mention the landlord’s rationale for her entries but they are also circumscribed by the law:

A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.

Given her actions, I somehow doubt that your landlord has any cognizable reason to enter your house other than to harass you. Join the San Francisco Tenants Union to discuss your situation with a counselor there. They can help you to write the landlord a letter to assert your rights.

Lovely. You have encountered another version of a troll landlord–the troll who won’t go home.

I’ve run into landlords like this more often than one might imagine. They’re completely insane and often maintain a “workshop” in a multi-unit building.  They think they’re somehow repairing or cleaning their property, but, of course, they’re doing neither. They visit the property solely to torture their tenants. Landlord trolls with a Caligula complex are particularly dangerous because many of them are richer than god and if you cross them, they’ll do anything they can and spend any amount of money to get you out.

I’m dealing with an eviction case right now that has a troll who won’t go home. She’s a wealthy woman who owns several big buildings. She comes to the building in which my clients lives almost every day to “sweep” and lurk in my client’s garage.

I had another case in which the landlord, worth about $10 million and who had a home in the East Bay, had a habit of driving to San Francisco and hanging around the building in which my clients lived. One day he had the temerity to walk up three flights of stairs to illegally enter my clients’ apartment to take a dump. They were home at the time.

In each of these cases, the landlords tried to evict my clients based upon trumped up allegations designed to cost my clients thousands of dollars and to force them to vacate.

You may ask yourself: Don’t these landlords have something better to do? Can’t they simply enjoy their wealth? But those are rational inquiries. You and I cannot begin to understand the irrational, compulsive actions of a sociopath, a king, a dictator or a landlord.

You can video the landlord’s tirades. You can call the cops when she insists upon entering without a good reason. You can try to get a restraining order. You can sue her (and her daughter) for harassment.

But you live in a house. Unless you have been a tenant there since 1995,  you should understand that your landlord, if she comes to her senses, can simply increase your rent to get you to move.

Unless you have a rent-controlled tenancy, my advice is simple: Start looking for new housing now, before your landlord burns down the house or before she conjures a reason to sue you because you defied her.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

My Living Room Is Covered In Lead Paint Dust

My Living Room Is Covered In Lead Paint Dust

My Living Room Is Covered In Lead Paint Dust

I live with two roommates in a flat in a late-1800’s Victorian in the Haight, 3 units total. The flat below us has been under renovation for a couple of months now, and two Tuesdays ago, that work entered our apartment. Without warning, I came home to a 3′ wide floor-to-ceiling slot cut in our wall for a flue for a new heater in the apartment below. Not only was there no warning given, they left our furniture out to be covered in plaster dust, and did not seal the room so our kitchen and halls were covered in plaster dust, too.

The hole is still not closed up (waiting for the building inspector), and it looks like it will be at least three weeks total that the living room is ”non-occupiable space” as defined by the contractor. So far he has agreed to pay for a professional cleaner to come in after all the work is done, but I am concerned that the dust will not come out of our sofa, making it unhealthy to use, and that our health and that of our cats has been put at risk by all the dust (no asbestos but I’ve heard the old plaster is pretty hazardous, and there’s almost certainly lead paint somewhere in the layers).

What is our recourse? I’d like to ask for a rent reduction for the days the living room is off limits, but do I ask for 100% reduction those days? Or a portion of the rent? How do I determine if the upholstered furniture needs to be replaced, and how would I evaluate the cost? I don’t want to unjustly bleed the guy ’cause he’s usually pretty friendly and harmless, but not having any warning and everything been done so poorly is really enraging!

Your landlord is neither friendly or harmless. He acts friendly when he wants to con you to get what he wants or, as in this case, get away with something illegal. He’s certainly not harmless. Just look around your living room and take a deep breath of lead. Your landlord is a cheap Cheese Ball who is trying to get the work done for the least amount of money. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your health or your belongings.

Buildings built in the late 1800s always contain lead paint. Lead was an additive to paint back then. People simply didn’t understand how harmful lead could be, especially in powder form. Lead is especially harmful to small children and swallowing paint chips or breathing lead dust can cause brain damage. If you have children, GET OUT NOW!

The Environmental Protection Agency has very stringent requirements for renovation projects that could be contaminated with lead. The EPA pamphlet, the Lead Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right is a must read for tenants. Here’s the section about renovation protocols:

Federal law requires contractors that are hired to perform renovation, repair and painting projects in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 that disturb painted surfaces to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. The work practices the contractor must follow include these three simple procedures, described below:
1. Contain the work area. The area must be contained so that dust and debris do not escape from that area. Warning signs must be put up and plastic or other impermeable material and tape must be used as appropriate to:
• Cover the floors and any furniture that cannot be moved.
• Seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents.
• For exterior renovations, cover the ground and, in some instances, erect vertical containment or equivalent extra precautions in containing the work area. These work practices will help prevent dust or debris from getting outside the work area.
2. Avoid renovation methods that generate large amounts of lead-contaminated dust. Some methods generate so much lead-contaminated dust that their use is prohibited. They are:
• Open flame burning or torching.
• Sanding, grinding, planing, needle gunning, or blasting with power tools and equipment not equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment.
• Using a heat gun at temperatures greater than 1100°F.
There is no way to eliminate dust, but some renovation methods make less dust than others. Contractors may choose to use various methods to minimize dust generation, including using water to mist areas before sanding or scraping; scoring paint before separating components; and prying and pulling apart components instead of breaking them.
3. Clean up thoroughly. The work area should be cleaned up daily to keep it as clean as possible. When all the work is done, the area must be cleaned up using special cleaning methods before taking down any plastic that isolates the work area from the rest of the home. The special cleaning methods should include:
• Using a HEPA vacuum to clean up dust and debris on all surfaces, followed by
• Wet wiping and wet mopping with plenty of rinse water.
When the final cleaning is done, look around. There should be no dust, paint chips, or debris in the work area. If you see any dust, paint chips, or debris, the area must be re-cleaned.

The brochure also provides a hotline to report contractors who are not following the protocols. Call EPA’s hotline 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) and report the landlord and the contractor. If the work is not completed, you should also call a Housing Inspector with the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection to issue a violation based upon the habitability of the unit. File a complaint against the contractor with the California State Contractors License Board. I’m not sure how effective this will be but it’s worth a shot.

File a petition for decrease in services at The San Francisco Rent Board. I suggest you ask for a rent deduction of 100% of the rent for the days you were forced to live in what was, essentially, an uninhabitable unit. (Refer back to the EPA brochure.) You should also include any breaches of your quiet enjoyment–noise, fumes, inconvenience, etc.–for the ongoing construction.

How many times do I have to say it? Your landlord is not your friend! Your landlord does not care about you. To your landlord you are livestock. Your complaints fall upon his ears like the lowing of dairy cattle. When you’re no longer productive, that is not paying enough rent, you’re a commodity to be tossed out and rendered into dog food.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

My Building Has Turned Into A Den Of Crime

My Building Has Turned Into A Den Of Crime

My Building Has Turned Into A Den Of Crime

Den of crime.

I have lived in the same building for 5 years. It was built in 1913, has 64 units, and is a tax credit building. I am 38 years old, and am on Section 8. In the middle of last year the management rented an apartment through the Veterans Administration to a man who turned out to be a drug dealer. Drug addicts, dealers, and prostitutes started coming into the building. The man was evicted but the people found others in the building to let them in.

These people use the hallways as toilets, have sex in the hallways, sleep in the stairways, and regularly break into the building by both kicking in the front door and climbing up the fire escapes. The manager has done everything he can but the management company and the buildings owner refuses to hire full-time security even though the residents demand it.

People have tried to break into my apartment. And in January our maintenance man, who lives in the building, was assaulted. And out building has been cited by the police department. Is this enough to ask the landlord to pay for me to move (which is extremely hard being on Section 8)? Or what can I do to try to get this terrible situation dealt with?

You evidently don’t understand a basic tenet of life in the United States of America. If you’re poor, you must live in a crime-ridden shit hole.

If you haven’t already, you should start to develop a strategy to hold the building owner accountable by researching past complaints on the building. Go to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection website: Permit Services > Online Permits and Complaints. You can enter your address to see if other tenants have made similar complaints.

You can also go to the San Francisco Superior Court website: Online Services > Case Name Search to understand what kinds of cases have been filed by and against the owner of the building.

Finally, a simple Google search of the address and owner made be helpful to provide additional information.

Since you confidentially provided your address, I did some online research of your building and found a number of court cases and complaints to the Department of Building Inspection. There was at least one news article that could shed some light about the current issues in the building. At the time the article was written, the tenants in the building seemed to be well organized.

You mention that the residents demanded tighter security and my research indicates that the resident have been organized in the past. The key to getting some action is to organize tenants in the building again. Document your complaints with police reports and photos depicting any defective security devices that can be immediately repaired or replaced. Without compromising your safety or risking an altercation, get photos of anyone engaging the activities you describe.

Organize a letter writing campaign that informs the owners of their obligations and remind them that they could be held liable if someone is assaulted in the building.

Call the City Attorney’s office, (415) 554-4700, to alert them about the security issues and the building owner’s negligence.

Join the San Francisco Tenants Union to get them to help to organize the tenants in the building.

You should complain to the Housing Authority since you are a Section 8 tenant.

You mention that the building is a “tax credit” building. If a building has been subsidized in some manner by a government entity, there may be contractual, ongoing requirements to maintain that subsidy. Find out how the building qualified for the “tax credit.” You may want to report your problems to the agency that oversees the building.

It is highly unlikely that your landlord will pay you to move. In fact, it will be difficult to get the landlord to do anything absent some pressure as I described above.

When you visit the Tenants Union you should pick up the approved attorneys list and discuss the feasibility of a lawsuit with several lawyers.

Remember, the more tenants involved, the better.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Do I Have To Hang A “Do Not Flush Tampons” Sign In My Bathroom?

Do I Have To Hang A “Do Not Flush Tampons” Sign In My Bathroom?

Do I Have To Hang A “Do Not Flush Tampons” Sign In My Bathroom?

I live in a 2-bedroom apartment built sometime before 1945 (there is a total of 3 or 4 units), and have been there for about two years. My landlord lives in the same building.

The building has some plumbing issues for which I have been repeatedly blamed (they have been going on since I moved in).

My landlord has started calling me once or twice a week to tell me how I have cause the problem and how stressed I am making him. I’ve been told I am using too much toilet paper, that grease has been leaking out of the pipes when the plumbing backs up, and other disgusting things that I’d rather not include.

Recently I was told to hang a sign in my bathroom that stated “Do not flush tampons”. I told him no, but can they request or force me to hang signs like that? And am I at risk for losing my entire deposit because they believe I have ruined the plumbing system for this building? This is being directed solely at me, not at anyone else in the building.

My landlord also came by to ask about my new roommate, and it wasn’t until after he weaseled his way in, he began to “inspect” my appliances, floors, and walls. I feel like this was a bait and switch and perhaps not at all a legal inspection?

So, is this completely legal and part of the downside of renting? Or am I being pushed around a little too much?

This is another “Renting Adventures” absolute: According to landlords, tenants always cause the plumbing problems in a building. Never mind that the plumbing dates back to the time of the Roman aqueducts or that the last time someone called Roto-Rooter was in 1956.

Several years ago we defended a case in which the landlord, with a straight face, claimed that my clients, who put spaghetti in the garbage disposal, caused the sewer backup.

Your landlord is just a penurious troll who doesn’t want to pay to fix the pipes. Evidently he also has too much time (or something else) on his hands. How does he know that it’s your toilet paper that’s clogging the drain rather than his own or another tenant’s? Nasty…

Are you being pushed around a little too much? Sweet Jesus, there’s the understatement of the day. As I said, you’re dealing with a troll. It’s time to go Frodo on him.

First, no more phone calls. You must tell the landlord, in writing, that you will no longer speak to him in person about your tenancy. If he has something to tell you he must state it in writing. An email is fine.

Second, tell him (in writing) to stick his sign where the sun doesn’t shine. There isn’t a law anywhere that allows a landlord to require signage in a residential dwelling.

Third, point out that the landlord cannot simply weasel his way in for an inspection. He must give you a 24-hour notice to enter that states one of the legal reasons to do so.

Finally, the landlord might try to keep your deposit, but there’s no way in hell that he can prove that you caused the plumbing problems. See above.

In fact, if the plumbing is backing up into your unit, you should write the landlord a letter and request that he repair the plumbing. If he blames you again and refuses to call a plumber, call a housing inspector at the Department of Building Inspection to make a complaint.

Finally, is this simply a downside of renting? Yes, it’s a downside of renting a unit in a building in which the landlord resides⎯a situation to be avoided at all costs.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Does My Landlord Need To Reimburse Me When I Can’t Use The Garage?

Does My Landlord Need To Reimburse Me When I Can’t Use The Garage?

Does My Landlord Need To Reimburse Me When I Can’t Use The Garage?

I live in a condo in SF (the owners rent out their unit to me) so I am not subject to the provisions of rent control.

I pay $3100 a month in rent and have lived there one year. My rent includes parking in the garage.

Two days ago the garage door broke and we were asked to park on the street while it was being repaired. This is a huge burden for me as street parking is super tough in our neighborhood. The garage door should be fixed today but that was two nights I wasn’t able to use the garage I pay for.

I told my landlord that I thought I should be compensated for this but he says that my lease has a clause about “reasonable loss of usage” and since it’s being fixed quickly I have no claim. I don’t agree with him on this. I pay a LOT of money in rent to have the convenience of a parking spot. Am I allowed compensation here?

Wow, we all should have it so tough.

Yes, you lost the use of your garage and yes, it was a hassle to find a parking place for two days, but the circumstances, as you describe them, do not warrant any reimbursement from the landlord.

Despite the “reasonable loss of usage” clause in your lease, which I suspect may be illegal depending upon its content, I think that a court would see the loss of the garage as just that–a reasonable loss of use.

Evidently, the landlord responded quickly to the problem and he did what he had to do. What else can you expect? The landlord’s response seems to be reasonable under the circumstances.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you do have a colorable claim. In legalese a colorable claim is a claim that is plausible, one that could potentially prevail. What are your damages? You’re certainly not going to be able to claim negligent infliction of emotional distress.

About the best you can do is base your damages upon loss of use of the garage for two days. If your garage constitutes 10% of the value of your unit, you can claim $310.00 divided by 30 days for a grand total of $20.66.

Are you really going to go to small claims court for $21.00? The filing fee alone is $30.00, not to mention the time and energy you’ll spending filling out your claim documents, serving them and attending a hearing in court. And it’s highly likely that you will lose.

If you are still considering that option and you’re fired up about asserting your tenant rights, you should instead volunteer your time at the San Francisco Tenants Union.

At the TU you can speak to tenants with small children who, for example, are enduring a bathtub full of sewage that the landlord refuses to acknowledge or repair. You can see a slew of trumped up three-day notices designed to evict tenants who don’t have enough money to defend them in court. You can meet ninety-year-old native San Franciscans who are being thrown out of their homes to enable developers to sell TICs to Twitter-motherfuckers.

In other words, you can use your indignation to tackle real tenant troubles rather than small inconveniences.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

How Do I Get My Landlord To Fix The Elevator?

How Do I Get My Landlord To Fix The Elevator?

How Do I Get My Landlord To Fix The Elevator?

My wife & I have been living in a rent controlled 1 bedroom in a large 5 story apartment building in downtown SF for about 6 years now. It is an old building (I believe it was built in the 1920s) but in fairly good shape, except for the elevator. It is one of those classic ‘otis’ elevators that never seems to work.

In the 6 + years I’ve lived here, the building has changed hands numerous times (from citi apartments, to laramar and now to Prado). Through all these changes of ownership, one thing has remained constant, the lack of attention to tenant needs (the exterior of our windows haven’t been cleaned since before I moved in, etc).

Anyway, needless to say, having an elevator frequently out of order is a huge hassle. Fortunately for us, we are healthy and 30 years old, so climbing 4 flights of stairs isn’t a huge burden. However, there are plenty of senior citizens living in the building and this I’m sure is a serious issue for them.

In the management’s defense, they do have people that come and try to repair the elevator but their ‘band-aid’ repair jobs rarely last more than 2 or 3 weeks. The last time they were here was Friday morning for repairs.

By Friday night, there was an actual fire caused by the elevator motor and a fire extinguisher had to be used to extinguish the fire and hasn’t been working ever since. My estimate is that the elevator is down about 4 or 5 days a month on average for the past several years. Starting this month we are starting to record the exact dates of malfunction.

My main question to you is how do we get our elevator fixed properly, once and for all? And secondly, doesn’t all of this inconvenience entitle us to a decrease in rent?

Unfortunately, I can’t provide an easy solution to this issue because, absent an injunction from the court, the landlords can’t be forced to properly fix the elevator once and for all. Elevators are very expensive to repair and/or replace. Most landlords would rather use a duct tape and bubblegum approach than spend the dough to do the job correctly.

Given your longstanding complaints, I assume that you have informed the owners about the elevator, in writing, many times. If you haven’t done so, begin to write letters to the management company each time the elevator is out of service.

You should also encourage your neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable, to document their complaints in the same manner.

The next time the elevator breaks, call a Housing Inspector from the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) to issue a notice of violation. You and your neighbors should be prepared to show the inspector any other potential violations–leaking roof and windows; cracks and holes in the walls; peeling paint; security issues; heating issues, etc.

When you have all of your evidence together you can and should file a petition for substantial decreases in housing services at the Rent Board. If you prevail, you will be entitled to a reduction in rent that may remain permanent until the elevator is fixed.

I think that you should call the City Attorney’s office, (415) 554-4700, to alert them about the ongoing issue with the elevator. As you said, this is a serious safety issue, especially for senior citizens trapped on upper floors. Given the past litigation and settlement with CitiApartments, the City Attorney may also be interested to understand that things haven’t changed that dramatically for many of the Lembis’ former tenants.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Does My Landlord Need To Clean My Chimney?

Does My Landlord Need To Clean My Chimney?

Does My Landlord Need To Clean My Chimney?

I live in a 15 unit building built in the 1950s. I’ve been in my apartment for two years.  Already the fireplace is unusable because my place fills with smoke when I attempt to have a fire. I have no idea when the landlord last cleaned the chimney.  She did not indicate that when I moved in.

Who is responsible for cleaning my chimney, me or my landlord?  If my landlord, how often are they expected/required to clean it? Is it interval based, e.g. every five years?  Or on an as-needed basis, e.g. my apartment fills with smoke?

Have you ever seen Mary Poppins, the answer to your first question is easy–Dick Van Dyke, of course. At least that’s what your landlord will tell you.

While fireplaces aren’t primary sources of heat, their maintenance, repair and inspections are the responsibility of the landlord. Think about it, if a landlord has been warned about a malfunctioning chimney and a subsequent chimney fire burns down half the neighborhood, who is going to be sued?

We might not think about chimney fires much in San Francisco, but according to an American Red Cross article written in 2009, fireplaces and chimneys were the number one source of home heating equipment fires.

All of the publications I consulted recommended annual chimney inspections. Most of them point out that cleaning intervals largely depend upon use.

This depends a lot on how much you use your fireplace or stove. The National Fire Protection Association says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) says that fireplaces should be cleaned when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system. If any glaze is appearing in the flue, cleaning should be done even if there is less than 1/8″ of build up. Any time an appreciable accumulation of soot and creosote occurs it can be enough to fuel a chimney fire that may damage the chimney and even spread to the roof and home. Furnace flue systems also require cleaning, so don’t neglect regular cleaning of those venting systems.

If you are using the fireplace correctly and smoke is still billowing into your apartment, then it looks like a chimney cleaning is in order.

Certainly, you should inform your landlord about the problem. If she starts humming “Chim Chim Cheree” when you ask her to fix it, consider filing a substantial decrease in services petition at the Rent Board.

If you file a petition at the Rent Board you will have to establish that the loss of the fireplace is a substantial decrease in services. You will need to prove that the fireplace and its use has value. Here are are few things to discuss:

  1. The fireplace in the unit is unique. It was one of the factors you considered when you rent the unit.
  2. The landlord factored in the increased value of the fireplace to determine the initial rent.
  3. The fireplace is a secondary heat source.
  4. Cleaning the fireplace will alleviate a fire hazard.

You will need to be thorough. At first blush, the person who decides your case could conclude that the fireplace is a luxury that you don’t really need. You must be prepared to argue why loss of use of the fireplace is more than simply losing something you didn’t need in the first place.

If you need to file, take all of your evidence to the San Francisco Tenants Union to discuss your case with a counselor.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060