TENANTS RIGHTS or RENTERS RIGHTS
by either name, they are your rights. Protect them or lose them
It is certainly better to avoid an eviction rather than fight one. If you cannot avoid the case, then protect your rights by defending the case, even if you think you are "guilty"!! Here are some ways to either avoid an eviction or at least protect your rights if you face one.
PAY THE RENT
One obvious way to avoid eviction is to timely pay the rent. While this seems too obvious, the reality is that simple miscommunication about paying the rent results in many avoidable eviction cases. If you must pay late, let the landlord know in advance and obtain permission for the late payment. Many landlords will assume the lack of a timely payment means that the tenant will not pay at all. While this may be over reacting in some cases, it is accurate in others. Many landlords will, however, work with the tenant on late payments if advance notice is given and permission or arrangements are sought. (Of course, it is best to confirm such late payment agreements in writing.) Remember, unless there is some legal defense to the Notice to Pay Rent or unless the home is substantially defective, non-payment of rent is a pretty good ground to evict a tenant.
In California, and somewhat under federal law, it may be illegal to evict a tenant in retaliation for the lawful exercise of a tenants rights. This includes making valid complaints about the conditions of the rental if there are significant defects affecting habitability. Other protections include participating in a tenant's union or calling the Police regarding suspected criminal activity. To gain protection under these laws, document your complaints or other assertion of your rights. Retaliatory Eviction is a complex area of the law. Attorneys not experienced with this area of the law may have great difficulty attempting to use this defense in an eviction case. At the Tenants Legal Center, we are very experienced at defending evictions.
When complaining or requesting landlord action (i.e. repairs), the wisest method is to document the communication. This means, write it down! Write a polite letter noting the points to cover. If the police were involved and the situation was in your favor, get a copy of the police report. Such documentation goes a long way in making a landlord think twice before attempting an eviction.
RESOLVE NEIGHBOR DISPUTES
Landlords do not want to get in the middle of neighbor disputes. If possible, resolve these among yourselves peacefully and quietly before getting the landlord involved. Many times landlords resolve them by evicting all the tenants involved in the dispute.
GET PERMISSION FOR NEW ROOMMATES
Many times tenants need to rent out a room to help pay the rent. Most landlords understand and will work with you on this. They get rather unhappy when they discover a new roommate who moved in without checking with the landlord. Some landlords react harshly to this and will commence an eviction because of the unauthorized new resident.
GET PERMISSION FOR ALTERATIONS
Tenants often wish to improve their living condition by making changes in the dwelling such as painting custom colors or adding cabinets etc.. This may be a real problem if the landlord discovers the alteration and does not approve of it. You may not only face an eviction, but you could be held responsible for any costs to change the unit back to the way it was.
OFFER TO PAY FOR REPAIRS
If you broke something by use beyond ordinary wear and tear, offer to fix it or pay for the repair.
KEEP THE UNIT CLEAN AND PRESENTABLE
Landlords do not like to see their property abused or in a dirty condition. Avoid allowing the yard, balcony or patio area to look messy and neglected.
DO NOT THREATEN THE LANDLORD WITH COURTS AND LAWYERS
Be careful before you start trying to intimidate the landlord with such things as "I will see you in court" or "You will hear from my lawyer." These tactics rarely work and many times just serve to make things worse. If you need to go to court, let your attorney handle the matter including any communications with the landlord
Despite your efforts to avoid an eviction, if one is filed against you...
If an eviction is filed against you, respond and defend your rights!! The failure to effectively act to protect your rights in an eviction case will mean an automatic judgment will be entered against you (i.e. you are guilty of unlawful conduct and you lose the case). You will owe a bunch of money which may include rent, their attorneys fees and court costs and have a very bad credit mark put on your record that will last for the next seven to ten years.
Defending a court eviction case on your own without experienced attorney representation is definitely NOT recommended. Statistically, in San Diego, almost all of the tenants who represent themselves in attempting to fight these cases will lose or agree to a bad settlement regardless of their rights. With good Attorney assistance, tenants will usually come out of the case without a lasting judgment against them or bad credit (even if they feel "guilty" in the case).
Good settlements may actually be better than winning in court! As strange as it may sound, sometimes "winning" at court can actually work against you and is not winning at all. At The Tenants Legal Center, we know when it is better to go to trial or to settle the case in the best interests of our clients.
Good settlements are very valuable. Many times a good "win win" resolution will give you much more than a court can. We are proud to state that we either negotiate a favorable settlement or win most all of our eviction cases.
Military Servicmembers have special protections afforded by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act which includes protections regarding Evictions
Remember, if you receive an eviction notice, PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS AND DEFEND THE CASE
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California law for San Diego is applied in these pages. Such laws may or may not be applicable in other jurisdictions. The information provided herein is of a general nature and is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice. For legal advice in a particular situation, promptly consult with an appropriate attorney.