Even though e-cigarettes are increasingly being banned throughout California cities and counties Palo Alto’s City Council is not including them in their new proposed smoking ban for apartment buildings. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them e-cigarettes look like the real thing, they glow when you puff on them, and a smoker puffs out a cloud of vapor when they exhale. Many believe e-cigarettes are a “gateway” drug as the number of teenagers using them doubled from 2011 to 2012, and increased 61 percent from 2012 to 2013. Moreover, e-cigarettes have nicotine, emit formaldehyde, are addictive, and can be dangerous for people with heart problems. There are many unknowns with e-cigarettes and this is potentially the reason Palo Alto is not yet banning them in multi-family buildings.
If you are looking for a quiet, peaceful Palo Alto neighborhood look no further than Leland Manor, Garland, and Embarcadero Oaks. Located in the middle of Palo Alto, there exists these three small neighborhoods, all connected and which extend north from Oregon Expressway, to Middlefield Road, Embarcadero Road, and Louis Road.
These three neighborhoods were annexed into Palo Alto proper in the 1930s. Each quaint neighborhood has its own unique and pleasureful personality. Most of the homes in these neighborhoods were built in the 1930s to 1960s and many have been upgraded and improved with time. Many of the homes in these three mini-neighborhoods were built as three and four bedroom ranch-style homes, sprinkled with the occasional custom Eichler. The central location for Leland Manor, Garland, and Embarcadero Oaks allows for ease of access to US 101, local shopping, great Palo Alto schools, Stanford University, and community amenities.
In a historic move California Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency order and declaration of water conservation rules which are now imposed on everyone in the state with the exception of farmers. There will be fines and potential rate hikes for residents that fail to hit stepped-up conservation targets as the state endures the fourth straight year of severe drought conditions. Governor Brown has issued water-saving orders for 25 percent statewide reduction in usage which includes bolstering enforcement of water waste, requiring drip irrigation at new construction projects, eliminating rouge farmers who divert water illegally from irrigation channels, and implementing an investment strategy in new water-saving technologies.
Tenants in California, by law, are entitled to rental property that is habitable. In other words, it must meet basic health and safety standards and is in generally good repair. Habitability is a function of the building codes combined with common sense workability. When a tenant is presented with a problem like a broken pipe, a failed water heater, or a defective electrical system they are granted certain statutory rights.
If a landlord or property management company fails to repair or adequately address the issue, once given proper notice, then the tenant has remedies. First, the tenant can pay for the repairs themselves and deduct the cost of the repairs from their rent. Second, the tenant can withhold rent. Third, the tenant can call the local code enforcement officer for an inspection which could lead to administrative problems for the landlord. Fourth, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord. Finally, the tenant may move out without giving any further notice provided the breach of habitability is sufficient to warrant such action.
Over the years I took the deposition of several landlords – each of whom did not know the first thing about what the term “habitability” meant, nor could they articulate the law with respect to their requirements as a landlord. “[I]gnorance of the law is no excuse,” and many landlords and property owners have managed to skate by without knowing they are violating the law when it comes to habitability of rental units. California Civil Code Section 1941 et. seq. states in pertinent part that “a rental unit is required to be fit, or habitable, to live in and rent by tenants. The rental unit must substantially comply with local and state building, health, and safety codes that materially affect the tenant’s health and safety.” In California landlords and tenants each bear responsibility for certain kinds of repairs – however landlords ultimately are legally responsible for making sure the rental unit is habitable.
One of Palo Alto’s oldest and most recognizable neighborhoods – Downtown North Palo Alto – grew out of necessity during the construction of Leland Stanford Junior University – workers needed places to live, shop and eat. Downtown North Palo Alto, located between Alma Street, Middlefield Road, University Avenue, and San Francisquito creek, is a few hundred footsteps from University Avenue which one of the most dynamic, diverse and economically powerful streets in the Silicon Valley. The Downtown North neighborhood is the essence of urban living in Palo Alto, the hub of Silicon Valley. Dozens of wonderful and tempting restaurants, cafes, shops, a theatre, and prestige stores line University Avenue (the heart of Palo Alto) – all within minutes of walking from Downtown North Palo Alto. Jump on your bicycle, or throw on your walking shoes and Downtown North is also minutes from world renowned Leland Stanford Junior University and its sprawling campus. A few minutes walking in the other direction leads to Caltrain – and all points north and south.
Your commercial tenant failed to pay rent. You have heard that things are not going very well for them, but now it is apparent. As a property manager your duty and obligation is to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
When the tenant failed to pay by the due date they have effectively breached the lease and you are entitled to evict the tenant from the property. An eviction lawsuit commonly called an Unlawful Detainer action is a fairly straightforward legal process. The important thing for property managers to know is that the steps involved in this process are critical and must be followed to the letter of the law.
A real estate attorney representing both parties in the action is common. If your property manager has followed the law, given proper notice, and has a detailed file of all of the correspondence between the tenant and their company the unlawful detainer action should go fairly smoothly and the landlord or owner should prevail.
If you are planning any renovations to your investment or rental properties in the near future you should consider going as green as possible. Improving your investment property’s Eco Performance has monetary and intangible benefits as well. You can ask your property management to help you along with using some of the helpful information in this quick guide.
If you manage properties or rental units for a fee, or you are an individual who rents properties or rental units to people/tenants for a rental fee or leasing fee you should pay attention to what the law requires when it comes to smoke detectors or smoke alarms. As a landlord you are responsible to know the law; ignorance is no defense to a wrongful death lawsuit or serious fire causing major property damage.
Smoke alarms and smoke detectors are critical residential components which must be handled with care and diligence as they are life-saving and property-saving devices which must not be taken lightly. The undertaking of managing properties is wrought with legal pitfalls and unknown obstacles, however understanding the law is paramount to being a fiduciary for your client, or being on the right side of the law if something goes wrong. A new 2014 law in California implements some standards which all property managers and property owners who rent to individuals must be aware of and abide by.
The American rule for attorneys’ fees is that each party bears its own attorneys’ fees and costs unless otherwise specified by contract or statute. When a contract or statute specifies that the prevailing party is entitled to their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, assuming the matter is litigated to conclusion by a court or a jury, the prevailing party can then make a motion for their attorneys’ fees and costs (Motion for Attorneys’ Fees). The motion is then taxed (Motion to Tax Costs), or opposed, by the opposing party by paperwork, a declaration, and exhibits.