Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and a Landlord’s “No Pets” Policy

 

Several rental agreements include “no pets” language. This means a tenant is not allowed to have a pet of any kind at the rental property. If a tenant violates a “no pets” policy in a rental agreement, the landlord would have ground for serving the tenant a 3 day notice to cure or quit. But what happens if the tenant informs the landlord that the pet is a service animal or an emotional support animal? Must a landlord then allow such an animal to remain at the property even though it contradicts the rental agreement? The answer is a big “maybe, but likely yes.”

I previously wrote an article entitled, “Reasonable Accommodations for Rental Units for People with a Disability in California.” Essentially, landlords must be able to make reasonable accommodations to certain tenants.

There are several laws in play here, and this article is not meant to address or discuss all of these laws. The important takeaways with respect to service animals and emotional support animals as they relate to California tenancies include the following:

  • Federal and state laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations to tenants
  • A landlord is prohibited from charging a fee as a condition of granting the accommodation (so no pet deposit or any other extra charge!)
  • Normal pet restrictions on type, size, and breed restrictions may not apply
  • The animal is not just limited to dogs or cats
  • The tenant can be required to sign reasonable rules of conduct for the animal
  • The landlord can request written verification from the tenant’s health care provider or other party that 1) the tenant meets the California definition of a disability, and 2) the animal is related to and needed for the disability. However, the landlord cannot demand that the nature of the disability be identified

The landlord may be able to deny the animal under limited circumstances, including:

  • If the animal poses a threat to the health or safety of others
  • Is creating a nuisance
  • Is damaging property

When a tenant informs the landlord that a pet is needed due to a disability or for emotional support, the landlord must act carefully and should consult with a disability attorney as well as an eviction attorney before taking action.

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How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in California?

 

“How long does it take to evict a tenant in California?” This is a question I am regularly asked by landlords. Landlords are often surprised at how long it takes to evict a tenant in California, but then I explain to landlords that eviction cases generally go much faster than other types of court cases, because eviction cases receive priority in the court system per CCP 1179a.

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in California?

In determining the length of time to evict a California tenant, the following factors must be considered:

  • How fast does the landlord take action to evict the tenant?
  • How fast does the attorney representing the landlord act?
  • How fast the court acts in processing documentation and trials.
  • How fast the sheriff processes the Writ of Possession.
  • Whether or not the tenant contests (fights) the eviction.

How fast does the landlord act? Did the landlord begin the process of evicting the tenant immediately, or did the landlord wait, try to work out a deal with the tenant, and delay the actual start of the case?

How fast does the attorney take action? Does the attorney have a process of preparing paperwork and getting things done quickly and correctly the first time? Does the attorney act promptly when receiving paperwork from the court and the client? If the client hires my firm, you can be assured that we take action as quickly and as legally possible to return possession to the landlord as fast as possible.

How fast does the court process documents? This is a big variable and depends greatly on what court you go to. You must go to the court where the rental property is located, so unfortunately you cannot go to one of the “quicker” courts unless your property is situated in the jurisdiction of one of those courts. For example, in Los Angeles county, Chatsworth and Pasadena is pretty quick. Lancaster and downtown Los Angeles are very slow. As an example, on recent cases of ours, it took the Chatsworth court 2 days to issue a Writ of Possession. It took the Lancaster court 1 month to issue a Writ of Possession. Ventura courts can issue the Writ of Possession while you wait at the counter without any delay at all. The Santa Barbara court processes the Writ of Possession online and delivers it via email usually within 1 business day.

How fast does the sheriff process the Writ of Possession? Like the court, the time it takes the sheriff to process documents such as the Writ of Possession varies depending on which sheriff office handles your case. Again, you cannot pick and choose which sheriff office to use. Some sheriff offices, such as the one in San Fernando, processes documents within a few days. Others, like the office in downtown LA, may take a month. The Ventura sheriff usually processes documents within a few days, as does the sheriff in Santa Barbara.

Of course, if your tenant does not fight the eviction case, the landlord will receive possession of the property much faster than if the tenant contests the case. Non-disputed eviction cases generally take 4-6 weeks start to finish, whereas disputed evictions generally take an additional month to month and a half, on average.

Thus, there is no easy way to answer the very common question of, “How long does it take to evict a tenant in California?” The answer depends on many different factors, several of which are outside the control of the landlord and attorney.

We represent landlords with eviction cases in California. Do you need help evicting a tenant? Contact the Law Office of David Piotrowski. We will work hard to make the length of time it takes to evict your tenant as short as legally possible.

Be sure to check out our reviews! We look forward to serving you. We offer a free consultation on most cases for landlords with a property in our service area.

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What Happens to the Tenant’s Personal Property After the Sheriff Lockout in California?

 

This article discusses what happens to the tenant’s personal property after the sheriff has completed the lockout and the landlord has regained possession of the property in California through an unlawful detainer (eviction).

First, some background. By the time the sheriff completes the lockout and removes the tenant from the rental property, the landlord has already progressed through the unlawful detainer action and received a judgment for possession of the property. The landlord has already applied for and received a Writ of Possession from the court and has submitted the Writ and sheriff instructions to the sheriff office. The sheriff has scheduled the lockout and evicted the tenant from the property. The landlord now has possession of the property. Sometimes, unfortunately, tenants will leave personal property behind after the lockout. So, how does a landlord handle personal property left behind by the vacating tenant?

To answer this question, the Writ of Possession itself includes the following language:

“…personal property remaining on the premises will be sold or otherwise disposed of in accordance with CCP 1174 unless you or the owner of the property pays the judgment creditor the reasonable cost of storage and takes possession of the personal property not later than 15 days after the time the judgment creditor takes possession of the premises.”

The landlord must hold on to the items for 15 days after the sheriff lockout takes place and give the tenant an opportunity to reclaim the items at a mutually convenient time. The landlord can move the items and clean the property, but the landlord must maintain the safekeeping of the items during this 15 day holding period. The landlord should not allow the tenant unsupervised access to the property, nor should the landlord give a key to the tenant. The landlord should treat the ex-tenant as an unwelcome guest in the owner’s property and make an appointment with the tenant to reclaim his or her items at a mutually convenient time, while the owner or his/her agent waits at the property. The landlord should lock the door as soon as the tenant has completed removing their personal property. Legally, the landlord can charge the tenant a reasonable storage fee, but in our experience, that’s more trouble than its worth. It’s in the landlord’s interest for the ex tenant to remove the property as quickly as possible so the landlord doesn’t have to deal with it anymore.

But what happens if the 15 days comes and goes and the ex tenant hasn’t reclaimed the personal property? The landlord needs to make a reasonable determination of the total value of all items left behind by the vacating tenant. $700 is the dollar amount to keep in mind. Once the 15 days have expired, if the landlord reasonably believes the total value of the items left behind is less than $700, then the landlord can dispose of the items. But if the landlord reasonably believes the total value is $700 or more, the landlord must auction off the items in accordance with California law.

Before disposing of items or having the items auctioned, it is a best practice for the landlord to take pictures and/or an inventory of the items.

We represent landlords with eviction cases in California. Do you need help evicting a tenant? Contact the Law Office of David Piotrowski.

Be sure to check out our reviews! We look forward to serving you. We offer a free consultation on most cases for landlords with a property in our service area.

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CCP 1161(4): 3 Day Notice to Quit Video

 

CCP 1161(4), otherwise known as California Code of Civil Procedure 1161(4), discusses the 3 day notice to quit. Unlike other 3 day notices, the CCP 1161(4) notice does NOT allow a tenant to cure the violations. With the CCP 1161(4) notice to quit, the tenant must move within 3 days, and if the tenant does not move within 3 days, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer action in court. This notice must be differentiated from the pay or quit notice and the cure or quit notice.

A 3 day notice to quit per CCP 1161(4) can be served on the tenant in the following instances:

When the tenant is assigning or subletting or committing waste upon the demised premises, contrary to the conditions or covenants of his or her lease, or maintaining, committing, or permitting the maintenance or commission of a nuisance upon the demised premises or using the premises for an unlawful purpose.

In other words, if the tenant is allowing other people to live at the property by assigning or subleasing, or if the tenant is damaging the property and causing the property to lose value, if the tenant is engaging in illegal activities at the property, or if the tenant is causing a nuisance, these would all be grounds for a CCP 1161(4) notice. Before serving such a notice, the landlord should be sure to have clear documentation and evidence to support the statements in the CCP 1161(4) notice.

This article is not meant to, nor does it, explain what information must be on the CCP 1161(4) notice or how the notice must be served. Both the contents of the notice and the service of the notice are critical aspects to a successful eviction case, so landlords should seek legal counsel before serving the notice.

The Law Office of David Piotrowski can create and serve a 3 day notice to quit on a tenant in accordance with the rules found in Code of Civil Procedure 1161(4).

Read more on CCP 1161(4) here.

Be sure to check out our reviews! We look forward to serving you. We offer a free consultation on most cases for landlords with a property in our service area.

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Eviction Delays in Lancaster Court

 

During the past few months, we have seen extensive delays in the Michael Antonovich  Antelope Valley (Lancaster) courthouse when it comes to processing unlawful detainer eviction cases. This has been especially true post-trial, after the landlord wins the case and obtains a judgment for possession. In particular, the clerks of the court have been unreasonably slow in issuing a Writ of Possession. A Writ of Possession in required by the sheriff to enforce the judgment and perform the lockout. So, in effect, by taking so long to issue a Writ of Possession, the clerks of the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley (Lancaster) courthouse are delaying unreasonably the enforcement of the judgment by not timely issuing the Writ.

There is no excuse for the clerks to take 3-5 weeks to issue a Writ of Possession. When the clerk receives a Writ of Possession, it is already pre-filled out by the landlord or the landlord’s counsel. To officially issue the Writ of Possession, the clerk needs to verify that the judgment is for possession of the property in the landlord’s favor, enter the information into the court’s computer system, and stamp the Writ of Possession. This is a process that at most takes no more than 10 minutes of time.

To give context, the Los Angeles county courts used to issue a Writ of Possession over the counter. This means the clerk would issue the writ and hand it back to the landlord or his agent immediately. Other courts, such as those in Ventura county, still do that. Landlords are able to get the writ of possession while they wait at the courthouse, within just a few minutes.

Today, other courts in Los Angeles county, while they no longer issue writs over the counter, will promptly process writs normally within a few days of having received it for processing. This timeframe is reasonable and acceptable.

But, Lancaster court is a different story. We have been seeing the clerks in Lancaster take 3-5 weeks to issue a writ of possession, which, by personal knowledge, we know only takes a few minutes to process. By allowing this huge processing delay, the tenant receives several weeks more time in the landlord’s rental property, even after the landlord won the case and obtained judgment.

We encourage you to contact the court and put pressure to have writs issued in a timely and reasonable manner.

If you are a landlord, we offer a free consultation on most cases.

 

 

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