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CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 10221
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing both landlords and tenants in residential and commercial property disputes.
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I am a tenant in a building with 42 units. We got a new

Customer Question

Hi, I am a tenant in a building with 42 units. We got a new owner 1st of the year and the rent went up 44%. In addition, the utilities are shared among all tenant in a "shared pool". For a year, my utilities have been consistently around $112-124/month. Last month, my bill went up to $164 for the month of Feb. I just received my latest statement for the month of March and it is now $224. I called the management company and they could not give me a legitimate answer as to why the utilities went up. We now have around 11 empty units so I think they are splitting the share pool among among the remaining units. In the meantime, the manager uses the utilities in the empty units to remodel, etc. Everyone has received the same raise. What can I do? Is this legal?
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.
Dear Customer,I am sorry to learn about this situation.While your rent increase is very large, in most states that is legal (the landlord must give notice, again this is state specific, and the rent can be increased unless there is a local rent control regulation).But with regard to your utilities, these should be billed based on actual usage. If the landlord refuses to provide you with actual billing, you can sue the landlord in small claims court for breach of contract and fraud. The court can issue both "compensatory damages" (reimburse you for any excess that the landlord billed that you already paid), and "declaratory relief" (instruct the landlord to bill appropriately "pro rata" for all units in the future, and perhaps include a provision such as including the actual utility bills showing the breakdown). As fraud is an "intentional tort" the court may even award "punitive" or "exemplary" damages (extra money damages awarded to punish the defendant's bad conduct - but I don't recommend counting on these damages.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Also, the property manager does not live on the property and the tenants are left to their own devices. There is no assistant manager on site. Is this legal for Contra Costa County, California?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 6 months ago.
There is no requirement for onsite management.However, rent increases in CA are regulated a little more carefully than in other states, see: If the landlord gave improper notice for their rent increase (using the formula in the above link), you can include this in your lawsuit, and you are entitled to recover that increase.

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