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Zachary
Zachary, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3851
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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I am a California homeowner, and reside in my home. I have

Customer Question

I am a California homeowner, and reside in my home. I have a dispute with a tenant who rented a room in my home in exchange for labor. She is a housecleaner, and I have known her as a friend for several years. She began working for me in late September. On October 30, she informed me she now refuses to pay rent or provide in-kind services, and intends to squat in my home pending the completion of the eviction process. She has threatened to make false accusations against me and to undermine my pending divorce proceedings. Before our dispute arose, she placed her belongings, including documents I believe may constitute evidence of welfare and tax fraud, in my storage unit. After she made her threats, I verbally informed her of my intent to deny her access to these belongings until she moves out of my home. I have informed the storage company that she is no longer authorized access to the storage unit, and I have changed the gate entry code and lock on the storage unit.
Yesterday, she texted me that she made a report to the police that I had restricted her access to her stored belongings, that I owe her money for her labor, and that I wanted to hit her. As a result of her volatility and provocative temperament, I have stayed away from my home since November 2. It is imperative she leave my home ASAP, as she has documented anger management issues and a record of filing false police complaints.
I intend to send her a text message that I will restore her access to my storage unit once she has provided me with the following: the keys to her room and my house, a written record of the days and hours she worked for me, a receipt indicating she has been paid in full for services, removal of all her belongings from my home, and a signed statement relinquishing her residence. (If her accounting of hours worked exceeds the $700 she owes me---$300 from a prior debt, $400 for October's rent, plus a prorated amount for partial rent in November---I will pay her the balance.)
In essence, I am holding her belongings and documents in exchange for her relinquishment of my residence and any claims of money I may owe for her labor. Here is my question: does my proposed plan of action violate California law?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Zachary replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Thank you for your question.

Your proposed plan of action does not violate any California criminal law. There could be a civil dispute that arises regarding whether you have "converted" her personal property which is stored in your storage unit. However, you could argue that you have a lien on the property for unpaid rent.

It would be advisable to go ahead and post an Eviction notice on her front door. It is a 3 day notice. The exact contents of the notice are covered at CCP Section 1161(2). The notice must include a demand for the precise amount due, with instructions on where to pay it, an unequivocal demand for possession if the rent is not paid within three days of service of the notice, the date of the notice and the signature of the landlord or an agent for the landlord. The notice may be served, either:
1. By delivering a copy to the tenant personally; or,
2. If he or she is absent from his or her place of residence, and from his or her usual place of business, by leaving a copy with some person of suitable age and discretion at either place, and sending a copy through the mail addressed to the tenant at his or her place of residence; or,
3. If such place of residence and business can not be ascertained, or a person of suitable age or discretion there can not be found, then by affixing a copy in a conspicuous place on the property, and also delivering a copy to a person there residing, if such person can be found; and also sending a copy through the mail addressed to the tenant at the place where the property is situated. Service upon a subtenant may be made in the same manner.

After she doesn't pay, file the eviction proceeding.

In short, you have a good plan and should proceed, but you should also file the eviction.

Please let me know if you have further questions on this topic.

Best Regards,
ZDN
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I would like to present my demands to my squatter/tenant in writing as follows:


By now, you should have found a new place to live.


 


You will sign a record of your days and hours worked in exchange for the $300 you owed me and the $400 rent for October, plus a prorated rent for your Novemebr occupancy. You will return to me the keys to your room and the house. Youe will remove all your belongings from my house. You will sign a statement relinquishing your residence in my house and any monies I may owe you and any claims or actions you hve pending against me.


 


When you have completed these actions, I will relinquish storage unit #358 to you until the next rent is due in late November. I will provide you with the gate code, the cylinder lock and my 2 keys to the storage unit. You will have until November 25th to remove your belongings from my storage unit.

Expert:  Zachary replied 1 year ago.
That sounds entirely reasonable and complies with California law. If you do this though and she does not comply, then you should go ahead with the eviction process as I outlined above.

Best of Luck,
ZDN
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

At this point, I don't actually want her to pay rent. I want her to Quit. Do I need to amend the 3 day notice to eliminate her option to pay November rnt and extend her tenancy? Or do simply refuse to accept further payment?

Expert:  Zachary replied 1 year ago.
You do not have a written lease, correct?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I made a rental contract, but she never signed it. I went to my house today, and discovered she has taken many of my books---I had a fine library of hardcover biographies---and tools. I will report the thefts to the police tomorrow. What justifies changing the locks: anything?

Expert:  Zachary replied 1 year ago.

There are a few different ways to look at this. California law states that when a party has an oral residential lease, you cannot change the locks (or you will face a potential fine if she takes you to court). On the other hand, she doesn't have a lease, and I'm assuming she doesn't pay any bills. She doesn't really have any documentation to prove that she has a right to stay there. She's stating her intention to squat and now has stolen your personal property. If you simply take all her stuff and put it outside and change the locks, then it takes you out of the situation where you are having to go to court to get her out, and puts the burden on her to go to court to enforce her rights. If you change the locks and move all her stuff out, the police won't force you to let her back in. Be warned though, if she takes you to court and proves that she had a tenancy at your house, she could obtain a fine for $3000 against you. In the end, self help such as locking her out, is a risky proposition. It is possible, if she is not receiving mail at your property and has not other documentation that she lives there, that you could beat her case by simply denying that she was a tenant.

 

If you choose to go the eviction route you need give her notice that she must pay rent within 3 days or she is out. If she doesn't pay the rent within 3 days, you don't have to accept the rent and can go forward with the eviction. It would be wise to also serve her with a 30 day termination of lease notice (assuming she's been there for under a year...if more than a year it is 60 days). Then, even if the court for some reason forces you to accept her rent payment late (it is not unheard of in California courts, even though this is not authorized by the law), you can evict her at the end of the termination notice period if she does not leave willingly.

 

Please let me know if you have further questions. Best Regards, ZDN

Zachary, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3851
Experience: Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
Zachary and 4 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I am in a tough spot. She is turning up the water heater, leaving lights on, throwing my food out, letting her dog scratch up my leather furniture, soaking the bathroom floor...and boasting that her pregnant, 16-year-old, incorrigible thief of a daughter will be moving in on Saturday. This daughter stole from her mother and has made criminal complaints against both my squatter and her own brother (too nasty to mention). She has called the police twice with bogus complaints against me. The police at my house used to be a very rare occurrence: this is NOT my lifestyle. My friends, and a police officer, have suggested I actually PAY her to move out! I'd be willing to discuss a reasonable settlement---she thinks I owe her for labor---but her demands were not reasonable...and now she won't talk at all. If daughter gets in here, I'll never be able to leave for fear she will steal or ruin more of my things, but being here is risky because of daughter's history of making felony complaints against her own family.


It seems that immediate forcible removal is my best option, although I would rather pay $400 (maximum) to get this parasite out ASAP.


Questions: Is $3000 fine my worst possible court outcome? What can you tell me regarding Penal Code Section 602 re. "unwanted guest"?

Expert:  Zachary replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Your situation is indeed dire. The damaging of your property should be reported to the police. As far as her statement that she is going to bring in her daughter, if she does, you should definitely report this as trespass under Penal Code 602. (There is no reference to an unwanted guest in 602...but the daughter would be counted as a trespasser).

The civil penalty for a wrongful lock out is $100 per day. If you have not already, you need to immediately give her a termination notice that states that her lease is terminated in 30 days and that you are going to evict her in 3.

As she is destroying your property, I would immediately contact the police and inform them of the situation. You should request a restraining order to stop this criminal conduct.

If you have the means, it would be best to get a lawyer and file a request for a civil injunction which would immediately remove her from the property. The imminent danger of property destruction would justify this to the court.

If you don't, then I would go ahead and remove her things and lock her out. Although I don't know all the facts from your situation, it is not entirely clear that this woman has ever had an actual right to lease your property, and you can deny that she had such a right before the court. Further, she is the one who has to file a civil complaint against you.

If you do lock her out, she may also call the police. You should alert them ahead of time of what you are doing, that you are utilizing self-help and that this is a civil matter. You should inform them that she is trespassing on your property and is endangering your personal property and that as the property owner you are opting to remove her and lock her out. Tell them that if she has a problem with it, they need to inform her that she has to handle it through the courts.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

ZDN

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