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socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 39164
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I have rented a home in Agoura Hills x8 years; basically to

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I have rented a home in Agoura Hills x8 years; basically to a slumlord. Ian elderly & disabled (sick house syndrome); I contacted the Dept of Health- & was then evicted. BUT, my question is this- when I contacted City Hall, I found out that this landlord breaks the zoning laws here, as he has 2 residences on same property-same address. He converted the garage into a guesthouse - which is NOT allowed; the law states no guest homes, tenant should have either a garage or a 2-car COVERED carport, neither of which I've ever had, albeit it states so in the agreement. Yes, I am moving- but I want compensation for 8 years of not having things stated that as a tenant, I had been entitled to. What can be done?
Thank you

If you can prove that the property is subject to substantial dilapidations which violate local ordinance or state law, then you could sue the landlord for the "diminished value" of the tenancy. Your damages would be the difference between the value of the rental property in tenantable/legal condition and the value of the property in its actual condition.

If you have not contacted the local code enforcement officer to have the property inspected, you may want to do this, even if you are moving, because the inspector's citation of the landlord or testimony in court would be extremely credible proof of your claim of diminished value. If you cannot get the code enforcement officer's help, you could hire a local licensed contractor to examine the property and provide you with a report of everything that appears to violate code -- or which violates the reasonable expectations of your rental agreement (including any repairs that you may have requested which were never done). Then you would have a real estate broker give you an opinion of the value of the rental in its current condition and the value in repaired condition.

If the reports of both these professionals and/or code enforcement are favorable, then you can sue the landlord for diminished value.

You would likely have to limit your damages to $10,000, because that is the limit of small claims court, where you could sue without hiring a lawyer. Also, you cannot go back more than four years because of the statute of limitations on a written contract.

But, four years is probably a fair amount of rent, so assuming you are willing to do the work in gathering the necessary evidence, you may be able to recover some of your rent.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
socrateaser and 3 other Landlord-Tenant Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you, thank you- that is exactly what I was searching to hear. Sadly, not one attorney will assist me in addressing this. No one. I cannot grasp this- as it is the Law... Should you be able to give sound advice as to how to get the badly needed help, my graitude would be immense. It's a sad world when a crooked landlord can do this to another human being...
You don't need an attorney to sue in small claims court, so I'm not sure that I understand what it is you are looking for in an attorney to assist you with your claim.

Here is a link to the Cal. Judicial Council webpage for all of the necessary small claims court info.

If your goal is to recover more than $10,000, then you will need a lawyer, and if no lawyer believes that the case is sufficiently valuable to take it on contingency (no up front fees), then I'm afraid you're stuck with the $10,000 maximum possible recovery.

If I'm still not understanding what you're after, please let me know, and I'll rework my answer to try to assist you further.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
This information is immensely helpful; unfortunately for me, the landlord is a retired fireman and has the Officials in the City of Agoura Hills wrapped around his finger. When he realized that I was reaching out for help by contacting the city, I was then evicted. The terms on my rental agreement state "month to month", so I had no power there. My last day in the house was 8/31/13. Can I still follow through on this proves? I mean, he knowingly rented me an uninhabitable house; in the 8 years I was there I repeatedly requested needed repairs (in writing), to no avail. I finally contacted the City and also the Department of Health, which cited the landlord for extensive mold & was given succinct directives for repairs - which he not only did not do- the Health Inspector told me that she "made a mistake", and that he could simply paint over the mold.
I am elderly, disabled - and now homeless. I want to contine with this civil suit. Any advice from you would be greatly appreciated.
How many days written notice were you given to vacate the property?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I was handed by the landlord on 7/2/13 A3Day Notice to Pay or Quit- PLUS a 60 day Notice to Quit. Then I was served court papers to appear on 8/7/13, and had to be vacated from house by 8/31/13
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I broke my heel on a broken step in the house on 8/24/13.
Also, I was not able to remove all possessions in house by 8/31; when I went to complete the move- the landlord was negligent and removed our items to the outside (did charge storage)- many items were ruined by the elements- and a lot were missing.
Okay, thanks.

Your case is still the same as it was originally. The only problem is proof. Being that you're out of the property, if you don't have the necessary photos and witnesses,, then you could have difficulty making your case. But, you don't have much to lose, either.

Re the change of position by code enforcement, that could be evidence which you could argue was no mistake at all, and that the obvious and express directives could not have been a mistake -- nor, could it have been a mistake that they were so obviously modified afterwards, to afford the landlord an easy way out from the violations.

If I were really going after this issue, I would probably sue the city, too, for a violation of your civil rights. That's not something you can do in small claims court, though.

You might want to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and with the U.S. Department of Justice -- Special LItigation Division.

Edit: You last describe an issue of possible negligent maintenance on the landlord's part, causing you a personal injury. This is a completely separate issue -- you can discuss it with a local personal injury lawyer. For such cases, you need good proof, and that may be difficult to come by at this point -- unless you have witnesses to the injury and to the dilapidation of the steps at the property site.

For a personal injury lawyer referral, see this link.

That's about everything I can think of that would provide you with a cost-effective resolution. Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you- and I do have witnesses regarding my injury as well as an attorney friend who had been in the house and mentioned several building code violations & sans permits.
Thank you again, now- to find a place to live!
He has hit me and told me "I'll take you down" in trying to find another place to live. I called the Lost Hills Sheriffs Office for help when I was struck - they refused to take my report. The landlord is a retired L. A . County fireman...John C. Hagerman, Jr.
The sheriff cannot refuse to take a report. It can, however, refuse to investigate, which amounts the same thing. If you have a witness willing to testify of his own personal knowledge to the issues about which you claim injury, then use that to sue in civil court. You are likely wasting your time with law enforcement, unless the U.S. DOJ takes an interest.

Best wishes.