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Ask CalAttorney2 Your Own Question
CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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Property in California of which we are the landlords

Customer Question

For a property in California of which we are the landlords but live out of state:
1. Tenant did not care for the landscaping and lawn.
2. We inspected the home last summer and saw the poor condition of the yard and informed the tenant that they had the responsibility to return the yard to the condition in which it was received.
3. The tenant has been warned several times since then to return the yard to the condition in which it was received.
4. Upon tenant vacating the property, the yard was not repaired and in order to return the property to a marketable condition, in a timely manner, we hired a landscaping company to re-sod the entire yard.
5. The cost of this exceeded the security deposit, which we kept. We then billed the tenant for the remaining amount. We did return their pet deposit, as none of this damage was pet related, it was neglect.
6. The lease stipulates, "16. CARE,CLEANING, and MAINTENANCE: Resident agrees to leave the Premises in the same condition as it was received, subject to normal wear and tear. Except as prohibited by law, Resident shall keep the Premises and furniture, furnishings and appliances, and fixtures, which are rented for the Resident’s exclusive use, in good order and condition. Upon move-out, Resident agrees to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy. Resident is responsible for the upkeep of the backyard and landscaping. Resident shall pay Owner/Agent for costs to repair, replace, or rebuild any portion of the Premises damaged by the Resident, Resident’s guests or invitees."
7. We have photo's, property manager inspections, etc that provide evidence of the condition of the yard upon move in, mid-lease, and move out.
8. The tenant does not believe they are responsible to pay the total amount to replace the lawn. Are we on solid legal grounds to pursue the outstanding balance for the lawn?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
Dear Customer,Please keep in mind I cannot offer you a guarantee of an outcome in your case (that is both beyond the scope of the forum, and prohibited by the rules of professional conduct), but yes, based on the excerpted language from your lease agreement and the statement of fact, you can sue your tenant in small claims (if the difference between the security deposit and the cost of repair/replacement was less than $10,000.00) or in limited civil (if it was less than $25,000), or unlimited civil if it was more than this.California's small claims self help site is very useful and will have all of the forms necessary to help you through the process: I understand you are out of state, a process server should be able to both physically file your pleadings for you with the court and serve the tenants/defendants with the summons and complaint so that you only need to come to California for the actual hearing (assuming you don't reach a settlement prior to that time). Some courts do have a pre-trial hearing, but if you file a request for telephonic appearance with the court clerk as soon as the court schedules this hearing, the court may permit you to appear by phone for this pre-trial conference (it is usually a very short court appearance where the court guages how quickly they can set the matter for trial - the self help site will give you more information on what is involved and what to expect in far more detail than I can reprint here in this "Q&A" format).