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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    9

    Default Tenant May Be Using the Garage as Living Space

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: California

    I have a duplex and the back tenant signed a lease with he and his wife and 2 older sons living in it. His older son in his 30's took up living in the garage because it gave him more independence. He moved out a few months ago.
    Now that he is no longer living there, I think this will give me a new opportunity to tell my tenant that we need to make up a new lease that is month to month.
    My new tenants that live in the front house told me that they think someone new is living in the garage. In the past 4 other tenants knew this and got along fine with the back tenants. My new tenant who I am now seeing red flags of being a difficult person who doesn't get along with other people, is saying that there is body odor coming from the garage and she feels like she can't stand going into her garage because of it. She told me that I can be fined for allowing someone to live in the garage. I need to do my research but I know that my long staying tenant will say to me that since his son left they need additional income and renting out the garage which I will have to explain to him is breaking the contract if there is indeed a new person living in the house/garage/unit.
    What if he denies that anyone is living there? I am sure that if I request to look in the garage I first have to give them notice and by the time I give that to them they will clean up the area so there is no evidence
    If there is a new person living there, yes they broke the lease but I do not want to loose them as tenants. As far as I see they are good tenants that pay rent on time for the last 5 years and will give them an opportunity to sign a new month to month lease.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    9

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    I forgot to add that the garages are separated by a wall. However the wall is not solid. There is perhaps a 8 inch gap at the top of the shared wall. The new tenant implied that they have expensive stuff in their garage and anyone could break in their area because of the opening. My thoughts are anyone could clip off your lock of your garage and steal your stuff too. Let's be real. They are being a bit ridiculous in assuming that anyone can fit in between the gap and into their garage. It would be much easier to cut their lock.
    I think these tenants are finding every reason for me to get rid of their neighbors because of an inability to get along with others. I've had these tenants for years and never had any other complaints.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    98,846

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    What are you trying to ask?

    If their lease term has not expired, they can resist an effort to negotiate a new lease. What is the term of their present lease?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    9

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    five years ago it was a year lease and after that it changes to month to month doesn't it?

  5. #5
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    Some leases automatically renew for a full year, others default to month-to-month after the first year.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,867

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    I do not know any area of the country where a garage is allowed to be used for living quarters. It typically does not meet the building codes required for habitable space. Sleeping rooms, especially, have rules concerning egress points that a typical garage does not comply with. There are also electrical requirements that are not typically installed in a garage as required in a living space. I can see where a code inspector could have a problem if there is a person utilizing the garage as living quarters.

    It also causes the taxes to be seen differently as most areas tax a house on habitable space. A garage, while considered in the overall square footage, is taxed differently (lower value) than if that same square footage is legally habitable space.

    as to the lease changing to a month to month after its 5 year term: that would depend on what the lease stated. Some leases convert to a month to month. Some have automatic renewal. Some simply terminate at the end of the term and a tenant that stays beyond that time would be a holdover tenant subject to eviction.

    concerning the landlords right of entry:

    You actually have very little right to enter the premises without the tenants permission. You can read the rules here scroll down to page 33.

    If there is no existing lease, you can demand they sign a new lease or terminate their tenancy. It is entirely up to you. If there is a lease in effect, you cannot alter the terms until it expires.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    9,096

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    Wait... are you saying that your tenant subleased an unlivable space to a tenant you don't know without your permission?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toledo, OH
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    16,307

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    five years ago it was a year lease and after that it changes to month to month doesn't it?
    That depends. What does the original lease say about renewals?
    I'm not a lawyer, but I play a researcher on the internet!
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    9

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    i just found my lease agreement and I was completly wrong. I guess it was a month to month lease.
    I really like these tenants. They have never given me problems, pay for the rent on time. So I do feel a bit bullied by my new tenant that
    it's "us" or "them" behaviour.
    If I ask tenant A if since there older son left a few months ago if anyone else is living in his place, is this a reason to have a new contract filled out. I understand if I wanted to give them notice or difficult tenants then yes I would have reason to give them 60 days notice.
    However this isn't the case and if they violated terms then I will just ask them to sign a new lease with the new persons name

    My worry is two fold. If I confront tenant A and he says there isn't a person living there then what are my choices but to believe him. Even if I give him 24 hours to inspect the house/garage they could clear out the garage because it's just a bed and maybe CD/radio.
    Legally how can I prove he is housing someone in the garage except for Tenant B's accusation of Body odor and chatter of voices coming from the garage? I mean people hang out in a garage sometimes don't they?

    If he does tell me there is someone living there than I will be forced to tell him he can't do this and move that person in the house and let's draw up another lease with this person's name on it. These are hard times and I understand that he needs 3 people's income to cover the rent.

    If he denies using the garage then do I go back to Tenant B and tell them there is no one living in the garage? the thing that gets me is that Tenant B doesn't want me to tell Tenant A that it was them that told me. That's a little naive to think he won't figure that out. But that's beside the point. At this point I feel like hiring a property manager so I'm out of the whole loop.
    I've owned this property for 7 years and have never had this situation where someone was so concerned about the back tenants before. Legally I want to CYA and for this reason wanting to do the right thing even if it means giving my tenant A 60 day's notice

    Thanks JK for your advice. I completly understand that the garage is not to code and reasons why they cannot use it for space. I guess in short my question is what do I do if he denies anyone living there?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Lease is a 2 Bedroom 2 Bath and Tenant is Using the Garage As a Living Space

    reford;550021]

    My worry is two fold. If I confront tenant A and he says there isn't a person living there then what are my choices but to believe him. Even if I give him 24 hours to inspect the house/garage they could clear out the garage because it's just a bed and maybe CD/radio.
    yes, they could and based on what I read in the statutes, the tenant could refuse you access anyway.

    Legally how can I prove he is housing someone in the garage except for Tenant B's accusation of Body odor and chatter of voices coming from the garage? I mean people hang out in a garage sometimes don't they?
    I know folks that use the garage as an extension of the home. It is used as a covered porch. They also get used as garages and since you park cars in garages or store stuff in garages, it is common to hear voices in garages.

    How about just asking the tenants if there is somebody living in the garage? They don't even have to answer. Just tell them that a garage is not a legally acceptable living area and nobody is allowed to live in the garage and a violation is justification to terminate their lease.

    If he does tell me there is someone living there than I will be forced to tell him he can't do this and move that person in the house and let's draw up another lease with this person's name on it. These are hard times and I understand that he needs 3 people's income to cover the rent.
    there ya go. You sound reasonable and willing to allow an additional tenant. I see no reason this should be a big issue.

    If he denies using the garage then do I go back to Tenant B and tell them there is no one living in the garage?
    I would tell tenant B that you do not have proof of anything illegal going on and that you appreciate the heads up and if they have something beyond suspicion that they should let you know. You don't need to answer to them for anything as long as it does not directly affect them. As to body odor: it's a garage. I know a lot of garages that have cat odor because that is where the cat box is or grease odor because that is where the car gets worked on. Garages are not typically sweet smelling places.




    Thanks JK for your advice. I completly understand that the garage is not to code and reasons why they cannot use it for space. I guess in short my question is what do I do if he denies anyone living there?
    If you have something more than suspicion, deal with it. Other than that, I would simply do as I suggested above with asking them, without really expecting an answer.

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