California Landlord Tenant issue
We've been renting a house in Redding CA for about a year now. It was built in the late 1980s and has what we believe is likely the original HVAC package unit on the roof. In August the HVAC unit stopped working. My husband called our landlady and told her about this.
Toward the end of September my husband and our landlady spoke again when she called to ascertain our intentions as far as remaining on month-to-month or renewing a lease. He told her that we were would remain on month to month and would be seeking a less expensive rental to move into. He also told her again that the HVAC was inoperable and needed to be fixed soon as colder weather was coming fast. She told him to send her a receipt. We are on a fairly tight budget and had already sent out the rent for that month so we had to wait until we had the rent money for our Oct. 20 rent so we would have the money to pay someone to fix the unit (our rent is due on the 20th of each month; my husband is paid on an every-two-week schedule and we budget the rent payment out of the second paycheck of the month - our landlady knew this and never took issue with it until we told her we were looking to move and the HVAC issue popped up). Anyway, when she called on Oct. 31, he reminded her about the HVAC issue and told her that we had an appointment for someone to come out and take care of it within the next week. She went ballistic and claimed she never told him to send her a receipt and that she wanted us out by the 20th of November. He told her that se were only acting within our legal right to repair and deduct and that ere have already been eveings where the temps dipped into the 30s at night.
My husband and I discussed things and decided to mail her the rent check and instead exercise our right to move out because of the lack of heat. I typed up a letter to her and mailed it out via Express Mail (so I could track it) on Nov. 1. I enclosed a check in the full amount of our rent due along with a letter stating all of the above, and kept a copy of the letter, check, and express mail receipt. As of today (Nov. 8), the USPS has left her notices but she has not accepted the letter. The check is already deducted from our account and will stay that way - but what can we do if she refuses to accept it? Can she do that and then claim we never paid it? We have proof that we are trying to pay.
We have been trying since the end of September to find another house to move into. We've yet to get calls back on any of the units we've applied for and worry that she may be providing a bad reference against us. Is there anything we can do if she is? We have a fall-back plan - some friends in a town an hour away have offered us their home if we need somewhere to go and can't find another place by Nov. 20, but that will create a hardship on us as far as the travel required to get from there to here every day for work.
My husband tells me she has a friend here who handled him getting into the lease in the first place... however we are not sure this person is a "legal representative". If our landlady refuses to accept letters from us and we can't reach her by phone, what can we do to protect ourselves when we do move out, beyond the usual taking pictures etc.?
Yesterday we received a notice from her that stated "because you haven't paid rent I am evicting you and expect you to be out of my property by November 20". It was dated Nov. 1 but not mailed until Nov. 6 as evidenced by the post mark on the envelope. There is a certified letter waiting for us at the post office which we suspect says the same thing. We have never received an official Three-Day notice to pay rent or quit. Our lease requires 30-days written notice of termination; a letter postmarked Nov. 6 is only 14 days.
Any advice greatly appreciated.