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  1. #1
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Tenant Abandoned Section 8 Subsidized Housing Before the End of Her Lease

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

    Not sure how to deal with this one. First the backstory.

    I own a Section 8 apartment building. One of my tenants is on a lease that’s not set to expire until 10/1/14. Her rent is $1350 per month. Section 8 pays $810 and she pays $540.

    Other tenants of the building advised that she and her family moved out of her apartment just prior to 9/1/14, which is one month prior to the end of her lease. They state there is a horrible smell coming from her now empty apartment, that it is infested with roaches that have spread to the other apartments and are requesting that corrective action be taken.

    The property management company tracked the tenant down by phone. She confirmed verbally to them she has moved out and will return the keys to their office on 9/6/14. The tenant lied, staying she had to leave because she failed her Section 8 inspection and her benefits were terminated. We know this is not true because Section 8 sends us notices ahead of time advising us when inspections are scheduled and when they are passed or failed. We received none. Additionally, Section 8 paid their portion of her September rent, so obviously her benefits are still intact. (The tenant has not paid her September rent share.)

    Neither I nor my property management company have run into this before, so I am throwing this out for input from your combined wisdom.

    1. Within the meaning of the law, has she broken her lease? While she may have physically abandoned her apartment, failed to pay her portion of the rent, and verbally admitted she has quit the premises, Section 8 has paid $810 of her September rent (18 days) and there is $1,210 to be drawn from the tenant’s security deposit to cover the remainder of the month when the lease will end.

    2. Given the circumstances, are we still required to post 24 hour notice prior to making entry to assess and address the odor and insect problem?

    3. At what point can we change the locks and begin prepping the apartment for new tenants and showing it?

    4. At what point does the 21 day clock begin to run on the tenant deposit refund or an explanation of expenses– now, or October 1, or sometime in between if we can find and move a new tenant in?

    Any other words of wisdom you can offer would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tenant Abandoned Section 8 Subsidized Housing Before the End of Her Lease

    For the process of establishing abandonment, see Civil Code Sec. 1951.3. For what you must do before entering a tenant's unit, see Sec. 1954. You can find those code sections here.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Tenant Abandoned Section 8 Subsidized Housing Before the End of Her Lease

    Thank you for your response. After delving into this a little more, new information has come to light that has changed a number of facts. Letís recap with new information:

    Section 8 tenant is on a one year lease for an apartment that (now) expires on 10/28/14. On 9/5/14 information is received from other residents suggesting the tenant has moved out on an unknown date.

    Up to this point, the tenant had not provided any notification that she was moving. When the management company tracked the tenant down by phone, she verbally confirmed that she had moved out. In doing so, she claimed that she had to do so because she failed her annual Section 8 inspection and lost her rent benefits. We believe this to be untrue because Section 8 notifies us both of upcoming inspections, whether an apartment passes or fails, and if an inspection is failed, gives us 30 days for correction. We received no such notifications. In addition, Section 8 paid us for the tenantís portion of Septemberís rent.

    The entire building was mailed 24 hour notice of entry for pest control. Pest control, the management company and I entered and found the tenantís unit empty with the electricity turned off. The apartment had been stripped of lighting fixtures and door knobs, holes had been punched in the walls, closet doors had been damaged, cockroaches literally fell from the door when it was opened and the entire apartment was infested with cockroaches. (The other units had little infestation if any.)

    The tenant has abandoned the property, leaving it empty. She has failed to pay her portion of Septemberís rent and has verbally told the management company that she moved out. Common sense dictates that she has broken her lease and quit the premises eight weeks prior to its ending date of 10/28/14. However, common sense and the law do not always see eye to eye.

    While the tenant verbally admitted she moved out, she gave us nothing in writing stating she was breaking the lease and had refused to return the keys, missing three appointments to do so. While the tenant failed to pay her share of Septemberís rent, Section 8 paid their portion of her rent for that month ($810). For all intent and purpose, the empty and abandoned apartment is still rented to her. This is compounded by a Section 8 policy that says they will not pay rent on a property the client has abandoned, and will seek to recover money already paid from future payments. Needless to say, my issue now is to free myself from any legal obligations to this tenant as soon as possible, so I can rehab the apartment and rent it to someone else.

    Civil Code Section 1951.3.(a) says absent written notification from the tenant that she is breaking the lease, we must give her written notice of our belief of her abandonment and that we are terminating the lease. Civil Code Section 1951.3.(b) says the date of termination of the lease shall be specified in the notice and shall be not less than 18 days after the notice is deposited in the mail. Further, Civil Code Section 1951.3.(e) provides that such notice cannot be sent to the tenant until the rent remains unpaid for at least 14 days. Section 8 paid their portion of her rent on September 2nd. If you combine 14 days past due from Section 8ís September 2ndí payment, with 18 days until termination you get 32 days, which ties the property up with no rent until October 4th.

    As an alternative can we send her a 3 day notice now to pay or quit, go to the apartment 3 days later and upon finding it still empty, take that as compliance and reclaim the premises?

    In the meantime, we will be supplementing whatever rent Section 8 does not pay with the tenantís security deposit. How far can we apply it? To the end of the 3 day pay or quit notice (if applicable)? To the end date of the abandoned/termination notice? To the end date of the original lease?

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