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by Mina V. Garrey, Commercial Capital Properties

Broken dollarIf you have rental property anywhere in the country, you may have a tenant or two who either have mentioned not paying or have already been withholding part or all of the rent because something wasn’t fixed in their unit. But when can a tenant actually withhold money from the rent payment? In California for example, a landlord has the duty to maintain a unit in a habitable condition. Habitability takes into account things like the roof, running water, heat, sewage, properly maintained stairs, a bug-free unit and a few other ones. The law does not extend to things like landscaping, cable TV, spas etc. So first of all when a tenant threatens to withhold money from the rent payment make sure the issue falls into the habitability category. Second, you would want to make sure the tenant has given you proper notice of the necessary repairs. A tenant can’t just show up on the first of the month, when rent is due, and say they are not going to pay you because something wasn’t fixed, if they never notified you of the problem in the first place. You should be allowed a reasonable length of time to take care of the issue.

If you have been given proper notice, the issue does fall into the habitability category and you still fail to make the repairs then the tenant can complete the work and then deduct the amount from the rent. Please note that the tenant has to “repair and then deduct”, not just deduct the amount. You should also require the tenant to submit the receipt for the work completed. You can also require that any work is to be done by a licensed contractor, plumber etc. You don’t want the tenant’s friend coming over, messing with your building and then charging you for work that they were not allowed to perform in the first place.Remember, a tenant can’t just stop paying rent, because you can then file an Unlawful Detainer Action against them. So follow the following steps and you should be in good shape for handling a tenant repair complaint:

1. Require for a notice with a reasonable time frame to be submitted to you detailing the problem.

2. Do the repairs.

OR

3. The tenant can do the repairs, give you a receipt and then deduct the rent from the next rent payment.

So, Good Luck and continue investing!

Commercial Capital Properties specializes in commercial (office and retail) and multi-family (apartments) real estate management throughout the Greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley.

See another feature by Mina Garrey, Is Your Tenant Covered?

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment, including real estate forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more atwww.joinaaoa.org.

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