Q: In response to your online column in The Mercury News and East Bay Times on October 4, 2020, titled “Tenants claiming financial crisis break lease and move out to buy their first home; what can landlords do?”:
I had tenants abandon the apartment after not paying rent for four months, even though they are on Social Security. Then they moved without informing me. In the strongly-worded clause about abandonment, it says they lose everything they left there. The police say no. I still have to go through an eviction process. We’ll have to go to court. Is the abandonment clause even legal?
A: It is my experience that most landlords go out of their way to save money. There are real estate attorneys and eviction attorneys who know the laws in your city, county, and state. Start gathering your lease, photo and the fact-based timeline for the one-hour consultation. Put the tenants’ belongings in the garage or living room until you receive legal advice. Since Midnight Movers are known to reappear and sue over the possessions they abandoned, now is not the time to be frugal or imprudent.
Q: My landlord recently broke into my home while I was at work and threw all of my belongings away because I was one month late on rent because of COVID-19. I had never been late before, and he told me he could do this even though there is a lease and a moratorium. Now not only am I homeless, but I have lost everything too! What can I do?
A: Sadly, this type of hardball tactic has been around for thousands of years. In the response above, I warned that landlord to avoid acting irrationally, or he could end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit. My interviews with the fine people at the nonprofit Project Sentinel never cease to amaze me with more than 50 programs to help people with housing issues. Funded primarily by donations, they serve as educators/mediators to tenants, landlords and distressed homeowners. The phone number for Project Sentinel is 1-800-339-6043. View the informational Project Sentinel website at www.housing.org. The section labeled AB 3088: The Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief Act of 2020 has a link to a video by The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. It describes how a landlord could not do self-help evictions and tenant lockout. If you are out of the Northern California area, seek a like-kind nonprofit. Good luck and keep in touch.
Questions? Realtor Pat Kapowich is a career-long consumer protection advocate and Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager. 408-245-7700 Pat@SiliconValleyBroker.com DRE# 00979413 Learn tips, trends and best practices by subscribing to YouTube.com/PatKapowich