My rights as a renter

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Submitted by Diego Mamani on April 16, 2007 - 3:37pm

Help!

We've been happy renters for almost two years after we sold our house at the near peak of the cycle. Our landlord has been nice, we pay the rent on time, and we like the house, so everybody was happy.

I worked at home this morning, and then I took a shower at around noon. When I got out of the shower I heard a car door closing, so I peeked through the courtains and I saw my landlord driving away from the driveway. I walked out to the living room and found out that the main door was closed but unlocked!

I guess he got in and when he heard shower noises he run out and didn't have time to lock the door again (I always keep it locked).

He's a nice guy, but I don't know how to best confront him about it. Both of us work, usually full days, and don't like the idea of having someone (even the landlord) walking through the house when we're not there.

Submitted by pm kim on April 16, 2007 - 3:48pm.

Hello Mamani,
This is my first time ever posting a comment, but I couldn't resist since property management is my specialty. I am a property supervisor with a management company here in SD and have been in the business for 15 years. I can tell you without a doubt your landlord had no right to enter your dwelling without prior written notice (standard is 24 hour notice.) I would check your lease to see what the exact clause it was under and follow up with asking him why he was there. He may seem like a "nice guy", but what was he doing there without notice at a time you are not normally home? If you don't like his answer, there are many reputable landlords out there who would love to have a stable renter in their home.

Submitted by PerryChase on April 16, 2007 - 3:49pm.

Your landlord violated your privacy. Consult your attorney and have him write your landlord a letter. Keep track of the trespass and document it in writing.

You pay your rent and are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of your home. He's the landlord, but it's YOUR home as long as you abiding by the rental agreement.

Submitted by lniles on April 16, 2007 - 4:15pm.

Jeez, aren't we attorney-happy enough already? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Are you sure he was in the house? Why don't you just ask him? Or tell him what happened (you saw him in the driveway, the door was unlocked, etc). Before running to a lawyer, why not give the guy the benefit of the doubt or at least give him a chance to explain? What if he wanted to leave you an easter basket? :) The whole shower/door/driveway story would never hold up in court, and it will make any judge think you are a "jump the gun" type of renter who goes around making reckless accusations (which will doubtlessly cause him to favor the landlord). If you suspect the guy, set up a sting operation and catch him in the act with video if possible. THEN think about getting a lawyer.

Submitted by SD Attorney on April 16, 2007 - 4:25pm.

Write him a letter!!!

Do not call him. When you end up in court you can show the judge the letter with the certified mail return receipt.

I promise you the landlord will forget about your phone call by next week.

It can be a friendly letter, just advising him that you saw him at your property and that you never received notice that he was coming over. Make it clear and to the point.

My old douchebag landlord used to come over twice a week and pretend that he was watering the plants. But, really he was just checking on the place, which I understand why, since it was in Mission Beach and there were plenty of dirtbags around. However, it was really annoying.

Anyway, I sued him in small claims after he withheld our security deposit for no apparent reason. WE WON!!!! Our whole security deposit back, plus two months worth of rent.

Trust me. Judges have no sympathy for dirtbag landlords, and Judges love documents, they don't love it when you say I called him immediately after the incident and asked what he was doing there. Landlord replies, "He never called me"

WRITE a friggin letter to the dirtbag. Tell him that you will call the cops next time he is there if he doesn't give you 24 hour notice.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on April 16, 2007 - 4:55pm.

Thank you for all the advice. I think I will write a friendly letter and send it by certified mail. I may call as well, and give the guy a chance to explain. Many posters mentioned judges and courts, but I think it would be difficult to quantify any damages (loss of privacy?) that may justify a suit.

The door was unlocked when I checked, there's no doubt about that. We always lock it, and we get in and out through the garage most of the time.

Thanks again!

Submitted by PerryChase on April 16, 2007 - 5:33pm.

I agree with Construction At. Always document everything in writing.

Don't make over-the-top accusations. Simply tell your landlord that you were very surprised that he came over without first notifying you, and that, in the future, you'd appreciate advance notice. Depending on the impression you want to make, you can write the letter yourself or have your attorney write it for you.

If you go to court, you'll have a great advantage if you have documents to prove your point.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on April 16, 2007 - 5:43pm.

After the incident I re-locked the front door, and then left the house (I had many errands to take care of). I realize know that I should have called the police right away to file a report. The report would serve to document the trespassing incident.

A formal letter sent by certified mail quoting the relevant California Civil Code section, and including the text Perry suggests should be enough to convey the seriousness of the situation.

Submitted by FormerSanDiegan on April 16, 2007 - 6:40pm.

In this instance it would be difficult to prove that the landlord actually entered the property. But I would definitely follow the advice of sending a certified letter noting that he was on your property without the proper notice.

It is possible (but maybe not likely) that he pulled in the driveway without entering your house and the same day that you forgot to lock your door*.

Don't know if using your driveway is an offense.

Regardless, protect your rights. Take some action. Document the incident and notify the landlord and protect yourself. I would consider requesting a chain lock or dead-bolt installed on each door so that you can at least lock your home while you are in it in case the landlord is a creep.

* Yes, it could happen. Twice in the last three years I left the house and came back to a wide open front door. Not just un-locked, but wide open. In both cases, I had left something in the house that I planned to go back and grab after loading kids in the car, but forgot to go back. Forgetting to lock a door is a possibility. On the same day the landlord mysteriously is seen leaving the driveway ? Maybe not.

Also, for reference in 2008 or 2009 when it's time to consider buying .... how much is it worth to not have a landlord when computing rent vs own ?

Submitted by bubble_contagion on April 16, 2007 - 8:57pm.

A friend of mine owns a condo in a nice new building downtown. It turns out the condo next to his is being rented by the night. A couple of weekends ago, at about 1am, two drunk guys enter his condo carrying a case of beer. It turns out that the key of the sublet condo opened my friend’s door lock as well. The drunken guys had made a mistake but started shouting: What are you doing here?! I rented this place today! After arguing, they realized they had entered the wrong condo and left. It turns out that when buildings are under construction all door locks use the same key, the builder is supposed to change them as the units get sold. This was not done in these condos.

My friend was very shook up and it just shows you the absolute mess speculation has caused in downtown San Diego.

Submitted by sdrealtor on April 16, 2007 - 10:17pm.

Darn! I thought you were going to say he got drunk with the two guys.

Submitted by Doofrat on April 17, 2007 - 12:43pm.

I say set up a sting operation with cameras! If the landlord is coming over and walking in without notifying you, and then sneaking off, there's a good chance are that he's up to no good.

I saw something last week where this lady was suspicious about lights in her place being on when she got home, so she set up a clock radio camera and caught this guy coming in and putting on her underwear and lingerie.

You could set up a small camera to a laptop and hide it as well. These devices are super cheap, and you can easily set this up and remotely monitor it.

If you don't want to go the sting route and instead notify your landlord, I would change the locks. If the landlord has a problem with this, then I would move.

Submitted by PerryChase on April 17, 2007 - 1:06pm.

Underwear and lingering sting operation is funny... If i had such footage, I'd say give me a rent reduction or I'll post it on www.youtube.com (just kidding)

Submitted by Diego Mamani on April 17, 2007 - 1:45pm.

Update.
I'm so embarrased... I forgot to mention that when I left home (a few minutes after the landlord had driven away from the house) I noticed a brand new mailbox. I thought "maybe he came to replace the mailbox, and then decided to snoop around the house, or maybe use the bathroom." He may have even rang the bell, but since I'm hard of hearing I may not have heard it when taking a shower. In any case, nothing justifies his entering the house (whether he's incontinent or not!).

The event took place on a Monday. That evening, when commenting all this with my wife, she said that maybe I had left the door unlocked. Impossible, I said, as I'm obsessive-compulsive about locking doors and windows. Then we remembered that my brother-in-law had visited us the day before (Sunday) and that he had let himself out of the house. I'm not 100% certain that my BIL left the door unlocked, but is a real possibility.

So...

(1) My bro-in-law visit could explain the unlocked doors (he's not very bright... I was working on another room when he left, and my wife didn't walk him to the door because she had to take a phone call).

(2) The shiny new mailbox explains what the landlord was doing outside the house on Monday.

But something fishy still remains to be explained: when I left the house at noon that day, the new mailbox was not firmly fastened, as if the landlord (or whoever intalled it) didn't quite finish and had to leave in a hurry. However, when I came back home that night, the mailbox was firmly fastened and all the screws looked tight.

Submitted by FormerSanDiegan on April 17, 2007 - 3:28pm.

when I left the house at noon that day, the new mailbox was not firmly fastened, as if the landlord (or whoever intalled it) didn't quite finish and had to leave in a hurry. However, when I came back home that night, the mailbox was firmly fastened and all the screws looked tight.

Sounds like a second trip to Home Depot to get the rest of the things to finish the job. Used to happen to me all the time, but it was usually three trips per job.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on April 17, 2007 - 4:23pm.

Good points, Former SD. I wasn't really looking forward to the underwear and lingerie sting operation, although I am a big fan of youtube.com!

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