News Alert! Can this new bill really allow tenants to withhold rent?
Yes and no. As you know, California tenants are legally entitled to rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. This recently introduced bill (SB529) may allow for tenants to withhold rent if important maintenance is not taken care of by the landlord.
Tenants have the option to withhold rent from landlords for up to 30 days if they have grievances with or about the landlord. Tenants also have the option to pay for the repairs themselves, call building health inspectors, sue the landlord, or move out without notice.
It also prohibits landlords from retaliating against the tenants for exercising their rights. Retaliation in this case means increasing rent, decreasing services, or terminating the tenancy agreement.
So what can you do to prepare yourself? First, keep up with your property. The easiest way to protect yourself is to simply make sure your building is in the shape promised in your tenancy agreement.
Second, provide the tenant with a way to communicate or contact you about complaints prior to them taking actions into their own hands. You could even develop a written repair request form for them to fill out and email you.
If your tenant seems nervous about the paperwork, explain to them that it benefits them as well since they will need copies of the paperwork to take any perceived needed action.
Third, keep it professional. Understand your tenant might be frustrated if they feel that they are being ignored or if they (for some reason) feel unsafe. Don’t take it personally. Keep it professional and use the above steps to cover your tracks and comply with any local laws.
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