DennisBeaverJuly 9, 2016 • By Dennis Beaver

Today’s story will be of special interest to both tenants and landlords — anyone considering the purchase of rental property — wanting to increase income, “which took off like a 4th of July skyrocket following the stock market crash of 2008,” Pasadena-based Jon Dolan of Dolan and Knight Property Management told You and the Law.

“Even today, we see financial refugees from the stock market who cash out, purchase apartments, or single family residences, which they consider as relatively safe investments and not too difficult to manage in their retirement.

“For some, it is the worst financial decision of their lives, as few people are emotionally equipped to be landlords, especially the elderly, and this is not a put-down of older people, just a statement of fact from our experience.

“If you do not deal well with a drunk, irresponsible tenant behind in the rent yelling at you, either, do not become a landlord, or find a competent property management company and hope that they know the law and will keep you out of hot water. Check them out – the last thing you want is an incompetent property manager,” Dolan stressed.

As you’ll see, it’s a pity that 85 year-old “Henry” (who resides in Los Angeles) didn’t hear Dolan’s advice before buying a two bedroom condominium on Greenfield Avenue in Hanford in November of 2015 and hiring a Property Management firm we will call IAU, standing for Incompetents Are Us.

Had he Googled their name, we might never have heard from our reader, “Laura,” who became Henry’s tenant on Dec. 17, 2015, as he would likely hired a different property management company, after reading:

Horrible communication!! They lie and tell the tenant that they are in communication with me and that I have not responded. I request information and, if I get a response, they completely avoid the subject! Any problems are left for me to deal directly with the tenant. I’ve even left messages for the business owner to call me back regarding the issues, but she doesn’t return phone calls either.

“Rocky” was IAU’s Hanford manager, and had Laura sign a California Association of Realtors “Residential Lease or Month-to-Month Rental Agreement” with “Central Heating and Air Conditioning maintained by owner” stated on the lease.

The term was from Dec. 17, 2015, to Dec. 17, 2016. But neither (A) the Month-to-Month, nor (B) the Lease sections were marked.

“The result of this glaring failure to designate what kind of a tenancy it is means that the tenant can consider this as either a year-long lease or month-to-month, regardless of any discussions had before signing the lease,” Dolan commented, adding, “The lease form tells you to check A or B! This is absolute incompetence.”

“Upon moving in on December 18th with my young children, I realized there was no heat, reported this to Rocky who told me, ‘It’s not my problem — It’s not our obligation of providing you heat. Call the Gas Company.’ “

Of course, that is complete nonsense and violates the Implied Warranty of Habitability protecting tenants from Simon Legree landlords.

“I did. They came out on January 8th and explained that someone had failed to turn on the gas! So we had weeks without heat, my kids having to live with relatives.

“Repeatedly, I reported that the garbage disposal and a toilet were not working. Rocky said, ‘You just have to wait.’ Finally, a month later, my brother fixed the toilet. Two months later they fixed the disposal.

“The air conditioner failed in May and I reported it. Over a month’s time they sent three different A/C companies but none were given authorization to repair the system! Rocky said that legally the landlord was not obligated to provide heat or air conditioning! That’s when I contacted you.”

We confirmed what Laura told us by speaking with Rocky who wins no awards for being either competent or polite. Next, we spoke with the owner, Henry:

“You are obligated to provide heat, plumbing in good working order, and in our climate where it is often well over 100 degrees, to promptly fix the A/C ! So it is in your interest to let her out of the lease and make a substantial refund.”

He agreed. He had to. For Henry is a “Lion in Winter,” an attorney for over 58 years, highly respected with a State Bar award in his name, “Looking for a better price on repairs,” was his justification that legally doesn’t fly.

Laura has moved out. Legally, she could have in December, and we’ll tell you why in a future story.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.