Q I own a couple of condos, which I rent out. I have a pretty good relationship with my tenants, but I need to ask one of them to vacate so that my son can move into the unit. I like to use email to communicate with my clients, but I know that a notice of termination needs to be in writing. Can I send this notice of termination via email?
A Email won't work for you in this situation. California law is very specific about the method for serving a notice of termination of tenancy. To be legally enforceable, service of a termination notice must comply with California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162. This statute allows service by personally handing the notice to the tenant, or by leaving it with another adult at the rental unit and then mailing an additional copy to the tenant at the address of the rental unit.
A third permissible method, if no one is present at the unit when personal service is attempted, is commonly described as "nail and mail." This method requires "affixing" a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place like the front door, and mailing a second copy to the tenant at the address of the rental unit. None of these methods includes the use of email. The statutory reference to "mailing" requires use of traditional mail, not email.
Q I am the manager of a very large high-rise apartment community in San Francisco. There are many Asian families living in our neighborhood, including in our building. Last week, a woman called our office and explained that she was born in Japan and had only been in this country a few years. She said that she wanted to live in a community where she could be near other Japanese people. She then asked me whether I could show her vacant units on one of the floors where other Japanese families lived.
I can understand why she wants to live near other residents with whom she is comfortable, but I wonder if I would be in trouble under the fair-housing laws if I honored her request. What should I do?
A Your instincts are good ones: In essence, this prospective tenant is asking you to illegally "steer" her to units based upon the racial/ethnic make-up of a particular section of your rental community. "Steering" is funneling or restricting housing seekers to a particular area within a rental community to either keep the racial or ethnic make-up of that area the same, or to intentionally change it. This practice violates our fair-housing laws.
Steering is a fair-housing violation even when a member of a protected group is asking to be "steered" to other members of the same race or ethnic group. As a property manager, you can respond to questions about the property itself and the community generally, but not about the racial, ethnic, religious, familial status or other protected class characteristics of your tenants or neighbors. That doesn't mean that the prospective tenant cannot choose to live in such a community. However, as a property manager, you cannot affirmatively perpetuate housing segregation. If you help this applicant restrict her housing search to a particular section or area of your rental community based on the ethnic characteristics of the other tenants in that area you are doing just that.
Q I just separated from my husband last month. Right now my 10-year-old son and I are living with my parents, but we need to find our own place to live. I can't afford to pay much rent until I get a job, but I was hoping to find a furnished efficiency or one-bedroom apartment.
I found an ad for a one-bedroom apartment that I can afford. When I called the owner to arrange to see the place, I mentioned my son. He then told me he didn't feel comfortable renting the place to me, because he thought my son should have his own bedroom. Is this legal?
A Families with children are protected from discrimination under the fair-housing laws. This means that a housing provider cannot refuse to rent to a prospective tenant because that applicant has one or more children under the age of 18, or treat an applicant with children any differently than an applicant without children. These familial-status protections mean that this housing provider cannot insist your son have his own bedroom.
Federal government occupancy standards require housing providers to allow at least two occupants in a one-bedroom apartment. Since these standards allow any two people to share the one bedroom in the rental space, the housing provider has engaged in discrimination by deciding that a mother and son do not have the same right.