Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - February 3, 2012

RentWatch

Can a tenant change his mind about moving?

by edited Martin Eichner

Q I own a four-plex in an area where rental rates have recently begun to increase. I have not been able to raise the rents on my property for several years, so I recently gave a 30-day notice of an 8 percent increase to all four of my tenants. One of the tenants told me he could not afford the increase and he gave me a written 30-day notice that he was vacating.

About a week later he contacted me to tell me that he changed his mind and has decided to stay, and accept the increase. This tenant has been occasionally late paying his rent in the past and I am worried that he really won't be able to afford the additional rental rate.

Now that he has cancelled his notice of termination, what are my options? I am thinking about requiring him to agree to a new credit check so that I can tell whether he will be able to pay the new rental amount. Can I do that?

A When a tenant serves a written notice of termination, that notice is binding on the tenant. The tenant does not have a right to unilaterally revoke the termination. A tenant who gives notice and then remains in the property beyond the time frame of the 30-day notice is no longer a lawful tenant and can be named in an unlawful detainer eviction case on the 31st day.

Of course, you can always agree to allow your tenant to revoke his notice, but that means you have the right to place conditions on your agreement to allow the tenant to remain. A new credit check is a reasonable condition, and not a violation of the tenant's right to privacy because you are essentially creating a new tenancy and you have a reasonable concern about his financial stability.

Based on the concept that he is re-applying to become a tenant, you can charge the customary fee for a credit check, and you can deny his request to continue his tenancy if the check raises red flags. All of these points should be set out in a written agreement with this tenant setting the terms of your offer to allow him to stay. That way, both sides understand the conditions and the options available to them as you process your final decision.

Martin Eichner edits RentWatch for Project Sentinel, an organization founded in 1974 that provides landlord tenant dispute resolution and fair housing services in Northern California and administers rental-housing mediation programs in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. Call 650-856-4062 for dispute resolution or 650-321-6291 for fair housing or email mediate4us@housing.org.

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