Real Estate

Rent Watch

Rent due dates, grace periods and rent sharing

Q: My landlord and I have always had a positive relationship, but of late he has been changing the nature of our rent payment dates. We have never had a written lease or rental agreement, and I always paid rent when I got paid. I pay every month, though on different days, and have never missed a monthly rental payment. Now, after seven years, my landlord has called and said he wants the rent paid in full by the first of every month. Can he do this after accepting rent payments based on my work payment schedule for more than seven years? And isn't there a grace period for monthly rental payments anyways?

A: You have touched on what is one of the oddest features of rent payments in California. Most written agreements specify the date rent is due and also stipulate that most rent payments are due at the beginning of the month. The overwhelming majority of rental agreements and leases in California make rent due on the first of the month or within the first five days of the month. Your situation is an important exception, when there is nothing in writing specifying the rental payment date. The California Civil Code (1947) states that "When there is no usage or contract to the contrary, rents are payable at the termination of the holding, when it does not exceed one year. If the holding is by the day, week, month, quarter, or year, rent is payable at the termination of the respective periods, as it successively becomes due." This means that it can be that rent is due at the end of the rental period rather than in advance of the rental period. If you have never had anything in writing specifying that rent needs to be paid in advance then you might consider showing your landlord this civil code section, providing that rent is due at the end of the rental period (monthly, in this case). There is one important caveat. Because you have a month-to-month agreement, your landlord could issue a written Thirty Day Change of Terms of Tenancy stating that thirty days after the issue of this notice, rent will become due and payable on the first of each month. However, there is no automatic grace period in the California Civil Code in the absence of any written stipulation giving a tenant a grace period for paying rent. A generous landlord might allow you a couple of days grace (written or verbal), but it is not legally required to grant a grace period.

Resources: nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/renters-rights

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Can I charge my roommate for half of rent and cleaning costs?

Q: My roommate and I have been living in this apartment for the past three years. Last year, she got laid off, and we made an arrangement that she would handle most of the housework and in exchange pay 25 percent of the rent while I pay 75 percent of the rent. We recently had a major argument, and she has decided not to do any more cleaning. So now I want to hire a house cleaner, charge my roommate for 50 percent of the rent plus the cost of the house cleaner. Can I do this?

A: Since you use the term "arrangement," we assume this agreement between you and your roommate was never documented in writing. A verbal agreement is generally enforceable, but the lack of a written version means that you and you roommate may well disagree about the exact terms of the arrangement. This type of situation is why we always recommend that these type of agreements between roommates be documented in writing. Assuming you can prove the agreement existed, you could enforce it in a small claims action against your roommate, but taking her to court will require you to expend time and energy, and it will almost certainly cause further damage to your relationship. If the relationship totally breaks down, the next step will depend on whether both of you signed the rental agreement with the landlord or whether only one of you is on the rental agreement and the other is a "subtenant." When both of you are on the rental agreement, only the landlord can evict one or both of you. If only one of you is on the agreement, the person on the agreement would have to pursue the eviction against the subtenant. All of these approaches generate unhappy consequences, so our strongest advice to you is to contact the local mediation program in your area. A mediator can bring both you and your roommate together under conditions that are neutral and convenient. Mediation would allow you to look for ways to repair your relationship or at least mutually agree on a peaceful resolution.

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Project Sentinel provides landlord-tenant dispute resolution and fair-housing services in Northern California, including 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, email info@housing.org or visit housing.org.

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