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Old 11-02-2011, 06:10 PM
 
2 posts, read 10,173 times
Reputation: 12

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Hello,

I rented an "apartment" from a landlord in Venice, CA, and he is not returning my security deposit. I am trying to retain a lawyer because the about I can sue for is more than the limit allowable by small claims court ($8700), but am having a difficult time finding a lawyer to help me.

My question now is regarding the requirement of a certificate of occupancy. The dwelling I rented was a detached garage. The upper portion was closed off and converted into a loft space by the landlord himself. Due to his lack of character, I have serious doubts that he acquired proper permits for that space. I saw a few cases online where tenants sued landlords in similar situations because the landlord didn't have a proper inspection done and certificate of occupancy.

Does anyone know the law on this? When is a certificate required?

I think that if I could sue him for this, I'd have a much better chance of getting a lawyer to take my case since $25k+ is much more appealing than $8k.

Any help is appreciated.

Thanks!
Andie
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:37 PM
 
Location: L.A./Pismo Beach
335 posts, read 668,800 times
Reputation: 559
Contact the L.A. Dept. of Building & Safety. The can give you a definite answer.
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Old 11-03-2011, 08:21 AM
 
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,671 posts, read 60,036,631 times
Reputation: 26566
Regardless of whether or not the apartment is legal, your figures are confusing. A LL in CA is bound by law to charge a maximum security deposit of twice the monthly rent for an unfurnished apartment and three times the monthly rent for a furnished unit. Where does the figure of $27K come from?

You can be "made whole" in court but in cases such as this you can't make a profit. If you're banking on a CA statute which gives a judge an option to give an award of 3X the security deposit, be aware that this is a discretionary judgement which is only given in the most extenuating circumstances and certainly not because you might be able to provide proof that the apartment you rented is an illegal dwelling. IF a plaintiff were awarded additional damages which would bring the total amount above the Small Claims court maximum this makes no difference. The case as it stands is still held in Small Claims.

Your LL is required to return your security deposit to you within 30 days of quit. He's required to account for any deductions taken from it and provide receipts for same. If he doesn't do so you can file suit against him. This you seem to know but I'm not sure that you understand the reality of what you can actually collect. Good luck.
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Old 11-03-2011, 08:57 AM
 
912 posts, read 4,427,084 times
Reputation: 2029
A few questions OP..

1) Why is the LL keeping your security deposit? Did you trash the place? Did you put holes in walls? Do you owe back rent? What is the reason that you are not disclosing?

2) I highly doubt that the law you are thinking about is a "get-free-money-from-your-landlord" law as it seems you understand it.

Fight the case based on the merits, and NOT as a pay-day with dollar signs on your eyes for Christ sakes.

(this is just my interpretation of the original post, we don't have whole story here)
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Old 11-03-2011, 12:17 PM
 
192 posts, read 755,539 times
Reputation: 215
This sounds like a money grab attempt to me. I am usually on the side of the tenant when it comes to security deposits, but this doesn't really sound like it's about security deposits at all. The question seems more like "what's the best way I can sue my landlord for the most money?"

You seemed to have lived in these conditions for your lease and had no problems with them then. If it was such a big deal, when you first saw the space you were renting, why did you not bring it up with the landlord then? Habitability issues are an entirely separate matter from what you initially started talking about, the security deposit. You had the opportunity during your tenancy to address the habitability of the unit, notify the landlord to fix any habitability issues or quit, or to write a letter to your local county office to alert them to the building code violations. Instead you are taking the passive aggressive girlfriend approach, sitting on the issue and saying nothing until you had another issue with the landlord (the security deposit), then bringing the habitability issue up to try to make your case stronger.

As far as the security deposit goes, you signed a contract, I'm assuming, stating that you agree to return the unit in the same condition you received it in. In CA the landlord also has 21 days to return the security deposit or an itemized statement to you for any fixes that needed to be made to restore the unit to pre-tenant condition (wear and tear excepted) after your move out. Did he send you the security deposit or an itemized statement within 21 days? Did you damage the unit? Are the charges listed on the statement reasonable, and do you have proof if they're not?

If the landlord just never sent you your deposit or an itemized statement within 21 days, it becomes pretty simple. If you have photos that you left the unit nice and clean and in good condition, even better. If he didn't send either of those things to you in 21 days after your moveout, send him a certified letter asking for your full deposit back because the landlord violated Civil Code Section 1950.5. Ask for a response time of up to about 10 days after receipt. Wait a few weeks. If there is no response, send a second letter asking for the full deposit again, and noting that if you do not hear from him within 7 days of receipt of this letter (tracked by certified mail) that you will be taking him to small claims court. After those 7 days are up, fill out your small claims forms and send them in. Get assigned a date. Bring all the evidence you have related to your security deposit to the court: what you paid as a security deposit and that you left the unit in clean and good condition, the same way you received it (hopefully this is true).

Explain that you held up your end of the contract, giving proper notice to leave the unit and leaving the unit in good condition. Explain that the landlord is keeping your deposit in bad faith, and that you have not received either your deposit back or your itemized statement of charges within 21 days. Explain that you sent two letters asking for simply the return of the full amount of the regular deposit and nothing more, and that you tried to work things out amicably. The landlord wasn't interested in following the law, so you had no choice but to bring him here to small claims. You can ask for 2-3 times the deposit but really, don't get too greedy. Basically show the judge you kept your end of the contract, and you simply are asking the landlord to hold up his end and he's not being cooperative.

Leave the habitability thing out of it. The judge is not going to care, as it is a case of the security deposit only. You could consult with a lawyer on the habitability issue, but in my eyes you lived there the whole time of your lease and had no issue with it until you needed to use it as leverage for another case. Seems like a waste of time. Collect your security deposit back, if you're lucky enough to have the situation above, and move on.
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Old 01-13-2015, 07:13 AM
 
1 posts, read 5,623 times
Reputation: 10
Quick question for you all. We rented for a period of 28 months from a landlord that than moved us to another house of theirs for an additional 16 months. We moved out of the property due to the fact that the landlord moved on to the same property as the house that we were renting, and after moving there they continue to invade our personal space, which we paid rent for, and started to pushing us out. We choose to move. After moving it was brought to our attention that the landlord had no right to rent us either place on this property due to the fact that they did not have a certified certificate of occupancy. Are we in the right to file a complaint against them for renting to us knowing that they did not have a certificate of occupancy the whole time they were collecting rent from us? We are talking about the fact that if this was discovered by our county we could have been removed from our home, a home that we paid good rent for each month...the total of rent paid over the period of time that we lived in this persons property is well over 45,000.
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Old 01-13-2015, 07:26 AM
 
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,671 posts, read 60,036,631 times
Reputation: 26566
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdwestjr View Post
Are we in the right to file a complaint against them for renting to us knowing that they did not have a certificate of occupancy the whole time they were collecting rent from us?
You can sue for anything but in this case your chances of having your rent returned are zero. Courts only make you "whole". You paid rent and you lived there and that's pretty much the end of the story. If you were removed while living there you wouldn't be entitled to receive back any rent, only to be legally released from your lease without penalty.
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Old 01-13-2015, 09:48 AM
 
4,787 posts, read 9,610,707 times
Reputation: 12652
If you live in what becomes determined an illegal apartment the courts will not reimburse you for back rent. That just doesn't happen.

If the court has any inclination it will fine the landlord for the apartment or make him remove it. It will not act for any tenant benefit as far as back rent is concerned.
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Old 01-13-2015, 01:30 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
16,748 posts, read 41,986,262 times
Reputation: 9278
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdwestjr View Post
Quick question for you all. We rented for a period of 28 months from a landlord that than moved us to another house of theirs for an additional 16 months. We moved out of the property due to the fact that the landlord moved on to the same property as the house that we were renting, and after moving there they continue to invade our personal space, which we paid rent for, and started to pushing us out. We choose to move. After moving it was brought to our attention that the landlord had no right to rent us either place on this property due to the fact that they did not have a certified certificate of occupancy. Are we in the right to file a complaint against them for renting to us knowing that they did not have a certificate of occupancy the whole time they were collecting rent from us? We are talking about the fact that if this was discovered by our county we could have been removed from our home, a home that we paid good rent for each month...the total of rent paid over the period of time that we lived in this persons property is well over 45,000.
The fact that there was no Certificate of Occupancy does not in itself harm you as the tenant in any way, unless you end up being forced to move out early because it came to the attention of the building code officials. No harm, no damages, nothing to sue for.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:42 PM
 
Location: North Idaho
23,787 posts, read 30,560,092 times
Reputation: 47502
A couple of points, OP.

Many communities in Southern California allow garage conversions, because of the housing shortage. So just becasue it was a garage conversion does not mean it was illegal.

If you can't find a lawyer to take your case, believe me, you don't have a case. The lawyer doesn't care about the amount of teh case, because he will be billing you by the hour. If a lawyer thought you could win $25,000 in damages, he would have told you.

If the apartment were illegal, you still don't have any damages. You paid rent and in exchange you got to live in the space you paid for.

If you think you are owed deposit money back, take your landlord to small claims court. You do not need a lawyer to go to small claims court. However, you will need proof of your claims. Receipts and good clear photos of what the unit looked like when you moved in and what it looked like when you moved out.
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