Recent Passage of Landlord/Tenant Laws

By Laurel Champion

April 1, 2013

Several new laws were recently passed and made effective January 1, 2013, in the landlord/tenant relations arena. Brief summaries of these changes are as follows:

1. The first law eases the escrow requirement for a seller's 30-day notice to terminate tenancy:

Presently, existing law requires that a landlord give a month-to-month tenant, who has resided in a residence for a year or more, a 60-day notice to terminate the tenancy. However, if the landlord enters into a contract to sell, a 30-day notice to terminate tenancy is sufficient as long as six requirements expressly set forth in the CAR standard form Notice of Termination of Tenancy are met. One of these six requirements is that the landlord opens escrow with an escrow company licensed by the Department of Corporations or a licensed real estate broker. The new law adds to this component and now also requires an escrow with a title insurer or underwritten title company (codified as California Civil Code § 1946.1).

2. The second law allows for electronic handling of security deposits after tenancy termination:

After either the landlord or tenant provides notice to terminate the tenancy, the parties can then mutually agree as follows:

(i) That the landlord will deposit any remaining unused portion of the security deposit electronically to a bank account designated by the tenant, and

(ii) That the landlord will provide a copy of the itemized statement and any required copies to an email account provided by the tenant.

3. The third law gives more detailed direction with respect to disposing of abandoned personal property valued at less than $700:

Per Cal. Civil Code §§ 1946.1, 1950.5, and 1983, et seq., if a tenant leaves behind personal property with a total resale value between $300 and $700 after terminating tenancy, the landlord must sell that property at public auction - rather than, as before, merely retaining for his or her own use or disposing of it in any manner. This law also prohibits a landlord from assessing any storage costs if the tenant reclaims personal property within two days of vacating the premises. The statutory notices of right to reclaim abandoned property have been revised to reflect these changes.

In addition to sending this notice to a former tenant by first-class mail as directed, a landlord may also send the notice by email if the former tenant provided the landlord with the tenant's email address.

Lastly, a landlord's notices of termination of tenancy and pre-move out inspection must contain specified language providing that former tenants may reclaim abandoned personal property left on the premises - subject to certain conditions.

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