Tenants are informed of 2 complaining neighbors, one for marijuana smoke, and one was for spitting over the balcony over a balcony. Both complaints were taken seriously by the tenants and behaviors were stopped. Now the landlord has served tenants with a summons for eviction. What are legal rights for tenants? The tenants have a 10 month lease and have paid on time. The rental check was returned for February
This is a difficult question, perhaps without a good practical answer. If they want to fight the possible eviction, they should get an attorney to represent them and force the landlord to prove in an eviction proceeding that they violated the lease terms EVEN ONCE, and to bring witnesses and/or affidavits of the neighbors, and point to the terms of the lease which they said were violated.
Keep sending rent checks, and if they are returned, have them endorsed over to the attorney's escrow (trust account) for the benefit of the landlord. I assume this is private, not public housing, which has stricter rules over tenant behavior.
Faced with an actual eviction proceeding where the landlord has to PROVE this stuff, and the other complaining tenants might not like to be involved (complainants like this who are more busybodies than people who are actually annoyed, like noise or party complaints tend to not want to out themselves and are more passive/aggressive), and the costs and hassle of an eviction proceeding, the landlord might rethink his opposition.
And I think you'd have a 50:50 chance of having a sympathetic judge, most are tenant-oriented, unless the landlord can prove real damages or non-payment of rent.
By the way, you are Californians in Santa Rosa: was the marijunana user a state-legal user of medical marijuana with an current recommendation and id card? Although public use or use in this situation is probably never a good idea, the fact that the behavior wasn't as outright illegal as it is in many states would be relevant and pose an additional hurdle for the landlord.
Personally, I'd be inclined to fight the landlord, just to fight fire with fire. I think you have a pretty good chance of winning and the aggravation and entertainment factor to the landlord would be enjoyable. The worse that can happen is eviction anyway, and the tenants are certainly going to be looking for a new place at the end of the lease term. I wouldn't expect to get the security deposit back and the last month's rent is presumably paid in advance.
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Land Use / Zoning Attorney
How this is handled will depend both on the lease agreement and CA tenant/landlord law. You should certainly consider retaining an attorney to prevent being evicted. You should also inform yourself by reviewing the lease terms. Check the lease for the following:
1. What does the lease says about nuisance? Does it include or define that word ? And if so, does that term seem to include/cover the "problem" activities, or not? If the marijuana smoking/use was illegal it may well consititute a nuisance (that term is usually defined to include illegal activity). However, there is a question of whether the nuisance remains actionable once the activity has been abated (ceased).
2. Also, check the lease to see what it takes under the lease terms to get evicted. What does it say has to happen for the landlord to evict? Check any sections headed "default." In some cases there is an opportunity to "cure," or fix aproblem before you get evicted.
Real Estate Attorney
I agree with the posts from counsel and will also add that you should check for any addendum to the lease re marijuana use as these are very common in Northern California, if use of same is strictly prohibited and if the Landlord can establish that, it is possible that the violation is not a curable breach under CCP 1161(4). Generally it will require evidence that this was not a single incident. Good luck.
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