I Think My Landlord Is Crazy, Do I Need To Move Out?

Dave’s at SF Appeal to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com, here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

So here’s the deal. I just moved to Lafayette to a unit sight unseen from across the country. Gotta do what you gotta do, right?

I offered to do all the paperwork necessary weeks before I moved, but the landlord declined, saying I could just move into the unit when I got here. Risky, but I went for it, and moved in June of this year.

The rental is basically half of a house, bordered from the rest of the house with a door in the kitchen. There are two mini-fridges, tiny stove and a bar sink to serve as a kitchen. I’m glad i don’t need a hot plate.

The landlord is a retired military (navy) man and is a Romney supporter, I know this’ not through conversations, but because we share a mailbox. He has a tenuous grasp of reality. He will leave me these nasty notes on the door, telling me to move my moving truck, or sign a rental application (threatening eviction), the latest is that he wanted $25 to do a credit check, and he held a delivery of mine, insinuating that I couldn’t have my package until I got him a credit report.

It’s month to month rental, and a fairly boilerplate lease (more of a form). So I’m just wondering what I should do. It’s obviously not bad enough to warrant moving out, but it is annoying and illegal.

Additionally, I have zero property history here besides this tenancy. Finding another place will be difficult without a good local reference, so I don’t want to burn this particular bridge.

Welcome to California. As a new resident of our lovely state you need to understand that you have very few rights as a tenant despite the fact that we are considered to be one of the more progressive states in the field. If you have to drive though a tunnel to get to San Francisco, the chances are about 100 to 1 that you don’t have local rent control to strengthen your tenant rights.

It’s usually a bad idea to live in the same building as your landlord, much less the same unit. Why? Because most landlords think they own you. They think they can control “Every breath you take; And every move you make; Every bond you break, every step you take; I’ll be watching you.” Like in the song by the Police, some landlords can be conflicted about the control they want to exert. They want the drama, the interaction, and they just really want you to love them. It’s, like, stalker fucked up. Sound familiar?

Your landlord cannot demand a credit check now because you already live in the unit. The purpose of a credit check is to determine if you are eligible to rent. So you can tell the Admiral to go to hell on that one.

Tampering with the mail is a federal offense. You can let Captain Queeg know that you will report him to a postal inspector if he continues to do so.

Finally, it is likely that you are living in an illegal unit. I’ll bet any amount of dough that the landlord did not get building permits to divide the house in half.

So what would be bad enough to warrant moving out? Does the landlord have to demand that you swab the the poop deck at four bells every day to get you to consider getting out.

Here’s what I would do. First I would call the City of Lafayette Code Enforcement Department and ask for an inspection to determine if the construction dividing the house is illegal. Then I’d give thirty days notice to vacate. Finally, I’d get all my evidence together to sue the landlord when he refuses to return the security deposit (if you have one.)

The bridge you don’t want to burn is a bridge to nowhere. You were never going to get a good reference from Captain Ahab anyway. Time to find some metaphorical gasoline.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

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