The Cross Law Firm's Landlord Law Blog

March 31, 2010

Written Complaint Policy

This is the 3rd part of my blog series about dealing with threatening and violent residents.

Image of Complaint BoxAnother policy I have found helpful in minimizing resident aggression towards management or on site employees is to require all non-emergency resident complaints to be in writing, placed in a complaint drop box and forwarded to the owner, management company or the attorney for appropriate handling.

This policy does several things:

1)  A written resident complaint policy with a drop box reduces managers or onsite employees from having to receive face to face complaints from residents that can often lead to escalating tempers and aggressive behavior by the resident towards the employee. The face-to-face encounter typically places the manager in a defensive position, which can be uncomfortable and problematic.

2) This policy takes (or appears to take) the decision-making regarding the handling of resident complaints out of the manager or on site employee’s control. Therefore the manager can “pass the buck” that the owner and/or attorney makes the decision on how a particular complaint is handled and can appear to be only a messenger of the complaints. Whether or not the manager actually makes the decision on how to handle the complaint is irrelevant, it is the appearance that the manager is not making the decision that is important. This may help alleviate resident backlash against the manager or on-site employee. Furthermore, the statement that all complaints will be handled “appropriately” depending on the circumstance, means that each complaint will be reviewed and a determination will be made as to which actions, if any, will be taken. It does not promise that every complaint will receive a response nor will every complaint receive action.

3)  Requiring that all resident complaints be in writing, signed and dated can help reduce notice issues where the resident claims they gave verbal notice of the problem or complaint to the management.

* For specific inquiries regarding a threatening/violent tenant you may have, you’re welcome to visit my California Landlord – Tenant legal services page.

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March 24, 2010

Zero Tolerance Policy: For Threatening/Harassing Behavior

This is the 2nd part of my blog series about dealing with threatening and violent residents.

Threatening TenantMost mobilehome communities already have a conduct or behavior provision in their rules and regulations prohibiting certain behavior by residents, including substantially annoying behavior, which is specifically addressed in the Mobilehome Residency Law.  This conduct rule typically does not specifically address harassing, abusive, threatening behavior towards community management or employees. I recommend placing a separate provision in your rules and regulations in addition to the more general “conduct” rule. This provision should state that any type of harassing, abusive, threatening or violent behavior towards management or other employees is prohibited, the community has a zero tolerance policy for violence against its employees and this type of behavior constitutes a substantial annoyance. This more specific provision in the rules is helpful if the community decides to serve the abusive resident with a notice for a rule violation or if/when the community terminates the resident’s tenancy based upon this behavior.

* For specific inquiries regarding a threatening/violent tenant you may have, you’re welcome to visit my California Landlord – Tenant legal services page.


March 17, 2010

Threatening and Violent Residents: Keeping the Workplace Safe from Violence (Part 1)

When a current client approached me about a violent resident in a mobilehome community a few days ago, I thought an appropriate topic to address in a blog series would be resident threats or abusive behavior towards management and other mobilehome community employees. Unfortunately this is far too common of an occurrence in our industry. With the employer having a legal requirement to provide a safe working environment for employees and the increasing liability for failing to protect employees from known or foreseeable dangers, community owners as employers cannot take any threat of violence or aggressive behavior by a resident towards an employee lightly.

This blog series is intended to assist owners of mobilehome communities in minimizing threatening situations towards employees as well as providing options to handle a threatening or abusive resident. The majority of this blog is applicable to all owners or managers of residential properties, but please keep in mind there may be some differences in the notice requirements and rule provisions between general landlord-tenant law and those that govern mobilehome tenancies.

Also keep in mind as you read this blog that every situation has a unique set of facts and which measures, if any, are appropriate, depends on the severity of the threat and the particular facts of that situation. Please consult your legal counsel with the facts of your particular situation to determine which of these options, if any, are appropriate. With that said, I will be posting weekly suggestions on ways to minimize threatening situations before they occur.

* For specific inquiries regarding a violent tenant you may have, your welcome to visit my California Landlord – Tenant legal services page.

March 10, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 4)

This is the conclusion of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants.

These laws recognize that a manufactured home community is a business establishment and owners have a legitimate, non-discriminatory interest in renting to individuals who will timely pay the rent and who will obey the rules of the community. Whether or not an individual has a disability should not play a role in this determination. These laws insure that owners of rental properties make business decisions based on legitimate, non-discriminatory factors only, and not on the basis of arbitrary physical or mental disabilities of which an individual cannot control. What owners and managers must and cannot do regarding disabled individuals may seem overwhelming.

This blog series is not designed to scare owners or managers into thinking they absolutely have to rent to a disabled individual or make all requested modifications or accommodations to comply with these laws. The purpose of the disability laws is not to give more benefits to disabled individuals in the rental arena, but simply to insure that disabled individuals receive equal access and enjoyment to the rental premises.

* For specific inquiries regarding a disabled tenant you may have, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

March 4, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants focusing  on DISCRIMINATION IN RENTING.

In addition to failing to make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals to equally use and enjoy the premises, owners and managers need to be aware that they are prohibited from discriminating against disabled individuals in all aspects of renting based on the fact that the individual is disabled. Discrimination means treating individuals unequally due to their disability, to their perceived disability or due to their association with a disabled individual. Unlawful discrimination can occur in various ways, including, but not limited to, refusing to rent to a disabled individual, imposing additional rental terms, denying certain rental privileges, charging higher rent, limiting access to the premises or common areas, or terminating the tenancy.

Who is a disabled individual under the federal and state disability laws? Under state and federal law, a disability is one that impairs a “major life activity” such as performing normal household chores, walking, hearing or seeing. The impairment can be of a physical or mental nature and includes such conditions as physical handicaps, disfigurements, disease, mental disabilities, mental retardation, emotional or mental illness, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV status, just to name a few. Certain impairments, however, have been determined not to be disabilities entitled to protections under federal and state law. These impairments include sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania and current substance abuse. Be careful, however.

The California Unruh Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, is very broad in its protection. This act also prohibits communities from discriminating against individuals for “arbitrary characteristics,” which could include several disabilities or perceived disabilities not commonly categorized. Also note that discrimination can occur without the individual actually having a protected disability if that individual is perceived as having a disability and unlawfully discriminated against because of the perceived disability.

Penalties for discrimination As an owner or manager of a manufactured home community, you must be aware of these laws and your responsibilities because these laws impose fines and penalties for non-compliance. An individual who is unlawfully discriminated against in the renting arena or who is not afforded reasonable accommodations under these laws can be awarded actual damages incurred, embarrassment and emotional distress damages, statutory damages of three times the amount of actual damages, injunctive relief, and in some circumstances, even punitive (punishment) damages are available. Both owners and managers have liability for discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Owners may be held responsible for the discriminatory acts of their managers whether these acts were negligent, intentional, or directly against community policy or orders. If the act of the manager was authorized or ratified by the owner, the owner may face punitive damages. Managers also face individual liability for their discriminatory acts, even if they were following orders of the owner. Therefore, establish fair rental policies, train managers on these policies, adequately supervise managers and discipline any violation of these policies.

* For specific inquiries regarding a discrimination in renting, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

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