can a tenant withold rent

As a Tenant, can you Legally Withhold Rent

can a tenant withold rent

The relationship between tenants and their landlords can be complicated. Often what one person in the relationship thinks of as fair, the other considers the short end of the stick. It’s not unusual for tenants to get so fed up with a landlord, that they decide to force the landlord into taking action by withholding rent. While withholding rent until repairs have been made is allowed, in California, the laws surrounding the decision are complicated.

When can a Tenant Withhold Rent

H&S §17920.3 which is also called California’s State Housing Law, is a law that has been adapted by nearly all of California’s cities as well as the state’s legislators. The law clearly stipulates the minimum requirements the landlords must do with regards to things like:

  • Overall condition of the structures on the property
  • Heating/cooling systems
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation

Additional California state law, Civil Codes § 1941.1 and § 1941.3 stipulates the bare minimum amenities the landlord must provide each of their tenants. Issues addressed by Civil Codes § 1941.1 and § 1941.3 include:

  • Weather protection
  • Plumbing
  • Maintenance for basic safety features including floors, rails, and stairways
  • Sanitary issues (including trash receptacles, rodent control, and debris removal)
  • Locks for doors and windows

If the minimum requirements laid out in H&S §17920.3 and Civil Codes § 1941.1 and § 1941.3 aren’t meant, the tenant should contact the landlord and make them aware of the situation. If the landlord doesn’t respond or make any effort to bring the building up to code, the tenant can choose to withhold rent until something gets done to bring the building up to code. However, before you stop paying your rent, there are few legal technicalities you need to be aware of.

Hoops Tenants Have to Jump Through Before They can Legally Withhold Rent in California

You can’t simply decide that you’re going to withhold your rent until your landlord takes care of a problem that you’ve been complaining about. The California court system has some requirements you have to meet first.

These requirements include:

You have to prove that the repair you require is in clear violation of H&S §17920.3, Civil Codes § 1941.1 or § 1941.3 You can’t withhold rent simply because you’re annoyed about something. When you decide to withhold rent, you have to be able to prove to the court that:

  • You weren’t the cause of the problem.
  • That the problem is clearly a health or safety hazard
  • That you reported the issue to your landlord and also provided them with a reasonable deadline for making the repair, a deadline that they blatantly ignored. The amount of time to provide the landlord to correct the problem often depends on the problem itself. For some repairs, the state of California allows the landlord up to a month to repair the issue, but for other issues, such as a broken door or window lock, the problem needs to be corrected right away.

When you decide that you are going to withhold rent in order to get repairs done on the property, you should be prepared for your landlord to react badly. They may even try to evict you. If this happens, you’ll need to appear in court and provide the judge with evidence that you adhered to all local laws.

Before withholding rent, you need to contact the local court system for your county or city. Different cities have different rules about rent. It’s not unheard of for a city to require the rent that you’re not paying the landlord be directed to a city escrow account.

child custody laws in california

California’s Views on Child Custody

child custody laws in california

California family court doesn’t care if whether you married the person you share a child (or children) with, the court’s first concern is setting up a formal situation that allows the child to spend time with both parents. Ideally you and your co-parent are still on good enough terms that you’re able to sit down together and work out a system for sharing custody of any children you share.

Once you’ve worked out an agreement, you can take it to the court and they’ll generally honor the setup. At this point the court takes the plan and turns it into a formal visitation and custody order. Once the court has been involved, the order is enforceable.

Issues Covered in Enforceable Custody and Visitation Orders

By the time the formal child custody order is drafted, both parents will not only know what days and times that they’ll have their child/children during the week, were the child spends birthdays, holidays, and school vacations will also be addressed. To help reduce arguments, the court order will also include a clause about which parent is responsible for transporting the child to visitation sites, school, and even extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, school sporting events, and 4-H club meetings.

Depending on how the parents get along, the court may opt to choose a neutral point for drop offs and pick up, which is another issue that will be addressed in the enforceable custody and visitation order.

Both parents will receive a copy of the enforceable custody and visitation order, which should be set up in a safe spot. It’s not unusual for the parents to also give a copy of the order to babysitters, teachers, and any one else who might need to know which parent the children are supposed to go with on a particular day.

What Happens When a Parent Ignores an Enforceable Custody and Visitation Orders

Despite the California Court’s best efforts to keep things as amicable and organized for the estranged parents as possible, sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as they should and one of the parents rebels against the enforceable custody order. What the angry parent doesn’t always understand is that once the order has been filed with the court, it’s legally binding. The parent is not allowed to ignore it just because they don’t like the terms. Violating the custody order is the same as breaking any other law in the state of California. For example, taking you child on a day that isn’t one that the child is supposed to be with you can result in a kidnapping charge.

Parents who violate the custody order can expect a summons to appear before a judge. In some cases, the summons comes in the form of the police showing up at your home or place of work and hauling you to jail. Based on how badly you violated the custody agreement, a judge can deny you all access to your kids and even sentence to a long-term jail sentence.

You can find additional information about custody and visitation orders at the California Courts official website.

camping laws in california

Camping in California

camping laws in california

When you travel the U.S., you get to experience what each state has to offer. You also have to be aware of the laws in each state since not all of the states are the same. While you’re traveling through California, you may feel like camping out instead of stopping at a hotel. This is a great opportunity for you to really experience the nature of the state. However, you can’t just camp wherever you want in California.

Unlike other states, California has rules when it comes to experiencing the great outdoors. States like Arizona give folks the freedom to camp anywhere they can put up a tent. Of course there are a few laws regarding camping in Arizona, but they are a lot more lenient than California’s. California has designated camping areas and these campsites are usually by, or within, national parks.

If you want to get away from people, and a campground doesn’t sound appealing, there is another option for you. In certain areas you are allowed to participate in dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is where there are designated areas for camping among the wilderness.

Other things to know about camping in California are the rules surrounding campfires. You can’t just start up a bonfire on the beach wherever you like. Campfires have to be in designated containers, or areas. They must be attended and watched over at all times. They also must be completely put out when you leave your campsite. This means that every time you leave to go to the store and no one is at the campsite, you must completely put the fire out.

If you’re worried about bringing your furry companion, don’t stress. Dogs are more than welcomed to camp along with you. As long as you pick up after your dog, and your dog is on its leash or under control. Your dog can be considered a nuisance if there is any uncontrollable barking.

Camping is great time to get to know the area you’re in a little bit better. With the smell of a campfire, good company, and a starry night away from the city, camping out is sometimes the best vacation you can have. Camping out can give you an experience that a hotel room can’t. Being able to experience the nature of the world around you makes obeying all of the camping rules worth it.

mitigated dui vs aggivated dui laws

Understanding Mitigated vs. Aggravated DUI Charges in California

mitigated dui vs aggivated dui laws

It’s no secret that California takes drinking and driving seriously. If your blood alcohol content is 0.08%or higher, you’re considered legally intoxicated. If you get pulled over, you will be hauled to the nearest county or city jail and you will have to appear in court.

What many California drivers don’t know, is that each judge in California has been provided with a set of guidelines that they consult whenever they’re hearing a DUI case. The judge can choose how they use the guidelines. Therefore, some people seem to get punished much more severely for a DUI offense than other people.

Factors the sitting judge considers when your DUI case goes before them include:

  • How far over the legal limit your BAC was when you were pulled over
  • The reason you were pulled over
  • What your driving and criminal record is like

Two words frequently heard during DUI cases are mitigating and aggravated. The judge isn’t the only person who will use those particular words. Be prepared for the prosecutor to throw them around whenever they meet with you and discuss the possibility of accepting a plea bargain.

Mitigating vs. Aggravating

During your DUI case, you want to hear the judge use the word mitigating. Whenever this word is bandied around it indicates that the judge is leaning towards a fairly lenient sentencing for you DUI case. It also means that the judge feels there were some outside circumstances that led to you being behind the wheel after you’d been drinking.

One of the most common reasons that the judge will opt for a mitigating charge is because the driver mixed prescription drugs with alcohol without realizing that by doing so, they were sending their BAC level way higher than it would normally be.

Other factors that some judges use while trying to decide if the driver should be found guilty of mitigated DUI or aggravated DUI include:

  • If the defendant has a good employment history
  • If they’re a good student
  • If they’re an active and helpful member of the community
  • If the defendant frequently gets traffic tickets

A charge of aggravated DUI is much more serious. This type of charge brings about harsh penalties, many of which will lower the quality of your life. Things the judge considers before sentencing someone with aggravated DUI include:

  • If you injured or hurt someone while you were under the influence
  • If there was a child in the car with you at the time
  • If you’ve had prior convictions, even if they’re not connected to driving
  • If you were driving well above the speed limit
  • If you were driving recklessly
  • How far above 0,08% your BAC was when you were pulled over and given a breathalyzer test.

Even your conduct while your in court could be the different between a charge of mitigated vs. aggravated DUI.

truancy laws in california

Your Child’s Habit of Skipping School Could Result in You Spending Time in Jail

truancy laws in california

You can tell your kids to go to school, you can even drive them there and watch them enter the building, but at some point, you lose control of their actions. If they decide to sneak out the back door and skip school for the day, there’s not much you can do about it. Right?

The Penalties of Having Truant Children in California

You might think that way, but as one California mom learned, the courts don’t necessarily agree. After her two children missed 116 days of school, a California judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail. The fact that her two children were in second and third grade and that the school had contacted her several times about the number of days they’d missed had a lot to do with why the judge ordered she spend so much time in jail.

Until word got about her arrest, most parents assumed that their child’s habit of cutting classes would result in their child getting punished. Parents didn’t realize they would be the ones who had to face a judge and possibly spend several months in jail.

The traditional method for dealing with a student who constantly skipped classes is that the school banned them from participating in extracurricular activities, they were suspended from classes for a period of time, and if they were habitual offenders, they could be expelled, or held back a grade. There are some places, such as Pima County in Arizona where students who accumulate three unexcused absences in a school year are referred to the Center for Juvenile Alternatives where officials work with both the student and the parents to come up with a system that encourages the student to stay in the class room.

The truancy laws that landed the California mother of two in jail date back to 2011 and were signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. At the time, California’s truancy rate was a staggering 24%.

Jail time is just one of the consequences that goes along with your children skipping school. The court can also order that you pay up to $2,000 in fines. If your child is chronically truant, you could be charged with a misdemeanor.

When is a Truant Child Considered a Problem?

According to California’s truancy laws, a school can consider a student to be truant if they show up more than 30 minutes late for class, or skip the class altogether, for more than 3 school days. These are unexcused absences. The student is considered to be a chronic truant if they miss more than 10% of the overall school year.

While hitting the parents with steep fines and jail time because their child skipped classes might not seem fair, according to one study, when San Francisco parents were held accountable for their children’s school attendance, the number of truant students decreased by 32%.

hermosa beach laws

Weird and Wacky Laws in Hermosa Beach

hermosa beach laws

Just about any city you visit will have at least one strange law that makes you wonder what the city officials were thinking when they passed it. California’s Hermosa Beach has several such laws.

Don’t You Dare Dump Salt on the Street

If you walk down the street sprinkling salt in your wake, don’t be surprised if a Hermosa Beach police officer gets out of their car and wants to talk to you. They might even write a ticket that comes with a rather hefty fine. When it comes to Hermosa Beach streets, the city prohibits you from spilling, dropping, or pouring certain substances on the street, which includes:

  • Salt
  • Rock salt
  • Salt brine
  • Broken glass
  • Petroleum
  • Benzine
  • Oil
  • Any oily substance
  • Chemicals
  • Acid
  • Common Salt

While this law might seem silly, when you dig a little deeper, you discover that the reason it was created was to discourage dumping substances on the streets which could damage cars or the asphalt. The city hopes that having the no salt law in place, they can cut down on the number of repairs they need to make to the city streets.

Leave Your Vehicle Before Changing Clothes

It doesn’t matter if your changing to go to the beach or if you want to change out of your sand filled clothing after you’ve spent the day at the beach, in Hermosa Beach’s zip code, you need to find a real changing place before you strip down. The city has a municipal code that prohibits you from switching from one outfit to the next while in your vehicle. It’s possible that this particular law was created to cut back on the risk of someone getting flashed as a person used their car to change from swim suit to dry clothing.

Respect the Sand

Speaking of spending time on the beach, if you’re in Hermosa Beach’s zip code, you should know that the city is serious about it’s sand. The city has a law that not only makes it illegal to throw sand, but to also throw your blankets and towels around (I have no idea what they do if you’re shaking sand from said towels or blankets). The reason for this particular law is to reduce the risk of injury to others who are sharing the beach with you.

The city also has a law preventing you from taking any sand with you when you leave the beach, so make sure you empty your shoes before you reach the parking lot.

This is just a sample of Hermosa Beach’s wacky municipal codes.

dog leach laws california

California’s Attitude Towards Leashes and Dogs

dog leach laws california

The issue of leashes is a sensitive subject for many dog owners. Some feel that if their dog is well trained, they shouldn’t be required to keep their dog on a leash. Other’s feel that whenever a dog isn’t on the owner’s private property, the animal should be leashed.

The State of California doesn’t have a formal opinion on the topic. Officially, the state doesn’t have any laws that state dogs have to be on a leash. However, before unclipping your leash from your dog’s collar, you need to check with the local government. There are several county, city, and townships that do have very strict rules regarding leashes and dogs. Violating the local rules can land you and your pet in serious trouble.

A perfect example of this is Sacramento County. They have very strict leash ordinances. The only time a dog can legally be off leash is when they have been brought to one of the county’s “off-leash” dog parks or on the owner’s property. The City of Sacramento also has its own set of leash laws.

Don’t assume that just because your dog is on a leash, that you don’t have to worry about getting into any legal trouble. Sacramento insists that the leash be a maximum of six feet long (this means that if you have your dog on an extendable leash, law enforcement officer could write a ticket) and that the dog be under control at all times.

Sacramento County uses Code 9.36.061 (d) when dealing with dog owners who let their dogs run free.

The penalty for having your dog off leash when you’re in an town or county that has leash laws depends on where you are. In most places, you, as the dog owner, will be issued a ticket and a fine. If you don’t pay the fine, the court could opt to file a bench warrant for your arrest, which means that not only will you be arrested if you’re ever stopped by the police (or get caught with your dog off-leash a second time) and have a criminal record.

If your dog bites or otherwise injures someone while they are off leash, you’ll not only be required to pay for the off-leash ticket, you will also be responsible for the injured parties medical bills and could face losing your dog forever.

If you aren’t clear about what the laws are in your county/city, it’s best to keep your pet on a leash until you speak to either a police officer or a court official who is familiar with the local laws and how they pertain to your dog.

dog bite laws california

How California Responds When Your Dog Bites Someone

dog bite laws california

Owning a dog is wonderful, but as a California resident, you need to understand that you are responsible for your dog’s actions, especially if your dog bites someone hard enough to cause an injury.

California’s Strict Liability Laws Regarding Dog Bites

The State of California is one of the few states that enforces “strict liability” laws. This means that no matter what triggered your pet’s behavior, you’re going to be the one blamed for the dog bit injury. The person your dog bit is not only entitled to sue you, but will most likely win a sizeable settlement that covers both their medical bills and their emotional trauma.

Because California has “strict liability” laws you can’t expect to tell a judge that your dog has never behaved that way, never shown any signs of being aggressive, or that the person it bit was antagonizing it and expect to get out of the lawsuit.

The only real exception is if someone is unlawfully on your property when they were bit. Postal workers, delivery people, and friends you’ve invited over are considered lawfully on your property. Trespassers are on your property unlawfully.

What’s Considered a Bite

Just because your dog didn’t break someone’s skin, it doesn’t mean the bit didn’t happen. The dog doesn’t even have to have taken hold of the person to be considered a biter. There have been instances where the dog grabbed onto a person’s clothing, causing them to fall or trip, the resulting injuries were still considered dog bite related, and the owner was forced to pay the resulting medical bills.

Unlike other states that allow a dog to have one free bite, California’s courts don’t care about the animal’s history. However, once your dog has bitten someone, the California judicial system can step in and tell you want you can and can’t do with your dog. California law makers believe that as the owner of a dog who now has a history of biting, you’re obligated to take steps to ensure that the dog never attacks someone else. In some instances, the court has told the owner of a dog that’s bitten someone that they had to find a new location for the dog, or that the dog must be put to sleep.

The best way to ensure that you and your dog have a long and happy future together that doesn’t include a long and costly court trial is by keeping your dog leashed and under control whenever you’re both in public, making sure it’s properly socialized, and really paying attention to it’s body language when someone approaches your dog.

gps laws in california

Using GPS in California Could Result in Legal Trouble

gps laws in california

Very few of us even carry a map in the car with us. Why would we when GPS is so much more accurate and gives us directions while we actually drive. As wonderful as GPS devices are, if you’re driving in California and using one, you need to be careful.

Like most states, California has clear rules about doing things like calling a friend up while you’re driving or sending text messages. Getting caught doing either of those things can result in a hefty ticket. Until January 2017, GPS’s devices were different. You were free to key in all sorts of information into them even while you were zipping down the highway. That’s no longer the case.

In January 2017, laws about the legal use of GPS devices went into effect. The good news is that you’re still allowed to use you GPS unit, you just have to be careful.

Keep it Out of Your Hands

If an officer catches you holding a GPS device while you’re driving, they can and will pull you over and issue a ticket. Having it in your hands, whether it’s because you’re trying to read something on the screen or because you’re trying to enter an address into it is considered distracted driving. If you have to pick up the GPS device for some reason, pull off the road to do so.

Make Sure It’s Swipeable

The one time you are allowed to touch your GPS is when you’re turning the unit on or off, provided you can do so in one smooth motion while still keeping your eyes on the road and one hand on the road, which basically means you’re limited to swipeable devices.

Voice Activated is Perfect

If you don’t like the idea of having to pull off the road each time you want to enter a new location into your GPS devices, you’d better exchange your current unit with one that is voice activated.

As of yet, there aren’t any laws regulating the way you use a GPS unit that comes pre-installed in your vehicle.

Penalties for Getting Stopped While Handling a GPS Unit

The most obvious side effect of getting pulled over while using a portable GPS unit while driving is that you’ll get ticketed for distracted driving. Not only does this mean a fine, but can also lead to significantly higher insurance premiums. If there’s a bench warrant for your arrest or if you do something to irritate the traffic patrol officer, you may be arrested.

ignoring mandatory evacuation laws

The Consequences of Ignoring a Mandatory Evacuation

ignoring mandatory evacuation laws

Last year, California had a rash of wildfires that resulted in the police ordering a large number of mandatory evacuations. The idea of these mandatory evacuations is that it keeps people safe and allows emergency crews to focus on handling problems rather than saving people’s lives.

The problem is that there are several people who seem to think that a mandatory evacuation is actually a voluntary thing, so they stay at home. The Journal of Transportation Engineering did one study and was surprised to learn that when an evacuation became mandatory, the number of people who left their homes only increased by 6%. Some of the reasons people give for not obeying the order to evacuate their homes include:

  • They didn’t want to leave their pets behind
  • A disability made it impossible for them to leave
  • Lack of transportation
  • Failure to hear the order
  • They didn’t think the conditions were bad enough to justify leaving
  • Obviously, some of these excuses are more reasonable than others.

    Laws have been created that really do give the government (local and state) the right to tell you that you do have to leave you home. Once the order is given, law enforcement officers are well within their rights to force you to leave. If you’re ever in an area when there is a mandatory evacuation that you choose to ignore, you should know that by ignoring the order, you could get into serious trouble. If you’re caught, a police officer could remove you from your house and take you to jail.

    Even if your decision to ignore the mandatory evacuation doesn’t result in your arrest, you’ll face misdemeanor charges and could be charged up to $1,000. If the judge is feeling particularly cranky or if your actions led to someone getting hurt, you may also be ordered to spend up to 6 months in jail.

    If you try to fight an official who is attempting to get you out of your home after you’ve willfully ignored a mandatory evacuation, you will face another $1,000 fine and could spend up to a full year in prison.

    Entering an area that has been roped off during a natural disaster is another thing that can result in your being charged with a misdemeanor.

    In the long run, it’s going to be less stressful and cheaper to obey the mandatory evacuation.