Landlords who are roommates don't need 'good cause' to evict tenant

Thursday September 19, 2002

Q: I own my home in Berkeley, and I would like to share it with a roommate. Will I have trouble getting rid of the roommate if things don’t work out? 

A: A landlord who is at least a 50 percent owner of a property that he or she occupies as a principal residence, and who shares a kitchen or bathroom with a tenant, is not subject to the Berkeley Rent Ordinance. If you meet those criteria, you do not need good cause to evict a tenant. You are still bound by state law, however, so if you have a month-to-month agreement with your tenant, he or she will be entitled to a 30-day written notice to leave.  


Q: I have questions about what I, as a landlord, am obligated to repair. One of my tenants, who has lived in her apartment for 15 years, wants me to repaint it, install new carpeting, and repair a cracked window. Am I required to do any of these things? 

A: If the paint or carpets pose a health or safety hazard -- for instance, the paint is flaking or peeling, or the carpet is moldy or a trip hazard -- you may be in violation of housing codes or the implied warranty of habitability, and you must remedy these problems. Paint or carpets in a condition that do not threaten a tenant’s health or safety may not have to be replaced. 

Under Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance, a tenant is entitled to stable services and conditions. If conditions in your tenant’s unit have substantially deteriorated since she first rented it, she can file a petition for a rent ceiling reduction. "Substantial deterioration" means a noticeable decline in the physical quality of the rental unit resulting from a failure to perform reasonable or timely maintenance. After 15 years, the paint and carpet may have outlived their useful life, and if so, should be replaced. Depending on the actual condition of the paint and carpeting, the tenant may be granted a rent ceiling reduction for deterioration until these items are replaced. 

A landlord is responsible for fixing a broken or cracked window, unless a tenant or his or her guest intentionally or carelessly broke it. So even if a vandal or a pebble kicked up from a passing truck is the culprit, the landlord must fix it. Under state law (Civil Code section 1941.1) landlords must maintain basic facilities, including windows and doors, in good repair, except for damage caused by the tenant or a guest (Civil Code section 1929). If the tenant or a guest was responsible for the crack, you may arrange and pay to have it fixed, and charge the tenant for the repair cost. 

You can e-mail the city of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board at rent@ci.berkeley.ca.us for questions, or you can call or visit the office at 2125 Milvia Street 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday noon to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Our telephone number is (510) 644-6128. Our Web site address is www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/rent.