A renter or tenant can become a tenant nuisance for many reasons. For example, a tenant can make too much noise, conduct illegal activity on the premises, cause problems with the neighbors, or destroy property. Regardless of the reason, when a tenant becomes a nuisance, they interfere with the rights of others. From blasting music all night to holding weeknight parties, a disorderly tenant nuisance can be difficult to evict. 

What is a Tenant Nuisance?

Under California Civil Code Section 3479, a nuisance is: “Anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a nuisance.”

How to Avoid Tenant Nuisances

When it comes to noise, landlords can impose rules and regulations that tenants must follow. For example, most landlords insert clauses into the rental agreement that require tenants to agree not to engage in disruptive behavior.

Additionally, a lease or rental agreement can detail what constitutes a tenant nuisance. For instance, the agreement may list actions like being loud or disruptive. This outline of inappropriate behavior ensures renters know upfront the landlord’s expectations of them while residing in the unit. Commonly, rental agreements state that all renters at the property have the right to “quiet enjoyment”. This clause means that all tenants should be respectful of one another.

What You Can Do When a Tenant Becomes a Nuisance

Even though the tenant may sign a rental agreement that includes nuisance provisions, they may decide not to uphold such obligations. Luckily, California landlords have legal rights when dealing with a nuisance tenant. More specifically, a landlord or property manager may take the following actions when a tenant becomes a nuisance:

Request the Tenant Cures the Nuisance

If a tenant becomes a nuisance, the landlord should contact the tenant in person about their behavior. In some cases, the tenant may not realize there is a problem! For instance, if the tenant is being too noisy, the landlord must let them know that their noise levels are disturbing the neighbors and those around them.

When speaking with a tenant nuisance, it is best to take a friendly approach. Acting in a threatening manner almost always makes the situation worse.

Use a Three Day Notice

A California landlord can issue several types of three day notices to tenants. Depending on the type of violation, the three day notice can request (1) that the tenant correct the violation (or stop the nuisance behavior), or (2) that the tenant leave and vacate the rental unit. More specifically, if the violation involves something that the tenant can correct such as stopping nuisance behavior or not paying rent, the notice must give the tenant the option to do so.

That being said, a nuisance tenant who has been problematic over a prolonged period can be served with a cure and quit notice. Usually in this case, the landlord has previously warned the tenant about their behavior. The notice first will state the landlord is providing the renter a certain amount of time to stop the disruptive behavior. Then, if the renter fails to stop the disruptive behavior, the landlord will have legal recourse to evict the tenant.

Three Day Notices for Breach of Rental Agreement

A landlord may also serve a cure and quit preliminary eviction notice on a tenant when they have failed to comply with a term of the rental agreement. Keep in mind that a lease violation is different from the tenant being a nuisance. Lease violations are based on the tenant doing something prohibited by the lease, such as having a pet, or not paying the rent.

In the case of lease violations, the notice gives the tenant three days to cure the defect. However, if the tenant fails to comply and cure the defect, they must vacate the premises. In the end, if the matter goes to court, the landlord must prove that the tenant was in breach of the lease when the notice was served and failed to stop the breach within the three day period.

Three Day Notice for Incurable Breach

At times, a landlord may serve a special three day preliminary eviction notice to quit on the tenant if they don’t comply with a term of the rental agreement and, by law, they are not entitled to fix the breach. This usually occurs when the tenant commits a crime by conducting illegal activity on the property. In this situation, the tenant will be required to move out of the property within three days, with no option to remedy the problem.

Evict the Nuisance Tenant

Eviction usually occurs after the landlord has provided the tenant fair notice to stop the nuisance behavior or cure the breach but they do not do so. Note that landlords must serve proper, written notices on the tenant before bringing an eviction claim. Secondly, the notices must include the tenant’s full name and address of the rental property. Furthermore, the notice must state what clause of the lease the tenant violated and indicate the tenant has three days to fix the problem. Finally, the landlord or his agent must sign the notice and provide the date.

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