It’s a common issue: A renter or tenant becomes a nuisance for any number of reasons. For example, they make too much noise, engage in illegal activity on the premises, cause problems with neighbors, or destroy property. Regardless of the reason, when a tenant becomes a nuisance, they interfere with the rights of others. From blasting music at 2 a.m. to hosting loud weeknight parties, a disorderly tenant can be difficult to evict.

Under California Civil Code Section 3479, a nuisance is defined as: “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 are expected to follow. Most landlords insert clauses into the rental agreement that require tenants to agree not to engage in disruptive behavior.

A lease or rental agreement can also 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. Rental agreements often state that all renters at the property have the right to “quiet enjoyment” — essentially setting an expectation that tenants will be respectful of one another.

Unfortunately, setting clear expectations is not always enough to ensure an enjoyable living environment for everyone on the property.

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 to ignore such obligations. Luckily, California landlords have legal rights when dealing with these types of situations. The following actions are options when a tenant becomes a nuisance:

Request That the Tenant Takes Care of the Issue

The landlord should contact the tenant in person about their behavior and complaints being made by others. In some cases, the tenant may not realize there is a problem. It is always best to take a friendly approach. Acting in a threatening manner will likely make 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 (stop the nuisance behavior)
  2. That the tenant leaves and vacates 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 must state that the landlord is giving the renter a certain amount of time to stop the disruptive behavior. Then, if the renter does not cooperate, the landlord will have legal recourse to evict.

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 resolve the issue. However, if the tenant fails to comply, they must vacate the premises. 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

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 a landlord has provided the tenant fair notice to stop nuisance behavior or cure a breach but they have failed to do so. Landlords must serve the tenant with a proper written notice — which includes the tenant’s full name and address of the rental property — before bringing an eviction claim.

The notice must also state what clause of the lease the tenant violated and indicate that the tenant has three days to fix the problem. The landlord or their designee must sign and date it.

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