The Electronic Age Is Beginning To Take Hold


The electronic age is beginning to take hold in landlord and tenant matters. Two pieces of legislation are expected to be signed into law this year. Interestingly, they go in different directions.

SB 1055 (Lieu) was introduced by the author as a result of one management company requiring tenants to pay rent through electronic funds transfer (EFT). The Senator successfully argued that this type of demand from a management company is unjust and unfairly burdens seniors and low-income households. Thus, the bill amends existing law to state that a landlord cannot unilaterally require that a tenant pay rent or security deposits through an EFT.

Existing law already prohibits a landlord from requiring a tenant to make a payment in cash, except where the tenant has previously written a bad check. The bill would extend that provision by similarly prohibiting requiring payments through EFT. Nothing in exiting law prevents a landlord and a tenant from mutually agree ing to make payments by EFT, how ever. Additionally, once an agreement is made by and between the landlord and tenant to pay rent via EFT, a failure to pay rent in this form constitutes a non-payment of rent. These last two provisions were amended into the bill at AACSC's request.

Another bill, AB 1679 (Bonilla), could be construed to go the other way. Instead of restricting electronic payments, the measure makes it easier to pay via electronic means. This bill would permit, following either a notice to terminate a tenancy or allow the landlord and tenant to agree to have the landlord deposit the remaining portion of a tenant's security deposit electronically to a bank account; and have the landlord provide a copy of the security deposit accounting to an email ac count that is provided by the tenant. This bill seeks to facilitate the return of security deposits and accounting for the deposit by permitting the parties to agree for the remaining portion to be deposited electronically in the tenant's bank ac count and for the tenant to receive the required itemized statement of charges (and copies of receipts) by email.

In other legislation, SB 1472 (Pavley), is expected to be signed into law. This measure removes the sunset on a state law that permits local governments to fine property owners for failure to maintain certain property. It also makes changes in law relating to the ability of a local en forcement agency to abate nuisances and correct substandard building violations. By removing the sunset clause, the bill would make permanent a statute that re quires a property owner to maintain vacant residential property purchased or acquired at foreclosure.

It also provides that if a person has purchased and is in the process of abating a local government nuisance violation at a residential property that has been foreclosed upon on or after January 1, 2008, a local government enforcement agency shall not commence any action or proceeding against that property owner until at least 60 days after the person takes title to the property unless a shorter period of time is necessary by the agency to prevent or remedy an immediate threat to the health and safety of the public or community or occupants of the building or property. The bill also requires an entity that releases a lien securing a deed of trust on a property for which a notice of pendency of actions has been recorded by the local government to notify the enforcement agency within 30 days of releasing the liens. Finally, where a receiver has been appointed to take possession of a substandard building, a court may order the owner of the property to pay all unrecovered costs associated with the receivership.

In the final month of session for the year, a number of landlord and tenant bills will be acted on by the Legislature and sent to the Governor for his signature. Most of the bills of great interest to us should be worked out before they are sent to the Governor. There will be a handful of bills that we expect to continue to ask the Governor to veto.

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