Q. I own a four-unit building. The tenants in one unit sit on the shared porch and drink alcohol. The tenants in the other units have complained of noise and trash. Are there limits to how shared common space can be used?
A. Your lease may address how shared common space can be used. However, since you are asking the question, I’m assuming that it does not and that you are asking what to do in this particular situation.
Tenants are entitled to peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their residences. There can be a thin line in weighing the rights of quiet enjoyment of some tenants’ vs other tenants’ right to use the shared porch. Noise disturbances may be highly subjective; it is important to completely understand the disturbing behavior. Is the noise occurring at the property during day light hours? During all hours? After 10:00 p.m.?
As the property owner you have the obligation to promptly address these concerns. If you wait too long, a tenant may make a claim for a decrease in housing services at the Rent Board, or for constructive eviction in civil court if the disturbance is great enough to causes a tenant to moveout.
Review your lease. Most leases have provisions prohibiting tenants from causing a nuisance and interfering with other tenants’ rights to quiet enjoyment and provisions requiring tenants to maintain the property in a clean, safe and sanitary condition. Even if your lease does not have such provisions, San Francisco’s Rent Ordinance permits you to evict on those bases.
You should first ask the tenants making the disturbance to stop their bad behavior. It would be best if this request is in writing. If this behavior persists, then a formal written notice to cease should be given to these tenants. The formal written notice should state the particular conduct they should stop and have instructions on how that behavior can be cured i.e. stop making loud noise after 10:00 p.m. and list any violations of the terms of the lease.
If the disturbance continues you may want to move forward with an eviction. Before proceeding with an eviction, consult with an attorney. When doing a nuisance or breach of lease eviction, you want to make sure you have enough documentation reporting the disturbing behavior, such as police reports, written complaints from other tenants, etc.
Lastly, there may be concerns regarding your tenants drinking alcohol on the porch. Is the porch completely on private property? Is the porch in the front of the building? Drinking in public is a criminal violation. Also, if these tenants are getting rowdy, the complaining tenants should be encouraged to call the police.
© 2019 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time.