La Jolla, CA asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: What penalty is there for an unlicenced person who leases a property to a tenant wrongfully? What if...

An RSO apartment building had an (unlicensed) lay person as the on-site manager. OSM began taking over leasing duties when the owner was aged and unable to keep an eye on the building. They rented apartments 40% below market value to friends. We believe they signed the leases with the name of the owner (now decesased) to try to cover their dishonesty. The signatures do not match owner's. There is written evidence OSM lied about what the market value was in order to keep the rent low for the friends. If we can prove they performed illegal leasing activities, is it likley we can AFFORDABLY remove those tenants who got in at low rents while corroborating with the manager? They had to know they were getting a deal at the expense of the owner and did not care that illegal steps were taken. IMO, this is elder financial abuse in addition to illegal leasing activity. The building is a mess with mismanagement claims due to OSM's lack of competence/concern. How can we get them all out? TY

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, leasing property without a proper license can lead to serious legal consequences, including fines and penalties. If you have evidence that the on-site manager (OSM) illegally leased apartments and committed elder financial abuse, there are steps you can take to address the situation.

First, gather all relevant evidence, such as lease agreements, written communications, and proof of the fraudulent activities. This documentation will be crucial in proving your case. You can report the unlicensed leasing activities and suspected elder abuse to local authorities, such as the district attorney's office or a consumer protection agency. They can investigate the matter and potentially take legal action against the OSM.

To remove the tenants who benefited from the illegal leases, you may need to pursue legal action through the courts. An attorney can assist you in filing an unlawful detainer action to evict the tenants based on the fraudulent nature of their leases. This process can be complex, but with the right legal support, it is possible to reclaim the apartments and address the mismanagement issues. Seeking legal advice promptly is essential to navigate this situation effectively and protect the interests of the property owner and the building.

Delaram Keshvarian
Delaram Keshvarian
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Orange, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Thank you for your question!

You can report the OSM and its supervisor to DRE. If the lease agreement is formed by fraud and the claim is still actionable, the lease is void and the tenants have to move out. However, they may be entitled to a proper notice and have claims against OSM.

Document all your communication with the OSM. You can bring fraud and elder abuse (if there was any owner's consent). For evicting the tenants, you can start an unlawful detainer. These two cases should be litigated together.

This is merely a discussion of general laws and not legal advice. For legal advice, more specific facts and investigations are needed. I recommend you consult with an attorney for more details.

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