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Alex Myers

Alex Myers of Myers & Associates will take over the legal advice column "Minding Your Business." He specializes in business law.

Dear Alex:

When my adult granddaughter moved back to Napa from out of state last year, I allowed her to move into a guest house on my property.

Since then, she has acquired two dogs and allowed her boyfriend to move in with her. The dogs are damaging the house, there are too many cars in our driveway, and while I love my granddaughter I would like her to find another place to live.

I have tried to talk with her about the situation, but she won’t hear me out.

What do I do?

If a mutual agreement cannot be reached between your granddaughter, her boyfriend and yourself, unfortunately your only recourse will be to commence formal tenancy termination procedures.

You have inadvertently created a landlord-tenant relationship, and are now subject to the full scope of California’s landlord-tenant laws.

This is a classic example of what I call “the accidental landlord.”

It frequently starts with a favor to a friend or family member, and over time the generosity of the homeowner is taken for granted, the occupant may develop a sense of entitlement to remain in possession of the property, and in the worst cases what started as a loving gesture results in a legal landlord-tenant dispute and eviction.

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What many people fail to realize is that when you allow a person to move into your property, even if they aren’t paying you rent, that occupancy comes with legal rights that cannot be waived or ignored.

Even permitting just one person to move into a spare bedroom of your house can grant that person rights as a “lodger,” which are rights very similar to the rights of a tenant.

If you and your occupants come to a disagreement, if they disobey your house rules, or if you simply think that it is time for everyone to move on, without reaching a mutual agreement your only option will be to proceed through legal avenues in order to recover possession of your property.

Terminating a residential tenancy is not as simple as posting a 30-Day Notice of Termination and changing the locks.

Many times, 30-days’ notice is insufficient; the notice period for terminating a month-to-month tenancy can be 60 days, 90 days, or some other length of time if there is a lease that calls for a different notice period.

Only after that period expires is the occupant in violation of his or her legal right to remain. At that time, you cannot compel the occupant to move until you have a court order granting you that right. That means an eviction case must be filed with the court.

As you can see, the process of recovering possession of property from an occupant who does not wish to vacate is anything but simple.

Property owners should always use caution and discretion when allowing a person to move into their property. It is best to use a written lease from a reliable source, and be aware that even a favor to a friend or relative comes with significant legal implications.

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Alex Myers is a business attorney with Myers & Associates in Napa. Reach him at alex@myers-associates.com or 707-257-1185. The information provided in this column is not intended as legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The information is not a comprehensive analysis of the law — if you need legal advice, contact an attorney.

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