Legal Q&A: Tenant refuses to pay for damage caused by guest


Question: The guest of one of my residents broke the window of the unit. Our lease states that residents are responsible for damages caused by them or their guests. The resident is refusing to pay and said she is not responsible as the damage was caused by her friend. The resident is adamant that I must first attempt to sue/collect against the friend (who I do not have any contact information for) before I can try to come after the resident directly. Is that correct?

Answer: The resident is responsible for the conduct of her guests. There is no legal requirement to try to locate or sue the friend first.

Ted Kimball Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP

Ted Kimball
Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP

Question: I rented a unit and forgot to have the resident sign a lease. The resident moved in a pet cat without my consent.  I never explicitly told the resident “no pets,” but I do not want any pets in the building. What can I do?

Answer: Without a written lease which included a “no pet” provision, you cannot immediately require the pet’s removal. However, if the oral tenancy is month-to-month, you can serve a 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy to institute a “no pet” provision. (Note: Many local rent control or other ordinances may prohibit unilateral changes to the tenancy and may restrict a landlord’s ability to pursue this option.)

Question: Can I post a three-day notice to pay rent or quit on the door of the apartment without knocking first? I would rather avoid seeing the tenant face-to-face.

Answer: California Code of Civil Procedure §1162 requires an attempt of personal service at the residence (or place of business, if known) before resorting to alternate methods of service. You should, therefore, always knock on the main entry door at the unit before posting and mailing a copy.

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. If you have questions, please contact your local KTS office. For contact information, please visit our website: For past Legal Alerts, Questions & Answers, and Legal Articles, please consult the resource library section of our website.

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