FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

LANDLORD & TENNANT

When can I get my security deposit back?

Your landlord has 21 days to either return your security deposit, or an itemized deduction including all receipts. Your landlord can only charge you for unpaid rent and for damages you caused that would not be included in normal wear and tear.

How do I get my security deposit back if I am the only roommate moving out?

If you paid your roommate for the deposit, your roommate must return your deposit. If you paid your landlord a separate deposit, and you have separate rental agreement with your landlord, then your landlord is responsible for returning your deposit. Roommate situations are often complicated; therefore it is important to have a rental agreement that specifically defines what each roommate’s rights and responsibilities are.

What if I believe the landlord is withholding too much money from me?

The landlord must prove that all repairs are reasonable and necessary. All repairs must be accompanied with a receipt. It is important that you keep photographs of the condition of the property before and after you move out. Go through the property with the landlord before moving in using the checklist at this web address: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/checklist.pdf

Can the owner come into my home without asking me?

Yes, the owner is allowed to enter your home without consent in the case of emergencies only. The owner may also enter our home for other reasons, but must give you a 24 hour written notice and only during normal business working hours. If the landlord wants to make a pre-vacancy inspection, they must give you a 48 hour written notice.

What responsibilities do I have as a tenant?

You have a few responsibilities that include but may not be limited to:

  • Keeping the unit clean.
  • Disposing of trash.
  • Operating electrical, gas, and plumbing correctly.
  • Preventing damage and not removing any part of the unit, its facilities, or equipment
  • Use the unit as a home and only sleep, cook, and dine in areas that were intended for such activities.
  • Please visit the following webpage for a list of additional tenant responsibilities as well as responsibilities that landlords have.
    http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/

    CRIMINAL LAW

    What is bail or bond?

    “Bail” is money or property that is put up by the defendant prior to trial as a promise to return to future court dates. The judge will set the monetary amount for bail depending on the seriousness of the crime, the likelihood that the defendant will not return, and if the defendant is dangerous to the community.

    How can bail be paid?

    Bail can be paid in a few different ways:

  • The defendant can make bail by paying the full amount
  • The defendant can use property as collateral (if the judge allows it)
  • The defendant can utilize a bondsman to pay the bail. The bondsman is usually paid 10% of the bail by the defendant.
  • What happens after my case is over?

    If your case is exonerated (prosecutor decides not to go on with the case), you win as a result of a not guilty verdict, or you lose, the bondsman must release all collateral that was required to secure the bail. If you offered any real estate as collateral, it is important that you get a release of lien from the bondsman.

    If you fail to appear in court, the bondsman is required to pay the full amount of bail. Any collateral that was pledged by you or someone you know can be lost and/or you can be sued for the remainder.

    If my driver’s license is suspended, can I get it back?

    If convicted of a DUI, you can get your license back by completing 3 steps:

  • Serve the Mandatory Suspension Period
  • Pay the Reissue Fee
  • Complete a DUI Treatment Program
  • Please refer to the DMV’s suspended license handout for additional information on this topic. http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/dmv_handout.pdf

    How can I find a public defender in my area of California?

    To locate a public defender in your area, visit your county’s public defender’s website. You can find your county’s website at this webpage. http://www.cpda.org/County/CountyPDWebSites.html

    If I was referred to a “diversion” program, what happens when I am finished?

    If you were referred to a “diversion” program, your record will be changed to show a dismissal. If you fail to complete the program, your record will show a conviction.

    What if I was convicted of marijuana possession?

    You will not necessarily need a dismissal for marijuana possession for personal use. All convictions for marijuana for personal use after January 1st, 1976, will not appear on your record after 2 years. This is only true with convictions of marijuana for personal use. Convictions for cultivation, sales, or transportation will not be erased from your record.

    What do I do if I am a victim of domestic violence or my children and I are being seriously harassed or stalked?

    One option you have is to apply for a Criminal Protective Order. The defendant from the criminal case must obey the order or risk being arrested and charged with a crime.

    When is a police officer allowed to conduct a search?

    A police officer is allowed to conduct a search with your consent or with a search warrant. You have a right to refuse the search if no warrant has been obtained. You also have a right to see the warrant before the search begins.

    If I am arrested, what rights do I have?

    If you are under arrest, you must be reminded of your rights before the officer questions you. These rights include:

  • The right to remain silent
  • Anything you say may be used against you in court
  • You have the right to an attorney present while you are questioned
  • If you are not able to pay for an attorney, one will be appointed for you
  • FAMILY LAW

    Custody and Visitation

    If we have joint legal custody, do we have to agree on every decision?

    No. As a parent with joint custody, you have a right to make decisions alone. However, it may be easier to avoid going back to court if both parents communicate with each other and cooperate when making decisions.

    If we have joint physical custody, must our children spend exactly half the time with both of us?

    No. It is somewhat difficult to split the time in half. Usually, the children will spend more time with one parent over the other. Sometimes, the parent that has more time with the children will be identified as the “primary custodial parent”.

    If we come up with a written agreement and both sign it, is that agreement binding?

    A written agreement signed by two or more parties is binding. However, the only way for the court to enforce the agreement is for it to become a court order or “judgment”. The judgment replaces the agreement and can now be enforced by the court.

    Am I allowed to move away with my children without the other parent?

    Unfortunately, laws in this area are rather complicated and regularly change. You should consult an attorney to find out more information in this area.

    If the other parent is not paying child support, do I have to let them see our children?

    Child custody and visitation is separate from child support. You must let the other parent see the children regardless if they are paying child support or not. Likewise, you are not allowed to refuse to pay child support if the other parent is not letting you see your children. However, child support and custody are related because the amount owed for child support is affected by how much time the parent spends with the children.

    Child Support

    We want to work out a support agreement out of court, what can we do?

    If you and the other parent are already in agreement about child support, you can contact the family law facilitator to help prepare and agreement for the two of you to submit to the court. The family law facilitator can be found at this webpage http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-facilitators.htm. If you are not at an agreement, but wish to reach one out of court, mediation is an option that can help solve disagreements on money issues. In some counties, the family law facilitator can be utilized in some of the child support mediation. You may also use a private mediator. The cost of the mediator is usually split between both parties.

    If I have 50/50 custody with the other parent, do I still have to pay child support?

    If you are making more money than the other parent, it is possible that you may still have to pay child support or share costs such as employment-related child care or uninsured medical costs.

    If I fall behind in child support payments, can I go to jail?

    If you willfully fail to pay child support, you are ignoring a court order and may be prosecuted for being in contempt of court and sent to jail. Usually, this is a last resort when all other efforts to collect the support have been exhausted. If this leads to criminal charges, you have a right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask for one to be provided.


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