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New civil code extends notice period for termination of tenancy to 60 days

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On Sept. 30, 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1169, which has since been codified as Civil Code Section 1946.1. This statute, a companion to Civil Code Section 1946, went into effect Jan. 1, 2007 and requires landlords to provide a tenant with 60 days notice prior to a proposed date of termination. This newly enacted statute doubles the previous required notice of 30 days.

Owners and managers of commercial property need not be concerned, as this statute only applies to residential dwellings. (Section 1946.1(b).) If you own or manage a commercial property, you are still bound by the 30-day notice provided in Section 1946. However, if you are the owner or manager of a residential property, you are now bound by the 60-day notice requirement and should take steps to ensure compliance with this statute.

How will this statute affect you?

Civil Code Section 1946.1 requires owners and managers of residential property to provide tenants with 60 days notice to terminate a tenancy. The tenant, on the other hand, only need give notice of his/her intent to terminate "for a period at least as long as the term of the periodic tenancy prior to the proposed date of termination." (Section 1946.1(b).) This statute is undoubtedly pro-tenant as it permits a tenant in a month-to-month tenancy to provide 30 days notice of his/her intent to terminate, while requiring the owner to provide 60 days notice if the owner wants to terminate the tenancy. However, it should be noted that this statute does not affect the rules governing an owner/manager's ability to terminate a tenancy for cause, such as the failure to pay rent.

In addition, the 60 days notice requirement established by Civil Code Section 1946.1 is not absolute. The statute carves out two exceptions where only 30 days notice is required. First, Section (c) provides that if the tenant has resided in the dwelling for less than one year, the landlord only needs to provide 30 days notice prior to the termination date. Second, under Section (d) the landlord is only required to give 30 days notice if all of the following apply: (1) the unit is alienable separate from the title to any other unit; (2) the owner has contracted to sell the dwelling or unit to a bona fide purchaser and has established an escrow with a licensed agent; (3) the purchaser is a natural person(s); (4) the notice is given no more than 120 days after the escrow has been established; (5) notice was not previously given to the tenant under this section; and (6) the purchaser in good faith intends to reside in the property for at least one full year after the termination of the tenancy.

In signing the bill to enact Civil Code Section 1946.1, Gov. Schwarzenegger commented that it ensures the protection of groups in need of special accommodations, such as the elderly and disabled, by providing them sufficient time to find new housing. The governor believes this statute "strikes a reasonable balance between the needs of tenants and those of property owners."

Sunset provision

If you are a residential property owner or manager, the good news is this statute was enacted with a sunset provision, providing that it will only remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2010. (Civil Code Section 1946.1(h).) At that time, the statute will be repealed unless legislation is enacted to delete or extend that date. However, in the meantime, if you are the owner or manager of a residential property, make sure you are providing the 60 days notice required by this statute if you intend to evict a month-to-month tenant.

Creeggan is an associate with the Real Estate Group of Gordon & Rees LLP.

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