Month: December 2023

12 Common Mistakes Landlords Make in California and How to Avoid Them

Rentals can provide a good income stream but can become costly if improperly handled. Here are some of the most common mistakes landlords make that can lead to severe problems.

1. Poor Tenant Screening

Good tenants pay their rent on time, keep your property in good condition, and don’t cause you any trouble. Bad tenants do just the opposite, and they can make your life as a landlord miserable.

To avoid problems with unpaid rent, disputes, legal issues, or property damage, your best defense is to do a thorough tenant screening that includes a background check, and employment and income verification.

2. No Written Rental Agreements

Relying on a verbal agreement is one of the most common mistakes landlords make. Not having a written contract makes you highly vulnerable to serious disputes or costly legal issues.

Take the time to prepare a written agreement outlining both parties’ rights and responsibilities. You won’t regret it.

3. Not Keeping up With Laws That Have Changed

Letting your knowledge of rental laws and their ever-changing iterations lapse can land you in legal trouble.

Laws on rental properties can change quickly in California, and it’s up to you to ensure you’re keeping up with them and remaining in compliance.

4. Not Paying Attention to Local Rent Control Ordinances

Does your city have a local rent control ordinance that protects tenants from excessive rent increases? Many cities do, especially in California, and you could land in some serious hot water if you start charging too much rent.

Stay informed at all times to ensure you’re in compliance.

5. Lack of Good Property Maintenance

A deteriorating rental property with unaddressed repairs is more than unsightly; it can lead to potential legal issues.

Ensure you have a proactive maintenance plan and regular inspections to address problems promptly. Your tenants will be happy, and you’ll be protecting your investment.

6. Poor Communication With Tenants

Without a clear line of communication between a landlord and tenants, conflicts and legal disputes can quickly arise. 

Open and transparent communication can foster a positive relationship to prevent misunderstandings and proactively address issues. 

7. Mismanagement of Security Deposits

Disputes over security deposits can get costly and are a financial loss that can be easily avoided.

In California, there are specific guidelines that landlords must follow when they handle security deposits. This includes:

  • Written notices to tenants about the amount being held
  • Returning deposits within the required timeframe
  • Documenting deductions

8. Not Complying With Habitability Requirements

If your rental has mold, pests, or other issues that make it inhabitable, you need to address these problems quickly. There are strict health and safety standards in California you must follow.

To avoid getting to the point where you’re facing legal consequences, ensure you are performing regular inspections and keeping up with California’s habitability laws.

9. Insufficient Insurance Coverage

Is standard insurance coverage enough for a rental property? It likely isn’t. You need to have enough coverage to protect you in property damage cases, personal injury claims, or loss of rental income.

Consult with an insurance expert. They can help you understand your options for coverage and assist you in selecting the right policy.

10. Discriminatory Practices

California’s fair housing laws strictly prohibit landlords from engaging in discriminatory practices. Protected characteristics include, among others, race, color, religion, sex, disability, and familial status.

As a landlord, you must know the fair housing laws and follow them accordingly.

11. Not Keeping Accurate Records

Poor recordkeeping isn’t just a mess. It can prevent you from collecting rent promptly, keeping up with maintenance and repairs, and ensuring legal compliance.

It’s critical to have an organized, systematic process for keeping records. 

12. Not Handling Evictions Correctly

Landlords must follow strict laws in California when evicting a tenant. You must:

  • Give proper notice
  • File the correct documents
  • Go through appropriate court procedures

Noncompliance can result in costly legal complications that can quickly drain your money. Before going through with an eviction, it’s critical to consult with an attorney.

Need Legal Advice?

Avoiding these common mistakes will help ensure your rental remains a solid investment. For legal matters, if you’re struggling to understand the laws you need to comply with or are in the midst of a dispute with a tenant, our attorneys can help. Schedule a consultation today.

LLC vs. Corporation in California: Which One Should You Choose?

You want to start a new business, which is exciting. But what type of structure is best? In California, like in other states, you can form an LLC or set up a corporation. Here are some of the differences between the two.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Typically, an LLC is run by business owners but can also be structured where a manager is responsible for daily operations rather than the owners. Small businesses, startups, and single-owner businesses are good fits for this type of structure.

The Advantages

An LLC is an entity separate from the business owners (members). This structure provides owners with liability protection to shield their assets from business debts and obligations. The risk of loss is limited to what the owners invested in the business.

Other advantages of forming an LLC include:

  • Perpetual existence (the business can remain in existence even if ownership changes)
  • Flexible management structure
  • Pass-through taxation that avoids double taxation (LLCs, as an entity, are not subject to taxation; tax obligations are passed down to members on their personal income tax returns)

The Disadvantages

An LLC can cost more than a sole proprietorship or general partnership. There’s an initial fee to form the LLC and ongoing expenses at the state level. In California, for example, there’s an $800 annual fee.

Transferring ownership of an LLC can also be more complex than transferring ownership of a corporation, where buying and selling shares of stock determine ownership.

How to File for an LLC Formation in California

Filing is handled through the Secretary of State. You’ll need to file an Operating Agreement – which outlines your company’s operations, management, and ownership structure.


In a corporation, you’ll have shareholders, a board of directors, and officers such as CEOs and CFOs.

There are two main types of corporations – a C corporation and an S corporation. A C corporation is responsible for paying taxes on its profits. Shareholders also pay taxes on dividends they receive. An S corporation has pass-through taxation, similar to an LLC. It comes with limitations, though, such as the number and type of allowed shareholders.

The Advantages

A corporation provides personal asset liability protection that protects owners from the company’s debts or legal obligations. 

Other advantages include:

  • Access to capital (you can raise funds by selling stock)
  • Tax breaks available to corporations
  • Business perpetuity

The Disadvantages

Corporations can get bogged down in legal and regulatory requirements that can become time-consuming and costly. Recordkeeping can become a bear.

Double taxation comes into play when you form a corporation. The corporation is taxed and shareholders are also taxed on dividends.

How to File to Become a Corporation

To form a corporation in California, you must file for Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State

How to Choose the Right Structure

When deciding between an LLC and a Corporation, you’ll want to consult with a knowledgeable business attorney who can help you consider the following factors:

  • Liability Protection: Both structures offer liability protection, but the formalities and management styles differ.
  • Tax Implications: Evaluate how the business structure’s taxation aligns with your financial goals and the nature of your business.
  • Business Goals: Assess your long-term objectives, growth plans, and exit strategy to determine which structure better suits your needs.
  • Complexity and Formalities: Consider each structure’s administrative requirements and ongoing compliance obligations.

Making an informed decision now can set the foundation for your company’s success and mitigate potential challenges in the future.

Meet With a Business Attorney

At Hoffman & Forde, we provide business and legal guidance for business formation and more. To meet with one of our experienced business attorneys, contact our office to book an appointment.