How do I kick out one roommate but not the other?

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Question:

I am a California landlord in a non-rent-controlled city, with two tenants on a one-year lease that is expiring soon. One roommate has offered to renew the lease, but only if it is under his name only, and only if the second tenant moves out. The other tenant does not return my calls and has not indicated whether or not he will renew the lease. At this point, I would like to offer a new lease to the tenant willing to sign on for one year.

I have two questions:

  1. What are my legal obligations in regards to serving notice at the end of a fixed term lease. Do I need to give the tenants 30 days?
  2. If I offer a lease to one of the existing tenants only, what are my legal obligations to the second tenant?

Answer:

When a fixed term lease ends, that's it. You can, of course, send the tenants a polite note reminding them of the approaching end of their time on your premises, but California state law does not require it. (Other states do require 30 days' notice even with a fixed term lease.)

When the lease ends, you and the tenants are back to ground zero: You can rent to whomever you wish. You may decline to offer a renewal to anyone as long as your decisions are reasonable business ones, not discriminatory or retaliatory. In other words, you cannot refuse to rent to a tenant because he or she is of a certain race, religion, and so on; nor because a tenant took advantage of a legal right -- such as complaining to a health inspector about code violations.

If you lived in a rent-controlled city, some of this advice might not make a lick of sense. In rent-controlled cities that require "just cause" for eviction or nonrenewal, unless the second tenant has done something that would justify an eviction, you might have to offer the place to him or her, too. Check your rent-control ordinance for details.

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