Handwritten contract worries rental tenant

Handwritten contract worries rental tenant »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The owner of an east Bakersfield mobile home park will no longer give their residents homemade contract addendums after an Eyewitness News investigation revealed at least one resident had been given a handwritten agreement asking him to turn over his property upon his death.
Richard Rodriguez, owner of Pioneer Trailer Park on the 3100 block of Pioneer Drive, told Eyewitness News this week that he will seek an attorney when drafting up any future documents.
Jesse Costa, the resident who received the agreement, was recently told by doctors that he only has a few months to live due to a chronic lung condition.
He said he was asked by the owner in July to sign the document in question, which stated: "In the event Mr. Jesse Costa is no longer able to live at this location ... or in case of his death, and he has not disposed of any or all of his property beforehand, then Mr. Jesse Costa assigns the legal right of his possessions to Richard and Gloria Rodriguez, to be disposed of as they see fit."
"What person in their right mind could write letters like that and say that to a person," Costa said. "She told me that verbal before too, who is going to do this when you die and this and that."
Rodriguez said his intentions for the writing up the agreement were to merely protect his business interests, which he said is affected when a tenant dies and leaves behind their mobile home and other property.
"It's a false accusation really. We're compassionate people," Rodriguez said. "The last trailer that we had to dispose of cost us $1500. While he's alive, we asked if he would take responsibility. We just don't want the responsibility of having to pay the expense for all of these older trailers that are left behind. We don't think it's fair for the trailer park to take the responsibility of disposing them."
But the unforeseen costs of disposing trailers is something business owners must be willing to take, according to Xochitl Garcia, a Bakersfield attorney who consults people with residential property advisement.
"If someone dies, and they leave behind property that no one claims, there's a legal channel to do that," Garcia said. "Property owners and business owners as well, they have to factor in that they may take a loss at some point, but it sure doesn't give you the right to lay claim on someone's property prior to an event happening that would warrant that.
"It's, at this point, unenforceable," she added regarding the hand-written agreement.
Rodriguez said he will no longer handwrite documents.
"I think that is what we're going to end up doing in the future," Rodriguez said. "Just make it part of the rental agreement, so we don't find ourselves in a situation like this in the future."
However, Costa said that won't change his mind about whether or not he would sign the agreement.
"Heck no. No way. I'm not dead yet," he said.