RENT INCREASE

Q: I have a single family home in the San Fernando Valley and I want to raise the rent 5%.  The last rent increase I served was 6 months ago at 5%. Do I need to serve the new rent increase with a 30 or 60 day notice?

A: A 60 day is required only if you are raising the rent in excess of 10% within a one year period. In the fact pattern above, you only need to serve a 30 day notice.

 

AIR CONDITIONER

Q: My tenant is threatening to withhold his rent because his air conditioner went out and I could not get my repairman out there for 2 days. Can he do that?

A: Simple answer is No. A landlord needs to repair items in a reasonable period of time. When the weather is very hot, it is hard to get an air conditioning service to come immediately. If the tenant attempts to withhold the rent in the fact pattern above, the Landlord should serve him a 3 ay Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.

 

TENNANT NOTICE TO TERMINATE

Q: The tenant has given me a 30 Day Notice to Quit, which will expire on the 15th of the month. Rent is due on the 1st of the month. Is the tenant allowed to give me a 30 day to Quit on any day or does it have to be on the 1st of the month? And, Does the tenant have to give me the entire rent?

A: A Notice to Terminate can be given on any day of the month. On the next due date, the tenant would be responsible for the prorated amount of the rent.

 

RETALIATION/END OF TENANCY

Q: I have a tenant who I have signed a one year lease with. His lease is set to expire next month. The tenant is constantly complaining about things that are wrong with the unit. He has also called the Health Department. I do not want to continue renting to this tenant. Can I serve him a Notice to Quit? The property is not in a rent control area.

A: If your tenant has recently complained to the Health Department, it would be considered retaliation and would be a complete defense to an eviction action. Since your lease is expiring next month, you should send an informal letter informing the tenant that you will not be renewing the lease and that you expect the tenant to vacate at the end of the lease.

 

TENANT AT WILL/FRIEND/FAMILY THAT WON’T GO

Q: My friend has been staying with me for 3 months. She has never paid me any rent. I have asked her to leave and she has refused. What recourse do I have to get her out?

A: Her status is considered a tenant at will. It requires that she be served a 30 day notice vacate. If she fails to vacate after the 30 days, you would need to get the eviction process started. Anytime a person stays in your unit for longer than 30 days, an eviction is required.

 

CANCELING A LEASE

Q: I have a tenant who signed a one year lease and they have recently given me notice that they are moving. A neighbor was robbed at gunpoint and they feel that the neighborhood is too dangerous. Can they break their lease?

A: No. An owner cannot control criminal behavior. Your tenant cannot break their lease agreement. You should inform your tenant that if they break their lease you will be holding them responsible for the rent for the entire lease term or until such time as the premises are leased.

 

3 DAY NOTICE TO PAY/PARTIAL PAYMENT

Q: I served my tenant with a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. The tenant made a partial payment which I accepted. Can I initiate the eviction since the tenant did not fully comply with the notice?

A: No. If you accepted a partial payment you cannot initiate the eviction based on the original notice you served the tenant. You will need to serve a new 3 Day Notice to Pay rent or quit which would reflect the current amount of rent that is now due.

 

MAINTENANCE 

Q: My tenant complains about everything. She is requesting that I replace light bulbs for fixtures located in her unit. Am I required to replace those light bulbs?

A: A tenant is responsible for normal wear and tear. The replacement of light bulbs would be considered normal wear and tear.

 

LEASE/UTILITIES

Q: I have a lease with my tenants which states that they are responsible for all of the utilities. It has been about 2 months and I just discovered that they never switched the utilities into their own name. What do I do?

A: You should send a letter to your tenant stating the utilities will be shut off in 7 days and request that they apply to have them turned on in their own names. I would then present them with an invoice to reimburse you for the cost of the utilities.

 

DOG

Q: A tenant’s dog has become very aggressive and is trying to attack other tenants. What should I do as the landlord?

A: You should serve a 3 Day to Perform on your tenant. You should advise the tenant that the dog must be kept on a leash at all times within the common areas of the premises. If the problem continues this could be grounds for eviction.

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT

Q: Do I need to put my tenants security deposit in a separate bank account? Is there any law that requires this?

A: No, the landlord is free to use the deposit for any purchase. The landlord does have to account and or return the deposit within 21 days of the tenant vacating the unit.

 

3 DAY NOTICE TO PAY RENT

Q: Can I serve my tenant a 3 day notice to pay the moment that rent is late if the rental agreement states that rent is late 5 days after the rent is due?

A: That provision in the rental agreement refers to when a late charge will be incurred. It does not prevent you from serving a 3 day notice the day after the rent is due.

 

LEASE

Q: I have signed a 2 year lease with my tenants for a single family home. Due to my financial situation I need to sell the property. Can I terminate the lease?

A: No. Your financial situation does not have any bearing on your contractual duties. The lease is a legally binding contract. You can sell the property with your tenants in possession. The buyer would be purchasing the house subject to the lease. Or you could negotiate with the tenant for an early buyout.

 

 

TENANTS

Q: I have a duplex and one of my male tenants has been complaining about one of my female tenants. The female tenant just moved in and the male tenant has been there for 7 years. My new tenant says she feels threatened by the male tenant.

A: We recommend that you immediately send a letter to your tenant informing him that any further actions towards the new tenant will result in eviction. Inform him that any complaints he might have must be addressed to management only.

 

LEASE/SUBLEASE

Q: I think my tenant whom I leased my house to is out of town and has some strangers living in my house. I leased the house to my tenant only. What can I do?

A: It seems like your tenant has subleased the property. You should serve a Notice to Perform or Quit. This form should advise the tenant that he must remove the “strangers” within 3 days. If he fails to do so, you can start the eviction process. If you cannot hand the notice to your tenant, you should post one front door and mail a copy to him at the premises.

 

DAMAGE TO PROPERTY/SMALL CLAIMS

Q: My tenant vacated the property but left it in deplorable conditions. It cost me over $6000.00 to return the unit back to a condition where it could be re-rented. Should I sue in small claims?

A: Yes. Small claims court is a perfect court to hear matters such as these. You can sue up to $10,000.

 

REPAIRS/COMPENSATION

Q: Do I need to compensate my tenant if I need to make repairs? For example, if I need to fumigate and the property needs to be tented.

A: The law is that the tenant is excused from paying rent for that period the property cannot be occupied. That being said, this situation should be contained as a provision in your lease agreement. This will do away with any compensation request from your tenant.

 

CLEANING AFTER VACATING

Q: After my tenants vacate, I clean and prep the property for the next renter. Can I deduct my labor from the security deposit?

A: Yes, based on a reasonable hourly rate.

 

DIRECT DEPOSIT OF RENT

Q:My tenants pay their rent by direct depositing it into my account. I have served my tenant a 3 day notice. He failed to pay within the 3 days so I started my eviction. He has now direct deposited some money into my account. What do I need to do?

A: You should mail your personal check back to the tenant along with a note explaining that the deposit was unauthorized.

 

NOISY NEIGHBORS

Q: The apartment complex next to mine has very loud parties and its very noisy. My tenants are constantly complaining. What can I do?

A: You should write a letter to the owner and ask for his assistance. You should tell your tenants to contact the Police Department each time there is a disturbance. If the owner of the property is not responsive. You can also contact the City Attorney’s office and ask them to file nuisance charges against the owner for failing to control the situation.

 

NOTICE TO CHANGE TERMS OF TENANCY

Q: Can I serve my tenants with a 30 day change of terms of tenancy which will require all tenants to provide their own renters insurance?

A: Yes, if it not already contained in your rental agreement, this would be acceptable. If the tenant is on a lease, you would need to wait for the lease to expire before serving the change of terms notice.

 

RENT CONTROL

Q: I leased the guest house of my house which is located in Los Angeles. The tenant moved in, paid 2 months and has not paid since. Tenant is claiming that the property is not legal and wants to call the City. What should I do?

A: In the City of Los Angeles, if an owner leases an illegal unit, the tenant has no obligation to pay rent. The City also requires the landlord to pay relocation fees to the tenant. Relocation ranges from $7,800 to $19,500. There is a process that you need to go through with the City.

 

SELLING MY HOME/30/60 DAY NOTICE

Q: I am selling my childhood home and escrow is closing in 30 days. I gave my long time tenant a 30 day notice to vacate but she has refused stating that since she has been a tenant for over one year I needed to give her a 60 day notice to vacate. Do I need to start all over?

A: No. In general the law does provide that a 60 day notice needs to be given to the tenant if they have resided on the property for longer than one year. That being said, the law also provides an exception. If the property is in escrow and the buyer intends to occupy the unit a 30 day notice is sufficient.

 

RENT CONTROL

Q: I have a property in rent control area. Do I need to post a notice that states that the property is subject to rent control?

A: Yes, the City of Los Angeles requires that you post a specific form on the premises notifying tenants that the building is under rent control. The notice must be posted in a conspicuous location. Usually by the mailboxes. Please note that this notice is different from the Certification of Rent Registration, which needs to be served on each tenant every year. Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, any violation is considered a defense to an eviction. Tenants attorneys are not using this issue to prevail in eviction cases.

 

PETS/SERVICE ANIMALS

Q: I have a no pet policy. An applicant came in and informed me that she has a registered service animal. Am I obligated to lease this unit to this applicant?

A: Under the California and American Disability Act, you cannot discriminate against an applicant that has a service animal. If the applicant qualifies for the unit you must offer to lease. Failure to do so could result in a civil lawsuit being filed.

 

REPAIRS

Q: My tenants are requesting reimbursement for 5 days which they did not have hot water. Are they entitled to it?

A: We would recommend that you check your lease to see if this situation is covered. Generally, we would recommend that you give them a rent credit for the days the hot water was not available.

 

GENERAL/HOW LONG TO HOLD ON TO DOCUMENTS

Q: How long do I need to keep rental applications and agreements?

A: If you deny an application to rent, you must provide the denied tenant written information as to what you used to deny that application such as their credit report or tenant history report. The Statue of Limitations for an action that could be brought against you is 3 years. On that basis, we suggest you keep the applications for that period. On rental agreements, you should keep the documents for at least 4 years after the tenant vacates. The Statue of Limitations on a contract is 4 years.