This article was posted on Friday, Jan 01, 2016

AOA Consultants get calls daily from our members with a variety of problems; some unfortunately after our owners are already in trouble.  Please use the below as a guide to easier management, money-saving ideas and to avoid potential legal problems in the New Year.   Our goal is your continued success!           

  1. NEW EARTHQUAKE RETROFITTING LAW:  Be aware that the new retrofitting ordinance that became effective November 22, 2015 requires mandatory seismic retrofitting for two of L.A.’s most vulnerable types of buildings: non-ductile reinforced concrete, and what are known as soft first-story buildings, built before 1980. Soft first-story buildings are wood frame buildings that have a large opening on the first floor for things like tuck-under parking, garage doors, and retail display windows. Under the new ordinance, building owners will be required to accomplish the following seismic safety measures:
  • ·         For soft-first story buildings built before 1980, under the new law, building owners will have one year to submit to the City documentation establishing that an acceptable retrofit has already been conducted or that a retrofit is required, and an additional year to acquire necessary permits. Property owners will have seven years total to retrofit their buildings upon receipt of notice. The seven years is inclusive of the two years granted to the property owner to conduct an assessment and obtain permits.
  • ·         For non-ductile reinforced concrete, building owners will have three years to submit documentation to the City to begin the inspection process, and 10 years to establish whether an acceptable retrofit has already been conducted or that a retrofit is required. Property owners would have 25 years total to complete the retrofit work, inclusive of the first 13.
  • ·         The Department of Building and Safety will send information on the new law to the building owners, along with instructions on how to comply with it.
  • ·         Tenant Pass-Through: In November, at the time of this writing, the Los Angeles Housing & Community Investment Department informed me that this new ordinance only mandates that the work be done. It does not address the creation of a new program for seismic work pass-throughs. Until Council acts, any seismic work completed at this time may qualify for a pass-through under existing programs, which include the Capital Improvement Program (cap of $55), the Primary Renovation Program (cap of 10% of rent), and the Rehabilitation Work Program (cap $75). Currently, owners are submitting applications under the Capital Improvement Program. If you would like more information about each program, please feel free to contact Case Analysis and Customer Service at the LAHD at (213) 808-8921. 
  1. Have AOA search credit, eviction and criminal reports on all of your prospective renters.  Always use our low-cost screening services.
  2. 2016 SMOKE ALARM LAW:  You will only need to install the 10-year battery models when: 
  •        A currently installed alarm isn’t working.
  •       Work totaling $1,000 or more, requiring a permit is done in a unit 

Beginning in 2016, smoke alarms are required in all sleeping rooms and in the hallway outside the sleeping rooms.

Rental property owners are responsible for testing and maintaining smoke alarms. Plan to inspect their working order every six months.

When it comes time to replace one that is inoperable, you will need to install a smoke alarm that: 

  •          Displays the date of manufacture on the device
  •          Provides a place on the device where the date of installation can be written
  •          Incorporates a hush feature 
  1. Have a written, legal Resident Manager’s agreement containing all of the recent NEW LAWS.  (Read Attorney Dale Alberstone’s article in this issue.)
  2. Be sure to have your resident manager report their hours in writing to you on a weekly basis.  AOA’s form #119A is designed for this purpose.
  3. Have your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors checked every six months. Inspect your units regularly for plumbing leaks; preventative maintenance saves you money.
  4. Always conduct enter and exit checklist inspections – use AOA’s form #131.
  5. Serve 3-Day Notices to Pay Rent in a timely fashion – immediately – the day after rent is due. Any grace period given only refers to late fees, not when rent is due.
  6. Be diligent in collecting your late fees.
  7. Call your AOA advisor BEFORE you make that mistake.  We’re here to help.
  8. Make a copy of proper IDs (license, SSN) on all prospective tenants.
  9. Check rental applications thoroughly – speak with previous landlords, verify employment, etc.
  10. When rejecting applicants, you must do so in writing.  Use the legally required Adverse Action “rejection notice” – form #140, available at
  11. Standardize and write down your rental criteria requirements to avoid discrimination lawsuits. This should be given to each new applicant with your application to rent.  A sample copy of a criteria list may be found under the alphabetical forms section of AOA’s website –
  12. Keep rejected applicant files for five years and shred when tossing.
  13. Do not advertise for resident managers as “Couple Needed” or “Husband & Wife Team” – this is discrimination.
  14. Hire AOA’s Advertisers who are dedicated to serving our industry.  Always obtain competitive bids to cut expenses.
  15. Educate yourself – attend AOA’s FREE seminars and the Trade Show and Landlording Conferences.  Our next scheduled Trade Show is May 19, 2016 at the Long Beach Convention Center.
  16. Consider accepting pets to expand your rent pool – many responsible pet owners make great tenants.
  17. Use the most updated, current AOA rental forms – toss your old ones.
  18. Call AOA Commercial Brokerage BEFORE you buy or sell an apartment building.  Our professional agents have been serving our members’ needs for over 30 years.
  19. Be sure to offer your vacating tenant the required AB2330 Walk-Through “pre-inspection” (AOA Form 135) no sooner than two weeks prior to the move-out date. AOA members may download this form with all instructions for FREE from
  20. Send back security deposits within the 21 day legal time frame, including the necessary receipts/invoices for each item costing over $125.00. Use AOA’s Security Deposit Refund Letter –form #133.
  21. Update your tenants’ information (current employment) (emergency phone numbers).
  22. AOA introduced several new rental forms in 2015 to make your landlording business easier.  Visit to see a list of all available forms offered by printing out AOA Form #150.
  23. If you’re not already a member, JOIN AOA TODAY – get the help you need with your property – up-to-date rental forms, FREE advice, FREE seminars, FREE monthly magazine, low-cost, instant credit, eviction and criminal reports, AOA’s collection services and you may save money with AOA’s Group Insurance Plan.
  24. Tenants left owing you money? Hold them accountable! Use AOA’s new and improved Debt Reporting and Collection Service to collect on those old judgments; it is designed to recover more of your money.

The staff at AOA wishes you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016!  

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Patricia A. Harris is Senior Editor of the Apartment Owners News & Buyers Guide.  . This article is a general guide and has no legal representation.  It is suggested that you contact an attorney for legal advice should the need present itself.